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 piece, in which I’ll predict the results of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region, this is the information you should know. Like I have done with the other regions, 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: Louisville. Many of the talking heads are complaining about Louisville’s seed, but they are 19th in the RPI and 80th in strength of schedule. That said, they are the defending National Champions, and deserve to be treated as such. I have no issue with their seeding, but they seem very dangerous in the four slot.
Begging to Be Upset: Saint Louis. The Billikens have dropped three of their last four games, and are stuck in a free-fall. Tennessee will be the next of the “last four in” to get past the first round. There has been one team every year since the last four in had to play on Wednesday and Thursday.
Bracket Buster: Kentucky. On talent alone, the Wildcats are a top five team. They just have trouble playing as a team. If they play like they did in the SEC Championship Game against Florida, they have a great shot at making a run to Jerry World.
Upset Special: Mercer. They are experienced, and beat a Florida Gulf Coast team that returned four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 team in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship game. Duke does not defend the middle particularly well, and Mercer has the size to give them problems.
Overseeded: Saint Louis. This is another region where I don’t really feel that anyone was overseeded. The Billikens’ struggles over the last couple of weeks give me cause to call them out. They are far and away the weakest five seed in the field right now. The committee went with the body of work over the whole season, which is what they are supposed to do.
Underseeded: Kentucky. They are 17 in RPI and third in strength of schedule. Oh, and they made it to the finals of their conference tournament. Kentucky probably deserved at least a six seed.
(1) Wichita State vs. (16) Cal Poly/Texas Southern at St. Louis, MO: This should be a tune-up for the Shockers before they get ready to tackle one of the toughest brackets in recent memory. If Wichita State wins this region, the selection committee should send them a written letter of apology. (Pick: Wichita State)
(8) Kentucky vs. (9) Kansas State at St. Louis, MO: Everyone is just handing this game to Kentucky, but let’s take a closer look. Kansas State would just as soon elbow you in the face as try to guard you. They play tough. That kind of toughness could really give Kentucky some problems. The sheer talent of Kentucky should be enough to carry them through though. (Pick: Kentucky)
(5) Saint Louis vs. (12) North Carolina State/Xavier at Orlando, FL: I’m quite sure that NC State can beat St. Louis. Xavier is probably good enough to as well. No matter who wins the play-in game, I’m taking them over the struggling Billikens. (Pick: North Carolina State)
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Manhattan at Orlando, FL: Manhattan might be able to hang around for a while, but ultimately I think the guard play of Louisville will overwhelm the Jaspers. (Pick: Louisville)
(6) Massachusetts vs. (11) Iowa/Tennessee at Raleigh, NC: If the Vols can make it out of the play-in game, they have a good matchup, and will have a lot of orange present in Raleigh. Knoxville is only about four hours away. A quasi-home crowd and a team playing well would spell trouble for UMass. (Pick: Tennessee)
(3) Duke vs. (14) Mercer at Raleigh, NC: Duke could be in trouble here. Mercer has won 77 games in the last three years and is loaded with seniors, including 6’10” center Daniel Coursey. We all know Duke lacks size in the middle. Sooner or later, it will come back to bite them. I can’t just take all the safe picks. What fun would that be? (Pick: Mercer)
(7) Texas vs. (10) Arizona State at Milwaukee, WI: On paper, this matchup is very close. The game should be just as close. Texas had the advantage of playing in a tougher conference and even beat Kansas once. The Sun Devils beat Arizona once. I give Texas the slight edge because they play good defense and are a very good rebounding team. (Pick: Texas)
(2) Michigan vs. (15) Wofford at Milwaukee, WI: The Wolverines still have a lot of talent on this team even after losing Trey Burke to the NBA and Mitch McGary to injury. Big Dog III is getting hot at the right time, and the Wolverines seem poised to make another run towards the Final Four. (Pick: Michigan)
First Round Winners: Wichita State, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Louisville, Iowa/Tennessee, Mercer, Texas, Michigan
Second Round Winners: Wichita State, Louisville, Mercer, Michigan
Sweet Sixteen Winners: Louisville, Michigan
Regional Winner: Louisville
» Check back on Fantasy CPR later today as I give my predictions for the South Region.