March Madness has become a full-on American tradition. With a huge field of 68 mostly deserving teams, the bracket process of predicting the winners has become more and more difficult – especially in this era of “one-and-dones.” ESPN’s Bracketologist Joe Lunardi correctly “Nate-Silvered” (a term given to those who correctly pick things – as white witch and statistical demigod Nate Silver did when he correctly predicted every state and senate race in the 2012 Presidential Election) the field of 68 teams in this year’s March Madness bracket. Lunardi got every 1 and 2 seed correct, as well as the last four teams that made the tournament. I am not Joe Lunardi or Nate Silver, but I can write a good game.
I’ll go ahead and get my picks over with and you can read the 68 Team rundown later. And to back up my picks, I’ll be using Nate Silver’s own data. Coming out of the Midwest “Region of Death,” I have Louisville and Duke. I know chalk 1 and 2 seeds is boring but Louisville is the overall best team – they have the right combination of resilience with great guard play, the inside presence with Dieng, and Rick Pitino at the helm calling the shots. Duke will have a tough challenge in the Sweet Sixteen with St. Louis. How will Mason Plumlee react when he’s actually pushed around down-low? Duke can lose to St. Louis but Coach K’s team has superior talent and will advance. Louisville then beats Duke and moves on.
Midwest Region Champ: Louisville.
The West Region is by far the easiest. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and New Mexico round out the best four in this region, and New Mexico and Gonzaga won’t live up to the hype once they start playing teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin. I have the ‘Zags meeting up with the Buckeyes in the Elite Eight and Ohio State advancing to the Final Four. Ohio State has the best defensive backcourt in the country with Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. And if Ohio State can find a reliable second scoring option to back-up DeShaun Thomas, they will be almost unbeatable.
West Region Champ: Ohio State.
Nate Silver’s Take – Ohio State is only .3% less likely than Gonzaga, I went with the bold pick:
The East Region is not as tough as the Midwest but has its fair share of good teams. Indiana, Syracuse, and Miami (FL) can all hypothetically win the tournament depending on which team shows up on that particular day. I have Indiana and Miami (FL) advancing to the Elite Eight and think Indiana’s explosiveness and high-profile, high-pressure experience wins them the game. The only caveat is, the way to beat Indiana is to out-physical them – out-muscle them. Miami has the players to do exactly that, and if these two teams end up playing, Miami should have a great chance at knocking off the Hoosiers.
East Region Champ: Indiana.
Nate Silver’s Take – Chalk:
Finally, the South Region could be the most “upset-ing.” Get it? VCU scares everyone. Michigan can beat anyone they want when they play well, and Florida is the same way. Kansas is always good and North Carolina still has Roy Williams. And don’t forget about Otto Porter and Georgetown. This bracket is stacked, but I have VCU repeating their 2011 by beating Kansas again. For some reason, I like Florida a lot. They choke sometimes but I have them beating VCU and moving on to the Final Four.
South Region Champ: Florida.
Nate Silver’s Take – this one just worked out well. I picked my bracket last night and Silver came out with this data today. Go Gators?
Final Four: Louisville beats Ohio State. Indiana beats Florida.
Championship: Louisville beats Indiana.
There you go. Don’t bet any money on these picks, they’ll most certainly be wrong. (I always make a rational bracket and “A Stupid One”- my Final Four is Ohio State, Florida, St. Louis and Syracuse – where I have Ohio State beating Florida in the Championship).
But to get better equated with all 68 teams, here is a brief breakdown of each one – even the teams that will be eliminated within five minutes.
Starting off, no 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed. Ever. I don’t expect one to this year either. Don’t try and be cute in your bracket, it’s not going to happen.
68. (16) North Carolina A & T: I hope that A & T doesn’t stand for what I think it does.
67. (16) Liberty University: Thinking about attending Liberty University? Want a girlfriend? Want to act like that person is your actual girlfriend in public? This is what Liberty’s Code of Conduct says about PDA (Public Displays of Affection): Remember, the Liberty Way defines improper personal contact as anything beyond hand holding and you are subject to discipline if you disregard them. Maybe the Liberty players are so focused on their playing that they’ll give Louisville a tough game. Nah, probably not.
66. (16) Southern University: Sewanee claims to be “the University of the South.” Southern University is clearly an imposter and must be defeated by Gonzaga.
65. (16) Western Kentucky has a mascot. No one knows what it is. But hey, they have Bobby Petrino!
64. (16) LIU-Brooklyn: They were huge fans of Girls until it started winning awards.
63. (16) James Madison: As James Madison said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance.” And it would be ignorant for JMU to think that they can beat Indiana.
