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: Oklahoma State. College basketball, unlike it’s NBA counterpart, is a game where one player can still dominate a game. You don’t see that in the pros anymore. In college, you see it a lot. Adam Morrison and Gonzaga. Stephen Curry and Davidson. Jimmer Fredette and BYU. None of them had much of a supporting cast around them. The Cowboys have a top five pick in Marcus Smart, and they have a very good team around him. If they get hot, they could blow through the West with relative ease, especially since I expect quite a few upsets in this region. Just because I expect them, though, does not mean that I am confident enough to pick them….
Begging to Be Upset: Oklahoma. I am fully behind my team, but I realize that they have some issues. They rely too much on outside shooting, and despite the presence of Ryan Spangler in the middle, they aren’t a very good defensive team. That means that a team that stretches the court can beat them. That is why the Sooners had so many problems with Kansas this year. That’s all they do is spread the floor. If the Sooners go cold from the field, which is what happened in early February losses to Iowa State and West Virginia, they are beatable. If not, well, they could make a deep run. You don’t become a No. 2 seed in a conference like the Big 12 without putting together a very good season.
Bracket Buster: Oregon. The Ducks have the athletes to keep Wisconsin from slowing the game down. If they can force the Badgers to play at their tempo, they’ll have a great shot at the regional final game.
Upset Special: North Dakota State. No, I’m not just saying this because it’s a “5 vs. 12 matchup”, or because I am originally from North Dakota. I am saying this because the Bison play very well as a team. They will have all sorts of problems keeping Buddy Hield from going off, but I think they are good enough defensively to frustrate the Sooners. Whether that translates into a win or not is anyone’s guess.
Overseeded: Creighton. Take note that I don’t really think anyone is this region is overseeded. The only reason I put the Blue Jays here is because Louisville and Michigan State are both four seeds in other brackets, and both of them are much more likely to make an extended run than Creighton is.
Underseeded: Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are No. 20 in the RPI, and won their conference regular- and post-season championships. Their reward? A date against the most dangerous ninth seed in this year’s tournament. Oh, and if they happen to pass that test, they get the best team not named Florida in the Arizona Wildcats…..
(1) Arizona vs. (16) Weber State at San Diego, CA: Nothing to see here, folks. Arizona will just make sure they have everything in order before it starts getting tough. (Pick: Arizona)
(8) Gonzaga vs. (9) Oklahoma State at San Diego, CA: I mentioned above that the Bulldogs got a tough draw here. Oklahoma State, when they are on, are as good as anyone. The issue with them has been playing well consistently. If Gonzaga catches them on an off night, they can hang with them. If not, this could get ugly. (Pick: Oklahoma State)
(5) Oklahoma vs. (12) North Dakota State at Spokane, WA: The Sooners will have their hands full of Bison in this one. Oklahoma has the talent to pull away in this one, but I don’t think they will. I’m just hoping they hit enough shots to advance. And yes, my pick may be based a bit on homer optimism. (Pick: Oklahoma)
(4) San Diego State vs. (13) New Mexico State at Spokane, WA: San Diego State is one of the best defensive teams in the field this year. That is not to say that they can’t score enough to hang with teams that run. They can do both. And before you decry the Aztecs for playing in a weak conference, I will remind you that they have out-of-conference wins this year vs. Creighton and Kansas — in Lawrence. They gave a tough Arizona team all they could handle as well. The Aggies should be nothing more than a speed bump here. (Pick: San Diego State)
(6) Baylor vs. (11) Nebraska at San Antonio, TX: Baylor made a nice run in the Big 12 Tournament, and the Bears are rewarded with one (or two) games in nearby San Antonio. They draw a team that played very well down the stretch in Nebraska. The Huskers took out Wisconsin and Michigan State in winning eight of their last 10 games. Yes, that Michigan State. The one that many people are picking not just to make the Final Four, but to win the whole tournament! Granted, Sparty was a little beat up when Nebraska went into East Lansing and won, but the fans weren’t hurt. That is still a tough road venue to win in. The thing that I would be concerned about most if I were a Nebraska fan is how they will respond to blowing an 18-point second-half lead to Ohio State in their last game. Will there be any lingering effects? (Pick: Baylor)
(3) Creighton vs. (14) Louisiana-Lafayette at San Antonio, TX: That was nice of the committee to let all of the Nebraska and Creighton fans go to the same place. The irony is, many of the people that cheer alongside each other for Nebraska football are bitter rivals once baseball or basketball season hits. Can you imagine if Creighton had a football team?? Well, I digress. The Cajuns won’t be able to stop Doug McDermott from dropping 30 on them. (Pick: Creighton)
(7) Oregon vs. (10) BYU at Milwaukee, WI: The Ducks are a dangerous seven seed. BYU doesn’t have the athleticism to keep up with Oregon here. The Ducks could wind up causing problems down the road as well. (Pick: Oregon)
(2) Wisconsin vs. (15) American at Milwaukee, WI: If you are one of those fans looking high and low for an unlikely upset, say a No. 15 ousting a No. 2, look elsewhere. Wisconsin, yet again, has a solid defense, and they can actually put up some points this year as well. This could be the most complete Badger team in several years. (Pick: Wisconsin)
First Round Winners: Arizona, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, San Diego State, Baylor, Creighton, Oregon, Wisconsin
Second Round Winners: Arizona, San Diego State, Creighton, Wisconsin
Sweet 16 Winners: Arizona, Wisconsin
Regional Champion: Arizona
» Head back to Fantasy CPR on Wednesday as I make my predictions from the South and Midwest Regions!