March Madness: what’s in your bracket?
A guide to filling out your NCAA tournament bracket.
March 17, 2014
It’s that time of year again. That time of year when even the most casual of sports fans go crazy over teams they’ve never heard of, when college basketball junkies try to figure out the formula to a perfect bracket.
Why wouldn’t you? It’s fun, keeps you interested and this time perfection can win you a billion dollars courtesy of Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans (just Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
By now most of you have probably filled out at least one bracket. Some of you have made multiple: one with picks you truly believe, incorporating a couple upsets just to be cool, another featuring a Final Four run by Manhattan because you like the mascot “Jaspers,” and finally a scratch bracket where there are absolutely zero upset picks because it might just happen.
If you’re still pondering your picks, have a couple more brackets to fill out, or know nothing about sports and would simply like to avoid looking foolish, this article is for you.
Florida was awarded the top overall seed and is the favorite to win the South. The next three highest seeds (Kansas, Syracuse and UCLA) are all attractive on paper but each have their issues.
Kansas has struggled lately without star big man Joel Embiid, Syracuse has lost five of its last seven after opening the season 25-0, and UCLA can be incredibly inconsistent (the Bruins beat Arizona to win the Pac-12 tournament but lost to Washington State last week).
Fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth has been a popular upset pick in the past, but this time it’s the Rams who may get beat. They will face 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin, a team that hasn’t lost since November and matches up well with VCU.
Also look out for No. 9 Pittsburgh over No. 8 Colorado and No. 13 Tulsa over UCLA.
Florida will have the easiest time of all of the No. 1 seeds reaching the Final Four, as the Gators may not even have to face the other top seeds in the South thanks to upsets.
The West region is led by Arizona, Wisconsin, Creighton and San Diego State. Arizona has an easy path to the elite eight, with SDSU (a team the Wilcats beat by nine earlier in the season) standing as its biggest obstacle.
Creighton is the most intriguing of the top seeds, as Doug McDermott and the Bluejays have arguably the most dangerous offense in the country. They are susceptible to off nights, though, and may be eliminated early because of that.
Oklahoma State has had its share of drama this year, but the ninth-seeded Cowboys still feature a talented roster led by Marcus Smart. A win over No. 8 Gonzaga in the first round is hardly out of the question.
Arizona was on top of the polls for most of the season and is my pick for the national title. The Wildcats have good nonconference wins over SDSU, Duke and Michigan (all teams now with top-four seeds) and have the makeup to continue that success deep into March.
Virginia made a run through the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament that earned it a No. 1 seed despite being perceived as less dangerous than some of the other teams in the region, like second-seeded Villanova and fourth-seeded Michigan State. Iowa State earned the third seed in the East after winning the Big 12 tournament.
The easiest upset pick in the entire bracket sits in this region: 11th-seeded Providence over sixth-seeded North Carolina. Providence just upset Creighton for the Big East tournament title, and UNC has been losing to teams it should beat all year long.
Another popular upset pick is Tommy Amaker’s Harvard team, which will face No. 5 Cincinnati in the first round.
MSU is a popular pick to emerge as the champion of the East Region, and I’m hopping on the bandwagon. The Spartans are hot, having just won the Big Ten tournament and don’t face a particularly challenging path to the Final Four with Virginia being the top seed in the region.
Wichita State succeeded Gonzaga as the mid-major No. 1 seed this year, as the Shockers have not lost a single game this season. They haven’t had a very strong schedule, though,` making them vulnerable to “upsets” from Michigan, Duke and Louisville, the other top seeds in the Midwest.
This region is without a doubt the toughest to make it out of, as Michigan and Louisville are both hot, and Duke features a future lottery pick in Jabari Parker.
The winner of the North Carolina State/Xavier play-in game has a great chance to upset fifth-seeded Saint Louis, which has proven to be a tad overrated the last couple years.
No. 6 Massachusetts may also be seeded too highly and could be beat by either Iowa or Tennessee depending on who wins the play-in game.
Wichita State has had a great season, but nobody will be too shocked when the Shockers lose to Louisville in the Elite Eight. It’ll either be the Cardinals or Michigan that advance to the Final Four.