It’s that time again! Office coolers around the nation are being dominated by talks of bracket busters, cinderella stories, and champion picks. It’s time for the NCAA Tournament! The floors will soon be riddled with the crumpled up, shredded brackets and dreams of thousands in every state. Today, I present to you my soon to be crumpled up, shredded, bracket. Click on it to see a bigger version of the bracket.
Let me break down each bracket, giving you a few tid bits for each section, starting in the Midwest.
Most Intriguing 1st Round Matchup- Duke vs Albany
Raise your hand if you remember what happened last year. Duke came into the tournament in the exact same position, as one of the favorites, and the #2 seed in their bracket. However, Lehigh shocked the world by knocking off the Blue Devils, making them the second #2 seed to fall in that round, after Missouri also lost. Now, they are back at the #2 seed, and given Duke’s proneness to disappear in some games this season, it wouldn’t be the biggest stretch to think they could lose again.
Cinderella Story- Memphis
#6 might be a high seed for a true “cinderella”, but the Memphis Tigers are a team on a mission. The Tigers are used to feeling disrespected in the Conference USA, but this year might be the biggest slight of all. The Tigers went 30-4 on the season, and went unbeated in conference play. Yet, they only managed a #6 seed in the bracket. They could have a tough draw with Michigan State in the second round, but if they pull that upset off, who knows how far they can go.
Upset Alert- #12 Oregon over #5 OK State
Every year, a #12 knocks off a #5, and this year, I picked three of them to do so this time around. The first one I have is the uber athletic Oregon Ducks, who are facing off against Oklahoma State. The #12 seed is very puzzling for Oregon fans. The Ducks went 26-8 on the year, just won the Pac-12 Tournament, and are ranked in both of the Top 25 polls. Yet their seeding would suggest that they were very low on the bracket board. The Ducks will be playing with motivation, and fresh off their Pac-12 win, I like them to pull off the upset here.
It makes sense that the #1 overall seed would draw the easiest bracket. I don’t see the Cardinals getting into too much trouble here. Michigan State and Duke both have the ability to knock off Louisville, but they are both plagued by inconsistency. Louisville has won 10 straight, including four wins over tough opponents Notre Dame and Syracuse. I would be pretty shocked if Louisville didn’t get through this bracket.
Most Intriguing 1st Round Matchup- New Mexico vs Harvard
#10 overall New Mexico got the respect they deserved by getting the three seed in the bracket, and they are looking to prove that they are no fluke. However, Harvard could be a tough draw for them from the Ivy League. They won their conference in the regular season, giving them the automatic birth. Harvard is still looking for the school’s first tournament win, and based on name alone, this may be the Crimson’s best shot.
Cinderella Story- Wichita State
Witchita State is one of the most popular small schools to pick in March Madness, and this year is no different. However, the Shockers are coming into the tournament losers of three of their last five. Having said that, Wichita State was 24-5 before that, and they have a winnable game against a Pittsburgh team that isn’t as great as they have been in the past.
Upset Alert- Belmont over Arizona
Arizona is another team that limped into the tournament losing three of their last five, and they drew a tough small school in Belmont. The Bruins went 26-6 on the year, and have lost just two games, to Murray State and Tennessee State, since January 3rd. Speaking of those two teams, Belmont just defeated them in their last two games. I like the Bruins to knock off Arizona, who will likely overlook them.
Every few years, it seems like Wisconsin finds a way to make the Final 4, and I like them to do it again this year. As they do every year, the Badgers used defense to get their wins this year, which included victories over overall #3 Indiana and #6 Michigan last week. The Badgers survived the brutal Big-10 this year, and will be ready for the big games. With a largely untested top seed in Gonzaga, I think Wisconsin wins the West as a #5 seed.
Most Intriguing 1st Round Matchup- Michigan-South Dakota State
Michigan is back where they belong: as a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, South Dakota State will be no slouch in the first round. The Jackrabbits lost three of their final six regular season games, but turned that around in the Summit League Tournament, riling off three straight. Plus, SDSU has Guard Nate Wolters, who is averaging almost 23 PPG. If Michigan can avoid this early test, I like their chances to go deep.