Unlike last year when two 2-seeds lost in the (first) second round, this year the No. 2’s are too strong. No upsets this year. Though, if Duke loses to a 15 again, Mason Plumlee should have to carry Coach K on his back and walk to Durham.
62. (15) Iona: You’ll hear about Momo Jones all week until Momo Jones hears about Aaron Craft.
61. (15) Albany: Their mascot is a Great Dane! Can’t they just beat Duke this one time?
60. (15) Florida Gulf Coast: Schools that didn’t exist in my mind until yesterday probably don’t have the best of chances in the Tournament.
59. (15) Pacific: They beat my UC Irvine Anteaters. Miami will dominate them.
58. (14) Harvard: Jeremy Lin used to play here, you know.
57. (14) Davidson: Steph Curry used to play here, you know.
56. (14) Northwestern State: Because when I think of cartographical distinctions of “North” and “West,” clearly, a school called “Northwestern State” would be located in … Louisiana.
55. (14) Valparaiso: Bryce Drew made one big shot here, you know. Now he coaches the team. Nice story, Tom Izzo doesn’t care.
54. (13) Boise State: Blue court?
53. (13) New Mexico State: New Mexico is the Lobos, NM St. is the El Jackrabbitos con Pantalones.
52. (13) Montana: No speed limit! This team must be stupid fast.
51. (13) South Dakota State: No speed limit? They do have Nate Wolters though. He’s quite good.
50. (13) La Salle: René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the Mississippi River basin for France, so there’s that. In actuality, La Salle University is a fun, little A-10 team that is going to be beaten by Kansas State if LSU (I bet they can’t use that acronym) gets past Boise.
49. (12) Akron: They drew the Havoc of VCU in the second round. This is not a good thing.
48. (12) Cal: They better win or Coach Montgomery will go on a player-shoving rampage.
47. (12) Ole Miss: I think everyone but Twitter wants to see Marshall Henderson lose – badly. Being that cocky only works if you are on a good team.
46. (12) Oregon: The Ducks won the PAC 12 tournament over UCLA and finished second in the league during the regular season, yet they got a 12-seed and UCLA got a 6. Oregon can – and will, in my bracket – beat Oklahoma State.
45. (11) Middle Tennessee State: “Woo! We made it and Kentucky didn’t! Suck it, Ashley Judd.” – MTSU Nation.
You’re now entering the Upset Central section of my poorly crafted bracket.
44. (11) Belmont, 43. (11) Bucknell, 42. (11) St. Mary’s, and 41. (11) Minnesota: Stupidly, I picked all four of these teams to win their second round games against Arizona, Butler, Memphis and UCLA, respectively. They’ll probably not turn out correctly but that’s the entire point of March Madness – picking odd upsets. Arizona may actually show up, Butler still has Brad Stevens as their coach, St. Mary’s doesn’t ever really feel like playing defense and Minnesota has a “Tubby Smith problem.” We’ll see.
You’ve now left the Upset Central section of my bracket.
40. (10) Oklahoma and 39. (10) Iowa State: They play in the Big-12. I have them both losing.
38. (10) Cincinnati: Play great defense and rebound tremendously but can’t score and won’t beat Creighton.
37. (10) Colorado: Unfortunately, they had to play in the PAC 12 but aren’t actually that bad. And they can definitely beat a mid-tier B1G team, Illinois.
36. (9) Wichita State: They beat Creighton once in three tries and got a 9-seed. Oregon got a 12-seed. I don’t understand this Selection Committee.
35. (9) Missouri: The Selection Committee learned their lesson and seeded Missouri in a position where they wouldn’t be expected to win. I do love Phil Pressey, but Mizzou will lose anyways.
34. (9) Villanova: The winner of the second round game between UNC and ‘Nova moves on to play Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks in the third round in Kansas City. And Roy Williams will be damned if he can’t lead UNC to that game.
33. (9) Temple: They beat Syracuse, Villanova, VCU, and St. Louis. They lost to St. Bonnies and Duquesne. And they’re playing the pre-season highly-thought-of NC State. Looks like an L for the Owls.
32. (8) North Carolina State: Mark Gottfried has led a grand total of one whole team to the Elite Eight. NC St. made the Sweet Sixteen last year, but it doesn’t look like they can get much further this year.
31. (8) UNC: Roy will REALLY want to beat his old team – Kansas – in Kansas City.
30. (8) Colorado State: Fourth in the country in rebounds. If those rebounds turn into points, they can win.
29. (8) Pittsburgh: Many are picking Pitt to beat Gonzaga. The tough Big East has prepared Pitt for a fight, Gonzaga playing St. Mary’s-type teams didn’t. (I still have the ‘Zags beating Pitt).
