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March Madness: Sweet 16 Predictions, Patriots Edition



The Alabama mascot during a first-round college basketball game against Charleston in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., Friday, March 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

March Madness refers to the annual NCAA basketball tournaments. In the NFL world, the only madness taking place in March generally involves free agency, the Annual League Meeting, or the NFL’s “lying season.” But since this site covers the New England Patriots, there is a way to combine the two.

The NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball is down to the Sweet 16. Who will win it all in 2024? Using New England Patriots players, the answer can be found.

Each team remaining in the tournament will be represented by an NFL player from that school who played for the Patriots. Whichever player in a matchup had a better career with the Patriots will win the matchup. This system will be used to determine the winning team in all 15 remaining games.

2024 NCAA Divison 1 Men’s Basketball bracket, courtesy of

UConn vs. San Diego State

Connecticut attempts to defend its 2023 National Champions and is the favorite to do so. They failed to advance out of the Sweet 16 here, however. Their basketball teams established two powerhouses. Their football program has enjoyed less success. Only two Huskies have played more than four games for the Patriots: Cornerback Darius Butler (2009-2010) and offensive guard Donald Thomas (2011-2012). Whichever is chosen to represent UConn falls short in their bid against San Diego State.

The Aztecs advance to the Elite Eight thanks to cornerback Bob Howard. He played 13 years in the NFL, but only three with the Patriots (1975-1977). Howard played in 42 of a possible 43 games in New England, including the postseason. He intercepted ten passes, returning one for a touchdown. He allows SDSU to win and advance.

Iowa State vs. Illinois

There were big hopes for Illinois here. The Fighting Illini offers a quarterback from the NFL’s revered QB Class of 1983 to represent the team. Unfortunately, Tony Eason did not blossom into a fourth Hall of Fame quarterback from that group. Eason had a 28-21 regular season record during his six-plus seasons in New England. He started in Super Bowl 20. That 1985 team won the franchise’s first AFC Championship. Eason was better than he gets credit for, but not good enough to beat Iowa State.

Iowa State offers cornerback Don Webb as their Patriots player. Following his NCAA career with the Cyclones, Webb played his entire NFL career (1961-1971) for the Patriots. He missed the entire 1963 season with a knee injury but otherwise played in 134 of a possible 140 games. Webb intercepted 21 passes, returning two for touchdowns. He recovered four fumbles as well. His performance is solid enough to help secure an ISU victory.

North Carolina vs. Alabama

Maybe someday Drake Maye can help North Carolina advance in the New England Patriots edition of March Madness. But for now, the Tar Heels feature former New England nose tackle Tim Goad. To be fair, Goad was an excellent and extremely underrated football player for the Patriots. He played 109 consecutive games to begin his NFL career, which began with seven seasons in Foxboro. If those had not been among the bleakest years in franchise history Goad would have been a Pro Bowl selection. He had three straight seasons with over 70 tackles while playing nose tackles.

Alabama has just the guard to block Goad and eliminate UNC. Most consider the Crimson Tide’s John Hannah to be the greatest offensive guard in the history of the NFL. He is also the greatest New England Patriots player of the pre-dynasty years. Hannah played his entire Hall of Fame career in New England. He made nine Pro Bowl teams and was named first-team All-Pro seven times in 13 seasons. Alabama advances.

Arizona vs. Clemson

The Arizona Wildcats are well-represented in Foxboro. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi and tight end Rob Gronkowski are two of the greatest players in franchise history. Bruschi played in over 200 games for the Patriots, one of only nine players to do so. He won three Super Bowls, made a Pro Bowl team, and is one of the great leaders football has known. Gronkowski ranks as the greatest tight end in league history on this scribe’s list. He also won three Super Bowls with New England, made five Pro Bowls, and was a four-time first-team All-Pro in his nine seasons in New England.

Clemson has fewer options. Bill Belichick drafted zero Clemson players during his entire run with the Patriots. Tight end Dwayne Allen is the only Tiger to play for Belichick on the Patriots. Clemson finds their representative further back in linebacker Johnny Rembert. He played his entire 10-year career for New England. Rembert earned Pro Bowl honors in both 1988 and 1989. He played 131 games for the Patriots, including the postseason, and was a very good player. Unfortunately for Clemson, it wasn’t enough to knock off either of the Arizona options.

Houston vs. Duke

Houston’s Patrick Paul has been mocked to the New England Patriots in each of the past two Weekly Wednesday mock drafts. But for this exercise, a different mammoth offensive tackle represents the Cougars. Sebastian Vollmer was a second-round pick by the Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft. He played all seven seasons of his career in New England. He won Super Bowl 49 as the Patriots starting right tackle. Vollmer played in 98 games, including the playoffs, starting 90.

