The NCAA Tournament brackets are out! That means that everyone and their dog has DVRed every Bracketology show on TV and read every blurb on the internet to try and get the upper hand. More money changes hands during the NCAA Tournament than any other sporting event other than the Super Bowl. It turns average people into hardcore gambling addicts — at least for three weeks.
So here I am, doing my part to try and give you some insight. If you follow my advice, you will either look like a genius or an idiot. In March, there is no in-between. My best advice is to gather as much information as you can and follow your gut!
For this prediction piece, and the other three forthcoming ones, this is the information you should know. For each region I will select the following:
- my pick to win the region
- a dark horse pick to win the region (a team seeded No. 4 or higher)
- a team begging to be upset
- a bracket buster (No. 8 seed or higher to get past the first weekend)
- a double-digit seed to pull off an upset
I’m not saying that all of these things will happen, this is just for those of you who want to get a little, shall we say, creative with your picks.
Dark Horse Pick: Michigan State. This team is well coached and experienced, as evidenced by their dismantling of Wisconsin and Michigan in winning the Big Ten Tournament. This could be the best four seed in recent memory, and with all due respect to Virginia, I like the Spartans to take this region anyway.
Begging to Be Upset: Villanova. The Wildcats got a nasty draw if St. Joseph’s can get past UConn. Even if UConn wins that game, ‘Nova is going to have a fight on their hands there, too. I will be mildly surprised if they make it out of the first weekend.
Bracket Buster: St Joseph’s. I think the Hawks got little respect for winning the A-10 Tournament. UConn is a tough matchup for them, but if they can survive the Huskies, they should be Sweet 16-bound. That first round game could be the biggest test for them until the regional semis.
Upset Special: Harvard. They match up very well with Cincinnati, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won that game. Unfortunately for the Crimson, they get a brutal matchup with Michigan State if they can beat Cincy. If they didn’t run into Sparty right away, I would have taken Harvard easily for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Overseeded: Virginia. They had a couple of rough non-conference losses, but the Cavs have played much better lately. That said, four teams played their way out of this one seed over the last two days, so winning the ACC should count for something.
Underseeded: Michigan State is the blatantly obvious one, especially since they won the Big Ten Tourney. The less obvious one is St Joseph’s. The A-10 might have been the fourth-best conference this year. Then again, I could be totally off base, and the Hawks could get manhandled by UConn…..
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Coastal Carolina at Raleigh, NC: Virginia swooped in to grab the vacant No. 1 seed by winning the ACC Tournament. This should be nothing more than a tune up for the Cavaliers. (Pick: Virginia)
(8) Memphis vs. (9) George Washington at Raleigh, NC: Memphis is nationally ranked, so on the surface this doesn’t really look like a close game. Dig a little deeper and you will see that the Colonials actually have a better RPI than Memphis. You have to say that the committee got this one right. This should be a really good game. For my pick, I’m still taking Memphis. They are good enough to give Virginia a run in the second round. (Pick: Memphis)
(5) Cincinnati vs. (12) Harvard at Spokane, WA: Harvard is a very dangerous team. They actually match up pretty well with the Bearcats. You know that an impartial crowd will get behind the underdog. This is a prime candidate for a “12 vs. 5 upset”. Harvard is an experienced and disciplined team. This will be a popular upset pick, and it should be. I’m taking Harvard as well. (Pick: Harvard)
(4) Michigan State vs. (13) Delaware: The Blue Hens are a good team, but they got a horrible draw. They would have been better off as a 14 seed, if you can believe that. Delaware might hang around for a while, but ultimately the veteran Spartans will pull away. (Pick: Michigan St.)
(6) North Carolina vs. (11) Providence: The Friars are playing very well right now, but they don’t have near the talent that the Tarheels have. I like Carolina here. (Pick: North Carolina)
(3) Iowa State vs. (14) North Carolina Central: NCC has an RPI better than 100, which is unusual for a one-bid conference champion. That said, The Cyclones have only played four games against a team with an RPI under that of North Carolina Central since the calendar changed to 2014. The Big 12 was brutal, and was rewarded with seven bids to the tournament. So the team that won that conference has to be considered a major threat. I like the Cylones big here. (Pick: Iowa St.)
(7) Connecticut vs. (10) St. Joseph’s: I think St. Joe’s got a lower seed than expected, but they got a decent draw. Connecticut will give them all kinds of problems, but I think that the A-10 is better than most people do. This should be the best matchup of the first round in this region. I think the St. Joe’s backcourt makes the difference here and allows the Hawks to advance. (Pick: St. Joseph’s)
(2) Villanova vs. (15) Milwaukee: Villanova’s fall from the one seed is made worse by where they ended up. UConn and St. Joe’s both could pose a problem. If they manage to make it past the first weekend, a very, very dangerous Iowa State team likely awaits. I don’t see them having an issue with the Panthers, but then it gets dicey. (Pick: Villanova)
First Round Winners: Virginia, Memphis, Harvard, Michigan State, North Carolina, Iowa State, St. Joseph’s, Villanova
Second Round Winners: Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa State, St. Joseph’s
Sweet 16 winners: Michigan State, Iowa State
Regional Champion: Michigan State
» Head back to Fantasy CPR tomorrow to see my predictions for the the Midwest Bracket!