Swanson expects Duke will take NCAA crown

Swanson expects Duke will take NCAA crown

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- This is one of those years when Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson can confidently predict his beloved Duke Blue Devils will win the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. But the Braves' shortstop was also willing to go against the odds, at least during the early rounds, as he filled out his bracket.

"It's an interesting year, because there are a lot of good teams, a lot of great teams, actually, and no one is more dominant than the other," Swanson said.

Swanson's Final Four consists of two No. 1 seeds -- Kansas and North Carolina -- and two No. 2 seeds -- Duke and Arizona. He believes experience and versatility will enable his Blue Devils to beat Kansas in the championship game.

"[Duke] finally got everybody healthy, and that's the biggest key," Swanson said. "When they had everybody, they weren't all healthy. But now, they're good to go. They've obviously got Coach K and that experience from guys like Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson. They've got experienced guys that will be able to right the ship when it goes wrong."

With a prediction sure to please Braves general manager John Coppolella, Swanson believes Notre Dame will beat West Virginia and then take down top seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.

Actually, Swanson thinks his alma mater Vanderbilt has a shot to prevent Gonzaga from reaching the Sweet 16.

"I just don't see Gonzaga going very far," Swanson said. "I don't know if Vandy will be able to beat Gonzaga, but I think they'll give them a run for their money if we were to beat Northwestern."

Some of Swanson's first-round upsets include Middle Tennessee State over Minnesota, Kansas State over Cincinnati and Rhode Island over Creighton. He pegs Rhode Island as this year's Cinderella team.

"I think Rhode Island will give people some difficulties," Swanson said. "You look at their resume and it's a pretty good resume, especially with how they played some of the Top 25."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.