Cinderella Story-San Diego State
Everywhere you look in this section of the bracket, you see traditional basketball powerhouses. Kansas, Georgetown, Florida, UCLA, Michigan. However, it could be a newly emerging squad that steals the show in this bracket. Jamaal Franklin is a great athlete, averaging 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds at the guard position. If they can get past Oklahoma, they have a great chance to upset Georgetown and make the Sweet 16.
Upset Alert- Akron over VCU
VCU is used to being the team that plays spoiler, but this year, they are the favorites at the #5 seed. The pressure will be on them, which is why I think the Akron Zips have a great shot at the upset. The Zips put together a solid 26-6 regular season record, though they remained largely untested. Both teams have flaws, but if Akron can get hot, they could be the #12 that moves on. We also featured Akron in a previous March Madness underdog piece.
I’m gambling on a young team here. There is not a single senior on this squad that gets significant playing time, and the Wolverines survived the battled tested Big-10 with just seven losses. I’m more worried about South Dakota State then I am about VCU or Akron in the next round. From there, they will likely have to get through Kansas. I’m not sold that they are capable of pulling it off, but let’s just say that Kansas has lost to far less superior opponents in tournaments past.
Most Intriguing 1st Round Matchup- Butler-Bucknell
Another fantastic matchup between small school programs here. Butler will be looking to reclaim the magic they produced from back-to-back Finals runs in 2010 and 2011. However, I never like to count out the Patriot league. As a #14 seed, Bucknell knocked off #3 Kansas in 2005, and Patriot League team Lehigh pulled off the aformentioned upset over Duke last year.
Cinderella Story- The Winner of That Matchup
Piggybacking off the intriguing matchup, I like the winner of that matchup to potentially make a run in this section. This bracket looks destined to have a Indiana-Miami showdown in the Elite 8, but if one of the lesser seeds can make a run here, I like these two programs, for reasons I previously mentioned. Butler has made deep runs like this before, and recently too, while Bucknell will be as motivated as any of the small schools in the field.
Upset Alert- Cal over UNLV
I’m casting a wide net to try and grab that #12 over #5 upset, but this one seems like a good bet for me. I’m banking that the Bears losing their last two games of the season will serve as motivation, but it could easily go the other way. UNLV doesn’t impress me as a 5 seed, and I think Cal has a good shot at pulling off what I wouldn’t even consider an upset here.
Winner- Miami FL
Many people have Indiana pegged to win this bracket, and I cant’ really provide a big argument against them. The Hoosiers have been near the top of the rankings all year, and they don’t figure to get much competition in this bracket until the potential matchup with Miami FL. However, I just love the athleticism this team brings to the court. The fact is, this team can beat anyone on any given day, and in some cases, they can blow them out. I like Miami to prove it’s no longer just a football school, and dance int the Final Four.
Louisville over Wisconsin– Here’s the issue with Wisconsin teams from the past. They can get you to the Final Four, but they can’t make that next step. This year, it would be understandable if they lose, as Louisville seems like a team on a mission. The Cardinals haven’t lost since the beginning of February, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Miami over Michigan- I picked these two teams to get here solely on their youth and athleticism. Both of these teams can beat anyone in the nation at any time. However, they are both capable of falling in the round of 32. In this battle, I give the slight edge to Miami. Even though Michigan came through the tough Big-10, Miami has impressed me more this year. I think they are tough athletic, and I like them to get to the finals.
Finals: Louisville over Miami
It just seems like their year. Louisville came up short in the Final 4 last year. Rick Patino is overdue a title at this school. They have scoring threats at all five positions. They have played more tough opponents all year then anyone else. I love what this Miami team is doing. But more often then not, these upstart teams with tons of potential fall short their first time around. I like Louisville to once again claim the title, in what could be an all time classic.
What do you think of our picks? Do you think Louisville is the favorite? Who is your Final Four? Let us know in the comments!