I told myself I was going to take a more researched approach this year. I decided I would invest the time to look at stats and records. I wanted to flesh out the matchups and examine the common opponents in an effort to make informed picks and attain the unattainable: 32-0 on during the first round. Then I realized that, as a fan and not a professional analyst, it tends to suck all the fun out of it. I find that the straight forward, pick from your gut method of picking a bracket is the best way to go. Simply relying on a feeling or some distant scrap of data floating around the brain make getting them right all the more joyous and also give you a decent excuse if it all blows up by Friday night. So without further ado, here are the highlights from my bracket and my assessment of each region.
While Duke is the #1 overall I have seen enough of Duke play to know that they do not have enough talent at each position on the floor to fully matchup in the Tournament. Unless Greg Paulus and Lee Melchionni evolve into great players overnight, Duke is still a two weapon team with role players. If George Washington's injured player is up to speed, I am not sure Duke survives the second round, which is the fault of the committee for sticking them with such a good #8 seed. Syracuse is overrated and Texas A&M may be underseeded so I think the Aggies will get it done there. Duke move, with great difficulty, to the Elite Eight. Southern Illinois provided the MVC some level of validation before dropping out against Texas. Texas will then exact revenge on Duke for their December beat down to go to the Final Four.
Regional Winnner: #2 Texas
Biggest Upset: #12 Texas A&M advances to the Sweet Sixteen
Teams That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think:: #10 NC State and #8 George Washington
I have absolutely no confidence in Memphis as a #1 seed so I was half tempted to pick Oral Roberts as the first ever #16 seed winner. Then again I have no guts so I picked Memphis and then had them lose in the second round to Bucknell. Kansas is the hot team so they dispatch Bucknell meet up with UCLA who knocks off Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. UCLA looks good, but I think Kansas is better in the end.
Regional Winner: #4 Kansas
Biggest Upset: Bucknell advances to the Sweet Sixteen
Team That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think: #1 Memphis and #2 UCLA
This is a strange region. You have a #2 seed in Tennessee who should acutally be a #4 seed. You have the defending national champions in UNC at #3 with a group of young players. UConn is the #1 and favored to win the whole tournament. I also do not see any ready made upsets other than Wichita State knocking the weak #2 seed out in the second round. I think UConn will cruise right through to Indianoplis. Illinois will play well enough but does not have the inside presence to match the UConn Huskies after they dispatch the Washington Huskies. UNC should survive the rematch with Michigan State even though everyone(like last year) thinks Michigan State is the greatest team since Alcindor and Walton. UNC will advance past Wichita St. and meet its match in UConn.
Regional Winner: #1 Connecticut
Biggest Upset: #7 Wichita St advances to the Sweet Sixteen
Team That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think: #6 Michigan State
Boston College is the hottest team in the NCAA Tournament and they will overcome a #4 seed to go to the Final Four. Villanova takes care of business early but hits the Eagle buzzsaw in the round of 16. Florida continues to play well slipping past Ohio State for a match with Boston College. BC should handle Florida and arrive on the scene at the unlikely ACC represenative in the Final Four.
Regional Winner: #4 Boston College
Biggest Upset: #11 UW-Milwaukee wins in the first round
Teams That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think: #1 Villanova and #2 Ohio State
FINAL FOUR(Indianapolis, IN)
Texas will take care of Kansas for a little Big 12 vengance and UConn will win the old Big East rematch over Boston College. UConn will prove too much for Texas and hand Jim Calhoun his third national title in seven years. Oh, that also happens to be the same number of titles as Coach K at Duke. Can you say direct competition?
I love this time of year. The games, the excitement of upsets and the tension of watching you favorite team play with specter of the season ending with a loss. In all likelihood my bracket will be in shambles by the second weekend, but that is what makes it so fun.
[Note: I changed my West regional winner pick about two hours before the tournament started. I think Kansas will come out of Oakland and not UCLA]