It’s time!! One of the best long weekends of the year tips off tomorrow, and I’m ready. My two nephews are actually going to watch the first couple of rounds in Columbus, OH. Good for them. Anyway, y’all know I can’t resist doing a bit of prognosticating, although it’s not quite as much fun this season since we all know how this thing is going to end…with the Kentucky Wildcats cutting down the nets on April 6th. But, in the words of one of cinema’s most entertaining philosophers Clark W. Griswold, “getting there is half the fun”. So I suppose we shall enjoy the ride even if the finale will likely be anti-climactic.
As usual, let me take a moment to unlock the secret doors of my mind and explain my process:
• I’m not a college basketball expert. I’m a fan that only pays attention to a handful of teams and knows virtually nothing about 75% of the tournament field.
• My picks are based solely on my vibes and the small amount of basic basketball knowledge I possess.
• I do listen to some of the talking heads, but rarely make choices based on their opinions. As a matter of fact, I think several of them (especially Doug Gottlieb…a complete tool) are arrogant windbags that don’t have much more of a clue than I do.
• I do not pick play-in games. They are an inconsequential money-making scheme by the NCAA.
• I pick a few upsets, but I’ve learned over the years that, for the most part, the selection committee knows their stuff and is usually pretty spot on in their seeding. There might be a few upsets in the first couple of rounds, but the chaos rarely gets too…well…chaotic. The cream almost always rises to the top.
• A 10 over a 7 or a 9 over an 8 isn’t really that much of an upset.
• I fill out one bracket and one bracket only. It is done pretty quickly after the selection show airs. I am far too lazy to do research.
So with those things in mind let us take a brief glimpse at each region, talk about upsets, and see who I think will make it to The Final Four.
1 Villanova 16 Lafayette
2 Virginia 15 Belmont
3 Oklahoma 14 Albany
4 Louisville 13 UC Irvine
5 Northern Iowa 12 Wyoming
6 Providence 11 Dayton
7 Michigan St. 10 Georgia
8 NC St. 9 LSU
I am predicting a lot of chalk in this region, with a few notable exceptions. I have Albany over Oklahoma in the 1st round. I’ve watched the Sooners play a few times this season and believe they are way overseeded. And I’m picking Wyoming over Northern Iowa in one of the infamous 5/12 upsets. After that I have Michigan St. upending Virginia in the 2nd round and ultimately winning the region by defeating Villanova.
1 Wisconsin 16 Coastal Carolina
2 Arizona 15 Texas Southern
3 Baylor 14 Georgia St.
4 North Carolina 13 Harvard
5 Arkansas 12 Wofford
6 Xavier 11 Ole Miss
7 VCU 10 Ohio St.
8 Oregon 9 Oklahoma St.
The big shocker I’ve predicted in this region is Wofford (hailing from Spartanburg, SC) defeating Arkansas. I also have Ohio St. over Virginia Commonwealth, a team that gets a little too much love just because they made it to one Final Four four years ago. After that I have Baylor pulling off a mild upset over Arizona in the Sweet 16 before falling to Wisconsin in the regional final.
1 Duke 16 Robert Morris
2 Gonzaga 15 North Dakota St.
3 Iowa St. 14 UAB
4 Georgetown 13 Eastern Washington
5 Utah 12 Stephen F. Austin
6 SMU 11 UCLA
7 Iowa 10 Davidson
8 San Diego St. 9 St. John’s
Mostly 1st round chalk here except for a couple of interesting exceptions. I’m picking Eastern Washington over Georgetown and Stephen F. Austin over Utah. I just don’t buy Georgetown. This isn’t the mid-1980’s. Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, & Alonzo Mourning are distant memories. The Big East isn’t the same conference it used to be. Stephen F. Austin is a small school in Nacogdoches, TX (about 100 miles southwest of Shreveport, LA) that is named for one of the founding fathers of the state. I have a vague recollection of catching one of their games on TV awhile back and thinking they were pretty good and could pull off a first round upset if they weren’t up against a top flight team. Utah is good but far from elite. After that I have picked San Diego St. to surprise Duke in Round 2 and Iowa St. over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. I’ve seen the Cyclones play a few times and they are very talented. They play in the best basketball conference in America (The Big 12…which has ten teams) and won its conference tournament, defeating the vaunted Kansas Jayhawks. Gonzaga’s road hasn’t been nearly as arduous. Ultimately I have Iowa St. beating San Diego St. in the regional final.
1 Kentucky 16 Hampton
2 Kansas 15 New Mexico St.
3 Notre Dame 14 Northeastern
4 Maryland 13 Valparaiso
5 West Virginia 12 Buffalo
6 Butler 11Texas
7 Wichita St. 10 Indiana
8 Cincinnati 9 Purdue
I think Kentucky would have won this region no matter what, but the committee made it pretty easy for them. I have Valparaiso (from northern Indiana) upsetting Maryland and Texas getting by Butler in the 1st round. Butler, like VCU, is given too much credit for past successes in the tournament. The “experts” are almost unanimously picking Buffalo to beat my WV Mountaineers, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen. I have Wichita St. defeating in-state rival Kansas in Round 2, but at the end of the day no one will be surprised when Kentucky easily downs Notre Dame to win the region.
So, my Final Four consists of Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Iowa St. vs. Michigan St. That’s two #1 seeds, a #3, and a #7, although one can hardly think of Michigan St. as an underdog.
I foresee the title game being Kentucky against Michigan St., with the Wildcats winning pretty comfortably. It lacks drama, but it is what it is. I suppose it’d be kind of cool to see a team finish 40-0, but honestly I’m looking forward to a little more unpredictability next year.