Two years ago one of the first signs that the Covid-19 pandemic might be a bigger deal than many originally thought it to be was the stunning cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness became March Sadness very quickly. In 2021 the tournament returned, albeit with all the requisite virus-related protocols that we now know were pretty much useless. And now, though The Sickness is still an issue, most of us have decided to move forward, live our lives, and do our best without meaningless virtue signaling that does very little to protect anyone from anything. As far as I know that means March Madness will get underway tomorrow with all the pomp & circumstance it deserves. Technically the action is already underway with play-in games, or what the powers-that-be refer to as the First Four. I don’t pay any attention to those games, so for our purposes they’ll simply be overlooked.
After years of hoping WordPress would create some sort of brackets plug-in to no avail I finally stumbled upon a way to visually represent my entire bracket here. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. A few things should be noted. First, this is my one & only bracket. I do not create multiple “Sheets of Integrity” (shout out to my guys Mike & Mike). I don’t enter into a bunch of contests trying to make big bucks off of this deal, mostly because I’m not that good of a prognosticator (if you follow our Pigskin Picks of Profundity during football season you’re well aware of that). I did throw $10 into one thing my nephew is doing, but I have low expectations. At any rate, this is really just a way for me to have some fun & make the games a bit more interesting, especially since neither my alma mater Marshall Thundering Herd or home team West Virginia Mountaineers are playing in the postseason. Also, as you’ll see, I really controlled myself when it comes to picking upsets. There’s alot of chalk in these choices. I know there’ll be a few shockers, but I have no idea what they will be so mostly I err on the side of caution and stay rather conservative in my predictions. The truth is that I don’t follow basketball nearly as close as I do football, so I am even more out of my depth than usual. That’s fine with me. I’ll still be glued to my television for the next few days, and if you are here I am guessing you will be too.
The Baylor Bears are the defending National Champions (they beat Gonzaga for the title a year ago in case you forgot), and I think they have as good a chance to repeat as any champion we’ve seen in awhile. I’ve got Virginia Tech upsetting Texas and San Francisco beating Murray St. in Round 1, with the regional final coming down to Baylor & Kentucky. If that comes to pass it could be a hell of a game, but I think the Bears get the job done and return to the Final Four.
I have to give Gonzaga credit. When a basketball team from a school in Spokane, WA that no one had ever heard of burst onto the scene in 1999 by making it to the Elite 8 I don’t think anyone thought much of it. Just another Cinderella, right?? There’s one or two every year. But here we are, more than two decades later, and the Bulldogs have become not only a tournament mainstay but a consistent Top 10 team. Do they play the same level of competition as programs in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, etc.?? Maybe not, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve appeared in two Final Fours in the past five years, falling short in the title game both times. Can they go that far again?? Most of the talking heads will say yes, but I disagree. New Mexico St. over Connecticut is my choice for the annual 5/12 upset, but that’s the only surprise I foresee in the first round. Actually, it’s chalk all the way thru except for that game, which would set up an epic Gonzaga-Duke regional final and a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog kind of guy, but who could’ve predicted just a few years ago that the Blue Devils would ever be the underdogs in this matchup?!?!?!?? I realize that Duke isn’t the same level of great they might’ve been a decade ago, but they have hovered near the Top 5 most of the season. Perhaps I’m being sucked into the emotional vortex of this being Coach K’s swan song, but I think in this particular circumstance his team has the depth & athleticism to win a squeaker.
I like the Miami Hurricanes to score a mild first round upset, and feel good about predicting the Iowa St. Cyclones to overcome the odds a few times, making it all the way to the Elite 8. They are my Cinderella and I’m pushing all my chips into the center of the table on them…kind of. Ultimately I foresee the Kansas Jayhawks emerging from the region and going to the Final Four.
Sadly, this is as crazy as it gets for me. I am predicting two big upsets in the first round: Michigan over Colorado St. & Loyola (Chicago) over Ohio St. It’s always fun to see Sister Jean & Loyola’s Gryffindor scarves, right?? Sister Jean is 102 years old, so this might be her last hurrah. I hope her guys give her one final thrill. Unfortunately I don’t believe it’ll be a long ride, with the dream ending in Round 2. With mostly chalk prevailing I think it comes down to Arizona & Villanova, with the West Coast Wildcats punching their ticket to the Final Four.
I am predicting Baylor vs. Duke and Arizona vs. Kansas in the semis. As cool as it would be to see Coach K ride off into the sunset with a sixth National Championship I think he’s going to have to settle for one last Final Four appearance. Baylor is just too strong & athletic. I’m not sure it will even be that close. I also don’t believe Kansas is quite as elite as they typically have been, and think Arizona will expose their weaknesses. So will anyone East of the Mississippi be interested in watching two West Coast teams battle for the championship?? I hope so…¦it could be a very entertaining contest. At the end of the day though I believe Baylor will cut down the nets, becoming the first back-to-back champs since the 2006 & 2007 Florida Gators.