Madness in great ones must not unwatched go. – William Shakespeare
No worries Willie Shakes…we’ll be watching. My long weekend is all planned out. Beginning Thursday afternoon the annual hoops smorgasbord will take up the majority of many fans’ time for four straight days…and that’s just the appetizer. The 2023 NCAA Basketball Tournament will conclude on April 3 when new (maybe) National Champions are crowned. What’s odd about March Madness is that the buzz & anticipation peaks at the beginning and decreases as it moves forward. Right now more than five dozen fan bases in every nook & cranny of the country are happy because their team has a shot at the title, but by the end of the month only four will be left standing. Even from a casual fan’s perspective…if you don’t happen to have a dog in the fight…the coolest part of the journey is the opening weekend, which consists of wall-to-wall basketball – 48 games in four days.
You may notice that I do not speak of the “First” Four play-in games taking place on Tuesday & Wednesday night. Perhaps that is unfair, but I am a traditionalist who believes the tournament was perfect with 64 teams and rarely expects much from the superfluous four teams added to the field. It should also be noted that the bracket you see here is my one & only. While I have entered into multiple online contests (because why not) my bracket is the same in every one. I do not have the fortitude or inclination to keep track of multiple entries. I do not have any money invested in these picks because quite honestly I am not that good at prognostication. I am just a regular dude with no special knowledge or insight. I don’t do research or study any kind of data. It takes me about five minutes to fill out my bracket. I have learned thru the years not to go too crazy with first round upsets, but my definition of a true upset might differ from yours. #9 over #8 isn’t a big deal. A 10 seed over a 7 is a mild upset at best. Beyond that and you have the right to get excited.
You’ll see alot of chalk with two exceptions. I like the Catamounts of Vermont out of the American East Conference to not only upset #2 Marquette in Round 1, but to make it to the Sweet 16. In the second round they’ll be facing the USC Trojans, who I believe will beat the vaunted Michigan St. Spartans, a team that has played in seven Final Fours in this century alone. I foresee bluebloods Duke & Kentucky surviving the first round, but suffering surprising losses in Round 2. When it’s all said & done I think it’ll be the top seeded Purdue Boilermakers getting past Kansas St. in the Elite Eight. Center Zach Edey, at 7ft.4, is a problem for any opponent.
There are some intriguing possibilities in this region, and it could get a little wacky. I am picking the VCU Rams, who made it all the way to the Final Four back in 2011, to beat St. Mary’s in a classic 5/12 upset. They’ll catch a break in the second round because I like the Iona Gaels, coached by the once disgraced Rick Pitino, to beat the 4 seed UConn Huskies. VCU will run into Kansas in the Sweet 16 though, and it won’t end well for them. The 8/9 matchup should be fun, and I like Arkansas to prevail. You’ll probably be surprised to see that I’ve chosen the TCU Horned Frogs to make it to the regional final, a path that includes upsetting Gonzaga in Round 2 and UCLA in the Sweet 16. Nobody is making it past the defending champion Jayhawks though.
First off, I don’t believe all that much in the top seeded Houston Cougars. They’ll win easily in the first round, but I’m looking at the Auburn Tigers to pull off an upset after they get past Iowa in Round 1. A similar fate awaits the Miami Hurricanes. Penn St. is the big surprise in this region. I like them to make it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Indiana. The Hoosiers might be looking at their first Final Four appearance in over two decades.
My West Virginia Mountaineers open the first round Thursday afternoon, and I think they’ll win. However, I would be shocked if WVU stays within ten points of Alabama in Round 2. I’m predicting a pretty big upset with 11th seeded Furman over #4 Virginia, but don’t get too excited Paladin fans…it is likely your team doesn’t make it past the second round. A lot of pundits question whether NC St. even belongs in the tournament, but I think that’ll motivate them to score a first round upset before losing in Round 2. I really like the Baylor Bears to make it out of the region by winning a close one over ‘Bama.
That means my Final Four is Purdue vs. Baylor and Kansas vs. Indiana. Nothing too crazy, right?? As much as it pains me to say it, I believe we might end up with repeat champions as the Jayhawks cut down the nets for the fifth time in their history, tying the program with Duke and Indiana.