March Madness is back. Christmas has come back early in March. None the less, the Madness is here again.
Here’s what you need to know when you fill out the brackets:
- Curious seeding to look out for. Some teams are grossly (for lack of a better term) under or over seeded. The unders include Detroit, Long Beach State, and Creighton. The overs include the likes of Notre Dame, West Virginia and Virginia. (If you’ll notice, my under-seeded teams are all Mid-Majors and all my over-seeded teams are High-Majors. Just a thought.)
- The 8-9 is almost a coin flip. The two seeds that are closest to each other are generally the most difficult to pick.
- Never pick 16 seeds. A 16 seed has never, never beat a 1.
- 2s are a little tougher story. We’ve seen close 2-15 games in the past a la Robert Morris-Villanova. Don’t expect any upsets this year, but Detroit might give Kansas some problems.
- Vanderbilt could lose to Harvard. Yes, frankly any team could lose, but Vandy has lost as a 4 or 5 seed in the past couple tourneys. The Commodores could lose, but after nipping Kentucky in the SEC title game, they likely will win here.
- Some teams should be overly happy to be in the tournament. These squads would be BYU, Virginia and West Virginia.
- Upset Alert: Watch out this year for double digit squads such as Cal, Montana, New Mexico State, Iona and Long Beach State as potential bracket busters.
- Potential third round trip ups- (I had “second round stumbles” written in, but with the new play in games and everything it doesn’t make sense. There goes my over-thought-out alliteration. ) Anyways, UConn, or frankly Iowa State, could give Kentucky a lot of problems in the round of 32. Jim Calhoun’s team has a lot of size up front to combat national POY candidate Anthony Davis and the Wildcats. Florida, providing they take care of Virginia, has the potential to upset Missouri in the next round. Missouri supposedly has the easiest path to New Orleans because they don’t have a lot of teams in their bracket with a lot of size. That being said, Florida can easily fight fire with fire and beat the Tigers at their own game with a Sweet Sixteen birth on the line. Gonzaga’s size has the potential to really worry Ohio State in Pittsburgh should the matchup present itself. Physically, the Zags have size to deal with Jared Sullinger and the Buckeye frontline while they have the guard play to match up with OSU’s talented back court.
- Cinderella? VCU, George Mason, Butler, Gonzaga. Almost every tournament has a Cinderella. This year’s potential Cinderella’s include the aforementioned Zags, Montana, Memphis, Long Beach State, Detroit and Belmont.
Here is my first round, and rest of tournament picks to click:
In the first round I have Western Kentucky prevailing over Mississippi Valley State, Lamar over Vermont, Cal over the Bulls of South Florida and Iona over BYU.
(I try to stay away from all chalk. Emphasize try.) Here are the picks:
1 Kentucky over 16 WKU
- Just too much for WKU. Kentucky in a rout.
8 Iowa State over 9 UConn
- Royce White will give the defending champs all kinds of matchup nightmares. ISU’s three-point barrage could bury the Huskies.
5 Wichita State over 12 VCU
- Last year’s Cinderella team will have trouble against a very complete Wichita State squad.
4 Indiana over 13 NMSU
- Cody Zeller and Wendell McKines will be quiet a battle down low. Expect Zeller and the Hoosiers to come out on top, but don’t be surprised if the Aggies move on to the round of 32.
6 UNLV over 11 Colorado
- Las Vegas is very complete and has the potential to go far in the tournament on the back of Mike Moser. Expect a UNLV win.
3 Baylor over 14 South Dakota State
- Nate Wolters has the chance to go bananas, and he probably will, but Baylor has too much size and talent across the board to lose.
10 Xavier over 7 Notre Dame
- Kenny Frease could have a big game against more of a perimeter-relying Notre Dame team. X will win.
2 Duke over 15 Lehigh
- The Blue Devils have too much talent everywhere you look. Get ready Xavier.
Moving down to the West, there’s more chalk. Sadly.