28. (7) San Diego State: They still have Steve Fisher but that’s about it. And the Mountain West isn’t as good as you think it is.
27. (7) Illinois: The Fighting Illini have Cliff, I mean Brandon Paul, but I have them losing in the first round to Colorado. That pick may come back to bite me. Illinois did beat Indiana – though they were the beneficiaries of one of the worst defensive plays that I saw all season.
26. (7) Notre Dame: They play like a B1G Ten team. Slow, methodical, they play good defense and have a lot of white guys – Could be a tough draw for the West Region.
25. (7) Creighton: DOUG MC-DER-MOTT! Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. Dougie Mac will drop a forty-burger on some poor team and Creighton (which is in Nebraska, by the way. Who knew?) could just make enough threes to advance in the tournament.
24. (6) Butler: Why did I pick against them? I already regret it. I’m going to change it. No, I won’t. I’ll stick by my pick. Ok, I’m changing it. Brad Stevens is too good a coach.
23. (6) Arizona: Losers.
22. (6) Memphis: Also, losers. Did you see the Conference USA this year?
21. (6) UCLA: Jordan Adams breaks his foot in final minutes of the PAC 12 tournament semifinal, ipso facto – losers. Shabazz Muhammad has already declared for the draft. He’s looking forward to being the next Brandon Bass.
20. (5) UNLV: Anthony Bennett is really good, Cal is an easy opener. But a 5-seed is too high for the Runnin’ Rebels.
19. (5) Oklahoma State: Losing to Oregon.
18. (5) Wisconsin: Bo Ryan and his Badgers will beat Marshall Henderson down. One of, if not the best perimeter defenses in college basketball. What does Henderson do? Shoot threes.
17. (5) VCU: Havoc will disrupt and discombobulate teams, getting VCU to my Elite Eight.
16. (4) Kansas State: Will meet up with Wisconsin in the Third Round. Goodbye.
15. (4) Michigan: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and that white kid who can shoot are all good but their magic runs out when they play VCU.
14. (4) St. Louis: They play defense, they play hard and they play for Rick Majerus. Any team that gets the Billikens will have a bad time.
13. (4) Syracuse: If you can tell me how ‘Cuse will play, please let me know. They can lose by double-digits to Georgetown or beat Georgetown handily the next week. I guess we’ll find out.
12. (3) New Mexico: A lot of experts are in love the Lobos. I’m not convinced. The toughest team that they played all year was St. Louis, and NM got crushed.
11. (3) Michigan State: Tom Izzo is a miracle-worker and an incredible coach. But this team would be good even with a non-Hall-of-Fame coach. Michigan State will give every team their best shot.
10. (3) Marquette: They’re a 3-seed?! They know that Tom Crean is at Indiana, right?
9. (3) Florida: They play defense. They have Billy Donovan but if they can all get on the same page, they can make the Final Four. And Nate Silver has them as the highest percentage of advancing in their region. HE HAS SPOKEN.
And now, your final eight seeded teams.
8. (2) Georgetown: Otto Porter is great and their draw is decently easy. If they can get past Florida in the Sweet Sixteen, they’ll give Kansas or VCU or Michigan a great run.
7. (2) Duke: Is Seth Curry going to make his shots? Will Mason Plumlee play well once he matches up with someone who can replicate his style and push him around?
6. (2) Miami (FL): They started out STRONG and wilted as the season went along, but they just won the ACC Tournament and seem to have their mojo back. They have upperclassmen leadership and play physically. They aren’t winning it all, but they’ll go far.
5. (2) The Ohio State University: After losing to Wisconsin, Ohio State has won eight games in a row and beat Wisconsin in a rematch for the B1G Ten tournament championship. Aaron Craft is a floor general who is slowly learning how to score and the Buckeyes are finally figuring out how to help DeShaun Thomas carry the load. If Ohio State can find a second or third scorer to compliment Thomas, they could go all the way. And they play defense better than almost every team.
4. (1) Gonzaga: Doug Gottlieb called them “the Notre Dame of College Basketball.” That is not a compliment. I’d love to see the ‘Zags be the first “mid-Major” to win the tournament, but I just can’t see it happening – no matter how much I love Kelly Olynyk.
3. (1) Kansas: Just don’t have it this year.
2. (1) Indiana: Cody Zeller, Oladipo, Christian Watford, Yogi Farrell and the Other white kids – Sheehey and Hulls – along with the sometimes confounding decision-making of Tom Crean, are in the best position in years to win it all.
1. (1) Louisville: I picked U of L to the Final Four last year, which won me my pool. That time it was unexpected, this time, they’re the overall #1 seed. This season, all the stars have aligned and the Championship is absolutely Louisville’s to lose.