Ba na na na, na naaaa na naaaa. If you didn’t understand that sentence, that my friends is the sweet sound of CBS’ March Madness trumpets. Yes, the NCAA Tournament is officially upon us fellow revelers, which means a few things. First, your water cooler talk is set until mid April. Put weather talk on hiatus (although I hear it’s supposed to snow on Tuesday) because it’s time to argue with every one of your coworkers about who they picked in their Final Four.
Second, deep web links that stream the games are back. It’s more than likely your company has a pretty solid filter in place, so you’ll need to get creative in order to watch the early round games. You don’t want to be the guy or gal refreshing the ESPN app every 15 seconds to see if that 11 seed you picked ended up beating the 6 seed, so do your homework Wednesday night and come in to work ready to not do a lick of work past noon.
Finally, everybody you know is now all of the sudden a college basketball expert. All week you’re going to be forced to listen people talk about the time they picked that upset that no one else had, or the time your coworker one his pool against his college friends for bragging rights. Or, if you’re me, you’ll listen to your mother claiming that no one west of the Mississippi plays championship caliber basketball. Whoever they may be, your life is now filled with self-proclaimed college basketball analysts.
That being said, I actually am a college basketball expert. I’ve been gambling like a loon on it lately and feel borderline arrogant going into this year’s tournament. So, if you’re new or feeling uneasy about completing your bracket, I’m hear to help you out. In my experience filling out a solid March Madness bracket comes down to three things: knowledge, luck, and gut instinct. In that vain, over the next three days I will be giving you a bracket that covers each one of these components individually. First up, knowledge.
The Rational Bracket:
The Rational Bracket could also be called my actual bracket. These are the picks that I make after hours research and hours of watching mid-major teams play. They also have calculate risks that I like to pick based on seeding and strategy. Here’s the bracket.
This may be tough to see, so I’ll go over the highlights:
- One strategy that’s important to consider is, “how far will the underdog go?” This means if you have the one seed moving onto the Sweet Sixteen regardless of matchup, why not pick the 9 seed to beat the 8 in order to gain that extra point for the upset? I do that in every region except the Midwest because I hate Michigan St. and don’t think they should be in the tournament. There, I said it.
- Northwestern: I’m pretty sick of hearing about the scrappy Wildcat team from Evanston, but they lucked out big time with their bracket. If they beat Vandy I think they matchup well with Gonzaga and are poised to go through to the Sweet Sixteen.
- Notre Dame: Every year I lose an Elite Eight team in the first weekend. This year, that will probably be Notre Dame. The West isn’t a difficult part of the bracket, but after a tough loss to Duke I could see them losing to “Press Virginia” in the second round.
- Florida Gulf Coast: I’ve got them making the Sweet Sixteen purely off of their dunk city reputation from a few years ago. Nothing more.
Note: This only covers the first weekend of play.
- Va. Tech over Wisconsin (sorry Dubs)
- NC Wilmington over UVA (personal vendetta against UVA this year)
- Marquette over South Carolina
- SMU over Baylor to make the Sweet Sixteen
- Rhode Island over Creighton (Kuran Iverson and I did a shot together once, nbd but kbd)
- Oklahoma St. over Michigan. Every year there’s a team that wins their Conference tourney, gets overhyped and loses the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, that will be Michigan.
- Iowa St. over Purdue to make the Sweet Sixteen.
- Seton Hall over Arkansas
- Winthrop over Butler (had a dynasty with Winthrop in NCAA March Madness ’08)
- K St./Wake over Cincy (not enough Yancy Gates on this team)
- Wichita St. over Dayton
- Florida Gulf Coast over Florida St.
- VCU over St. Mary’s
- Northwestern over Gonzaga to make the Sweet Sixteen
- Florida Gulf Coast over Maryland to make the Sweet Sixteen
Coaching is key when it comes to March Madness. It’s possible that in this year’s Elite Eight we have Jay Wright vs. Coach K, Bill Self vs. Rick Pitino, and Roy Williams vs. John Calipari. Any of the teams I have in my Elite Eight I could see making a run to win it all except Notre Dame. But, there are factors at play that I took into consideration.
- Kansas always lets me down. Whenever I pick Kansas to make a run they end up losing early to let’s say, for the sake of the hypothetical, Northern Iowa. I can’t bring myself to pick them over the bigs and defense that Louisville plays.
- Duke is the hot team right now. Vegas has them as the favorite to win the tournament at 5/1. But, I feel like Duke is an all or nothing team. They’re either losing in the first round to, again let’s say, a team like Lehigh, or they’re winning it all. This year though, I think too many people are sleeping on how good ‘Nova is and the strength of the Big East. If they end up meeting in the Elite Eight, I think Nova figures out a way to get to Phoenix.
- Arizona is the best team in the western division of the bracket and is too big for Notre Dame. Whether it’s Notre Dame, WVU, or Gonzaga I think ‘Zona comes out of that division.
- UNC vs. Kentucky will be a blood bath. Both teams are really long and have NBA caliber athletes, but I think UNC’s experience pulls them through. Plus, UNC is a team that usually comes up big for me.
If Arizona makes it to the Final Four, they’ll be playing virtual home games in Phoenix which could be tough for teams coming from the East. That being said, I’m going with my mom’s advice and picking teams east of the Mississippi to make the Finals. I’ve got ‘Nova and UNC to make the finals in a rematch from last year, with UNC avenging last year’s loss and cutting down the nets among the Phoenicians.
There you have it folks, my rational bracket. Just a heads up, this is the one where if you actually need advice, I recommend you take it from this blog. Tomorrow I will give you my luck bracket, which may or may not, but definitely does, involve coin flipping. Get excited people, March Madness is officially here.
PS – Jay Bilas and I have the same Elite Eight, 75% Final Four and same Champion and I absolutely hate that.