1 Michigan State over 16 LIU
- LIU will come to play, but Draymond Green, and the Spartans are too much.
8 Memphis over 9 Saint Louis
- Expect to see a lot of Joe Jackson and the Tigers talented wing players in a win over the Bilikins.
5 New Mexico over 12 LBSTU
- Dan Monson’s team will put up a fight, expect a close one, but in the end Drew Gordon and New Mexico will prevail.
4 Louisville over 13 Davidson
- Davidson has beaten Kansas and played Duke tough, but Seattle native Peyton Siva and Co. will win in a close-ish one.
6 Murray State over 11 Colorado State
- The Racers kill teams with their three pointers. Making almost 41 percent of them (40.6), which incidentally is what Colorado State is most vulnerable to.
3 Marquette over 14 Iona
- Iona gets here after their excellent guards presumably tear up the Cougars, who have struggled against top notch guards (see Kevin Pangos’s 30 points against BYU). The Golden Eagles are susceptible to Iona’s tendency to force turnovers, but expect a Marquette win.
7 Florida over 10 Virginia
- The Gators attack lead by Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal will probably struggle early against Tony Bennett’s tenacious-like D, but Florida will hit their groove eventually and win.
2 Missouri over 15 Norfolk State
- Ricardo Ratliffe might struggle against 6”10 defensive presence Kyle O’Quinn, but Kim English and all of Mizzou’s perimeter threats will overwhelm Norfolk State.
I deviate from the all-chalk field in the slightest here.
1 Syracuse over 16 UNC Ashville
- UNC Ashville will play Syracuse tight. They will lose, but not by any 50 points.
8 Kansas State over 9 Southern Miss
- A balanced Southern Miss team will have its hands full with an intense Frank Martin squad. Expect KSU to win by somewhere in the neighborhood of 13.
5 Vanderbilt over 12 Harvard
- Vandy has lost to Richmond, Murray State and Sienna in their last 3 tourneys as 4 or 5 seeds. Might be a trap game, or Vandy will win in comfortable fashion. Vanderbilt wins. That’s the underlying theme.
13 Montana over 4 Wisconsin
- One word describes the Badgers offense. Stagnant. And that’s just how it will play out with Montana getting to the round of 32.
6 Cincy over 11 Texas
- Cincinnati is peaking at the right time. Expect a comfortable win for Mick Cronin’s team.
3 Florida State over 14 St. Bonaventure
- St. Bonaventure will give the Seminoles all they can, but in the end, future pro Andrew Nicholson and the Bonnies won’t have enough.
7 Gonzaga over 10 West Virginia
- The Zags have the defensive stalwarts (read Gary Bell Jr and Rob Sacre) to stop the Mountaineers two-man show of Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant.
2 Ohio State over 15 Loyola MD
- Loyola will try, but in the end they won’t be able to match up with Ohio State’s size and perimeter threats.
A lot less chalk to put it plainly.
1 UNC over Lamar
- The worst group of Seniors Pat Knight has ever seen will end their college careers with a loss to the Tar Heels.
8 Creighton over 9 Alabama
- Doug McDermott and Grant Gibbs will power the Blue Jays to a win over a struggling offensive Alabama squad.
12 Cal over 5 Temple
- Jorge Gutierrez and the other Golden Bears are too good for USF and will prevail against Temple as well.
4 Michigan over 13 Ohio
- Ohio will have a chance if they can make Michigan die by the three. However, if Michigan lives by the three. Ehhh. No gratitude for Ohio from Ohio State for losing to the Wolverines
11 NC State over 6 San Diego State
- NC State’s talent will show out as CJ Leslie will have a huge game in the classic 11-6 upset. If Leslie doesn’t show up, watch out, SDST might win.
14 Belmont over 3 Georgetown
- Belmont lost to Duke by one. Surely the Hoyas don’t scare them. Belmont’s three pointers will absolutely sink Georgetown if the buckets are falling. If not, the Bears might be in for a long day on the glass.