Duke’s success has come on the basketball court far more often than the football field. They have had four alumni play for the Patriots, including Cedric Jones. The wide receiver played nine seasons for New England (1982-1990). He helped  New England earn their first Super Bowl berth by winning the 1985 AFC Championship. He amassed 191 receptions, 2,703 yards, and 16 touchdowns during his Foxboro run. No disrespect to Cedric Jones, but Houston moves on.

N.C. State vs. Marquette

The Wolfpack features offensive guard Joe Thuney (two Super Bowl wins in five seasons with New England) and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (the team’s leading receiver over his four seasons). Thuney’s rings give him the edge here. North Carolina State would advance even if they sent out Jacoby Brissett, who has played only two games for the Patriots so far.

Marquette produced 70 NFL players over the years. However, none of them ever played for the Patriots. The school’s final football season was the inaugural season of the Boston Patriots, 1960. No Golden Eagle has played in the NFL since 1972 (George Andrie). N.C. State received a virtual bye here, advancing to the Elite Eight.

Purdue vs. Gonzaga

Purdue produced several solid Patriots players. This group includes Rob Ninkovich, Ja’Whaun Bently, Darryl Stingley, and Rosevelt Colvin. But the Boilermakers present Matt Light for this bracket. The offensive tackle is a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, He won three Super Bowls while making three Pro Bowl teams and being named first-team All-Pro in 2007. Light played all 175 games of his NFL career with the New England Patriots.

Gonzaga last had a football team in 1941. The Patriots first had a football team in 1960. They have no alumni to represent them here. Ed Justice played one season for the 1936 Boston Redskins, but even if that counts (it doesn’t) Purdue gets the easy win here.

Tennessee vs. Creighton

The Volunteers have produced many excellent Patriots, including current head coach Jerod Mayo. But no Tennesse player did more for New England than wide receiver Stanley Morgan. He played 13 of his 14 NFL seasons in Foxboro. Morgan is the franchise’s career leader in receiving yards (10,352). He also has the most receiving touchdowns of any wide receiver in Patriots history (67). He averages 19.4 yards-per-receptions on his 534 receptions with the team. Morgan made four Pro Bowl squads.

For the third straight game, one of the teams forgot to show. Creighton last had a football team in 1942 and none of their former players played for the Patriots.

The Sweet 16 round ends with a third straight shutout. Tennessee keeps its dreams alive.


San Diego State vs. Iowa State

SDSU’s Bob Howard and ISU’s Don Webb square off in a cornerback battle. If entire NFL careers were being considered, San Diego State would have a much better chance here. Since their Patriots careers are the only criteria being considered, the edge easily goes to Webb. He spent his entire 11-year career with the Patriots, as opposed to three for Howard. The Cyclones continue their march toward a national title.

Alabama vs. Arizona

John Hannah is the GOAT offensive guard. Rob Gronkowski is the GOAT tight end. Both players are unbelievable. As great as Gronkowski was for the Patriots, Hannah’s durability gives him an edge in what is arguably the game of the tournament. Alabama advances on a game-winning block.

Houston vs. N.C. State

Sebastian Vollmer vs. Joe Thuney is a very solid matchup. If Thuney’s entire NFL career was considered he would have the advantage. Since leaving New England he has gone on to win multiple Super Bowls and earn multiple Pro Bowl berths as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. But this is a New England Patriots bracket. The margin is razor-thin, but that’s why it’s called March Madness. Volmer earns the tie-breaker by playing his entire career in New England. The Cougars cut down the nets.

Purdue vs. Tennessee

Matt Light is among the most underappreciated players in New England Patriots history. Stanley Morgan is among the most underappreciated players in NFL history. Both are in the Patriots Hall of Fame. An easier argument can be made for Morgan’s belonging in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it has nothing to do with his final season on the Colts. This is strength vs. speed, with speed emerging victorious. Tennessee survives the Midwest region.


Iowa State vs. Alabama

Don Webb and the Iowa State Cyclones see their Cinderella run come to an end. “Hog” Hannah and the Alabama Crimson Tide are well rested after recovering from their victory over Arizona. They breeze into the National Championship.

Houston vs. Tennessee

Matt Light and the Purdue Boilermakers were unable to hold off the blitz of Stanley Morgan’s Tennessee Volunteers. Sebastian Vollmer and the Houston Cougars fare no better trying to slow them down. Tennessee sets up an All-SEC title game.

2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship

Alabama vs. Tennessee

Stanley Morgan’s Tennessee team was able to get around a pair of outstanding tackles. On college basketball’s biggest stage they get pancaked by John Hannah’s Alabama squad. To make things even better for local New England Patriots fans, Alabama’s leading scorer (and Final Four Most Outstanding Player) is named Mark Sears. What a great name to say with a Boston accent! Congratulations to the Crimson Tide, your 2024 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Champions.