7 St. Mary’s over 10 Purdue
- Mathew Dellavadova is good enough to propel the Gaels to a win, but the Gaels might have trouble with a bigger team in the future (read Kansas). As an aside, does anyone else notice that Dellavadova’s mouth guard looks like a block of mozzarella cheese? Just thought I’d point that out.
2 Kansas over 15 Detroit
- Ray McCallum and friends will play Kansas very tough, but expect to see the Jayhawks win it.
So, to recap, my round of 32 looks like this in each region:
1 Kentucky vs 8 Iowa State
5 Wichita State vs 4 Indiana
6 UNLV vs 3 Baylor
10 Xavier vs 2 Duke
1 Michigan State vs 8 Memphis
5 New Mexico vs 4 Louisville
6 Murray State vs 3 Marquette
7 Florida vs 2 Missouri
1 Syracuse vs 8 Kansas State
5 Vanderbilt vs 13 Montana
6 Cincy vs 3 Florida State
7 Gonzaga vs 2 Ohio State
1 UNC vs 8 Creighton
12 Cal vs 4 Michigan
11 NCST vs 14 Belmont
7 St. Mary’s vs 2 Kansas
Now to whittle it down to the Sweet Sixteen
1 Kentucky over 8 Iowa State
- Royce White will probably go off, but it won’t likely be enough. If the Cyclones can hit 3s, watch out. Upset brewing.
5 Wichita State over 4 Indiana
- Tyler Zeller again does battle with another quality post as he checks Garret Stultz. Expect a close one, but in the end the experienced Shockers will win.
3 Baylor over 6 UNLV
- Mike Moser will be big, but Baylor’s athleticism will win out in a comfortable victory for the Bears.
2 Duke over 10 Xavier
- X will be a tough out for the Blue Devils, but expect Coach K’s young guards to get a hold on Tu Holloway as Duke gets the win.
1 Michigan State over 8 Memphis
- The Tiger’s athleticism and ability will help them, but only so far against Draymond Green and the Spartans. Spoiler alert- don’t be surprised if Green pulls a Jimmer or Stephen Curry on us and carries the Spartans deep in the tourney on his back.
5 New Mexico over 4 Louisville
- Drew Gordon and friends will face a challenge with the Cardinals D, but New Mexico will rally.
3 Marquette over 6 Murray State
- This Cinderella story ends for Murray State. The Golden Eagles are too talented, possibly Elite Eight talented.
2 Missouri over 7 Florida
- Expect a tight one. Florida will play Missouri like Missouri. In other words, expect two similar teams battling it out. Don’t be overly shocked if Billy Donovan’s team pulls it off.
1 Syracuse over 8 Kansas State
- I may be contradicting upset special here, but the Wildcats might be prone to an ugly one.
5 Vanderbilt over 13 Montana
- Montana will play hard, but Vandy’s experience will oust the Grizzlies.
3 Florida State over 6 Cincy
- The Bearcats are victims to a streaking Florida State team that will clamp down anyone with their defense.
7 Gonzaga over 2 Ohio State
- To quote Charles Barkley, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.” The Zags have the size and talent to match up with most teams in the country. If freshmen backcourt duo of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr are on, “then it’s gonna be an upset special BABY!” (Dicke V voice)
1 UNC over 8 Creighton
- Everyone is going to see high school teammates and star players go at it as Doug McDermott takes on Harrison Barnes. Expect the latter team to prevail.
4 Michigan over 12 Cal
- The Wolverines are still living off the three as it is. Cal won’t go quietly either.
11 NCST over 14 Belmont
- Belmont’s magic just runs out versus the Wolf Pack.
2 Kansas over 7 St. Mary’s
- The Jayhawks are too good to lose. At least not yet.
And now, here is the all-important, hypothetical Sweet Sixteen! (cue corny trumpets in the backround)
1 Kentucky vs 5 Wichita State
2 Duke vs 3 Baylor
1 Michigan State vs 5 New Mexico
2 Missouri vs 3 Marquette
1 Syracuse vs 5 Vanderbilt
3 Florida State vs 7 Gonzaga
1 UNC vs 4 Michigan
2 Kansas vs 11 NCST
We’ll start in the South where Kentucky has a tough draw with Wichita State.
1 Kentucky over 5 Wichita State
- This one could also be an upset special, but the Wildcats’ top rung talent will prevail in a hard-fought, close game.
2 Duke over 3 Baylor
- I really like Duke for some reason. I know they will get a challenge with the Bears’ athleticism, but Duke is too balanced and too talented not to pull away. It will be close. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if this one went into OT or if Baylor won.
In the tradition of starting in the top left-hand corner, and moving down, here is the West.
1 Michigan State over 5 New Mexico
- The Spartans are still riding the Draymond Green factor. Expect a gritty game.
3 Marquette over 2 Missouri
- Jae Crowder and the Golden Eagles will give Missouri some issues that they haven’t faced before, mainly a size problem.
Syracuse is probably the most vulnerable 1 seed in the Sweet Sixteen. Goliaths beware.
5 Vanderbilt over 1 Syracuse
- The Commodores have all the intangibles to upset a previously-stated vulnerable Cuse team.
7 Gonzaga over 3 Florida State
- Even if Gonzaga doesn’t win, the winner of this game is my Final Four pick out of this region. The Noles could be riding high. Time to get knocked off their high horse.
The last region before the Elite Eight!!! (more corny trumpet noises….)
1 UNC over 4 Michigan
- With John Henson back, the Tar Heels roll on.
2 Kansas over 11 NCST
- The Wolf Pack will go down fighting to the last man, but KU wins.
That leaves us with the round of eight. More commonly capitalized and call Elite Eight.
1 Kentucky vs 2 Duke
1 Michigan State vs 3 Marquette
5 Vanderbilt vs 7 Gonzaga
1 UNC vs 2 Kansas
1 Kentucky over 2 Duke
- The Blue Devils were able to deal with Baylor’s athletes. They won’t be able to handle Coach Cal’s. KU comfortably.
1 Michigan State over 3 Marquette
- Marquette will be too small of a team to matchup with Sparty. Yet another Final Four for Tom Izzo.
7 Gonzaga over 5 Vanderbilt
- Writing was on the wall. Or the last couple paragraphs, whatever sounds more eerie. The Original Cinderella finally gets its first Final Four.
1 UNC over 2 Kansas
- Both could have been Number 1 seeds, but here we sit. T-Rob and the Jayhawks will battle, but UNC is far more talented across the board.
Now we get to the Final Four. One of the most cherished events in all of sports. (Unless of course your school got knocked out in the Elite Eight), this year’s event is in the Big Easy, and this will be anything but that.
South vs West
1 Kentucky vs 1 Michigan State
East vs Midwest
1 UNC vs 7 Gonzaga
South vs West
1 Michigan State over 1 Kentucky
- Coach Cal’s first title is going to have to wait. The Spartans will get a potential shot at revenge against UNC, for, you know that one tournament game a couple years back.
East vs Midwest
1 UNC over 7 Gonzaga
- The Bulldogs bandwagon sadly stops here. The Tar Heels are much too talented. They will get their shot at MSU. Gonzaga misses a potential rematch against the Spartans, who they only lost by 7 to and could have easily won the game.
1 Michigan State vs 1 UNC
1 Michigan State over 1 UNC
- The Spartans get some payback for the aforementioned game as well as putting Draymond Green’s name in the same sentence as Jimmer, Curry and Farokmanesh.
So there you have it. Michigan State in a rematch. Unless someone else picks the exact same thing, then I’ll leave a final score prediction of 73-69 as a tie breaker of sorts.
Happy Bracket Scribbling Everyone!