The time has come to fill out your bracket and if you haven't done so, then what are you doing, get it done! Find a website, printable bracket, or a sheet of paper and pen and figure out what you need to do to fit in for the next three weeks! With that, let's start off the breakdown with the five most difficult games to pick:
5. Syracuse/Montana: Why? Because Syracuse has been so inconsistent all season and Montana comes in with nothing to worry about because they come in with no pressure. As easy as this game seems to be to pick for Syracuse because they are a nationally well known program, they have had some serious ups and downs throughout the last half of the season. Also, Montana has a pretty good guard duo. This does not help out the likes of Syracuse.
4. Oklahoma/San Diego State: Who? Exactly. Both of these schools are known for their football programs recently more than their basketball programs. Yes, San Diego State was fantastic last season, but this year, not so much, hence why nobody remembers them. Plus neither of these teams have been talked about and both of these teams will more than likely play Georgetown in the next round which likely means they both won't go very far. So I guess the committee decided to put together the two teams nobody has really heard about all season. That's what makes it hard to pick!
3. UCLA/ Minnesota: This one I picked UCLA on strictly because I live on the west coast, honestly though, I have no idea who I think is going to win this match-up. Minnesota has been O.K. all season but also being in the Big 10 which is a top conference in college basketball. UCLA has been a pretty good team in a "weak" conference. These games make me especially frustrated because I liked both of these teams to possibly have an opportunity at a sweet sixteen bid. Now only one has the opportunity and that makes it harder to pick, also the weak conference/good team vs good conference/average team is very hard to choose.
2. Cincinnati/Creighton: When you have baby Dirk Nowitski (Doug McDermott) on your team (Creighton) and the opponent is a team who is athletically gifted (Cincinnati) I really have no idea who to pick. I picked the athletic freaky team but they had so many lulls throughout the season you almost have no idea which team is going to show up. I personally also hate 7 vs 10 match-ups and this game just seemed really difficult to pick because one team you know will show up and play the way they have all season while the other is a toss up. Toss up match-ups are terrifying, this is nearly one of them.
1. Butler/Bucknell: I seriously just picked Butler because they sound familiar, but honestly this game scares me, and if I would have given time to think about it, I would have turned into a pretzel. This game is ridiculous. I can see either team winning, and considering the success Butler has had over the past few years in the NCAA Tournament (Back-to-back championship game appearances) and knowing the reputation of Bucknell whenever they enter the tourney (experienced & fundamental), have fun making a decision. As successful as Butler has been in the tournament, they only earned their due as a highly ranked team this year and they played average with the recognition. The Tournament is a different animal and who knows how Butler is going to respond.
O.K. Now that we are out of the woods on the hard picks, lets break down who I see going to the Final Four (along with teams I could see making to the Final Four in the given region).
- Considering this year has been all sorts of wonky, I see consistency prevailing, and what is more consistent than Michigan State and Tom Izzo? Nothing. But who can I see coming out of this bracket if MSU doesn't? Louisville and Duke. Everybody else doesn't seem to have the ability to stay with anybody else. But why do I choose MSU over the #1 and #2 seed? Louisville is a very hot and cold team, and when they are cold, they cannot hang with anybody. Duke lost to Lehigh last season (the biggest upset in NCAA history) and what makes you think I'll pick them again when it comes to winning the NCAA championship? I ate soap for betting on Duke over Lehigh last season, and I will not pick them to go as far until they prove it to me. Until they show me they can win something with substantial meaning (especially after losing to Maryland in the ACC tournament), I'm not going to carry them through this tournament. So Michigan State is a team I'm willing to ride to the Final Four.
- This may have been the hardest bracket to choose when it comes to a champion. Yes, I'm aware Gonzaga was the #1 seed in this region, but that doesn't mean I think their schedule made their #1 seed easier to achieve compared to the other three #1 seeds. I just think everybody in this region if put in any other region is at best a #3 seed. I just found this region to be a very weak region overall. I picked New Mexico because they are the #3 seed where I feel they are the only correctly seeded team within this bracket. I think Ohio State and Gonzaga would be a #3 or #4 seeds in other regions to be honest, but in the West, they have a legitimate shot at doing whatever they want. I could see Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Arizona and Kansas State sneaking out of this region. It is that wide open! I also honestly don't think any of these teams are National Championship worthy except for maybe Wisconsin who showed in the Big 10 Tournament that they could beat teams like Michigan and Indiana, but other than that, everybody else seems to be a bit average.
- First of all, did I tell you all that I love Trey Burke? Well if you don't know, now you know. This dude can carry anybody on his back if necessary and I have the faith he can do it all the way to the Final Four through the wretched South Region which does have some legitimate threats to win the Title this season. I got Michigan, but I can definitely see Georgetown or UNC taking their talents to Atlanta to compete for a shot at a National Championship. Georgetown is no sleeper, they have serious guard play and have the system to take them all the way this season. I have a friend who picked them, and it struck me a bit causing me to seriously consider them as a threat. They are coming out of an always vaunted Big East and setting themselves to do some serious damage in the NCAA Tournament this season. I would not be shocked if they beat Michigan in the Elite Eight and if they even tested the waters in Atlanta winning the National Title with the talent they have on their team. Other than those two teams in Michigan and Georgetown, I could see UNC upsetting Michigan in the Semifinals. I don't see Kansas doing anything, especially with the way they played in early February and how he nearly imploded the week they lost to TCU. Kansas doesn't have a shot at the Final Four in my view. Their is no way they are good enough to beat UNC, Michigan, and Georgetown three games in a row. If they do, they better damn well win it all because that is a vaunted schedule if I've have ever seen one.
- I love Miami in this region. I picked them to win this region from the beginning because I see Miami as a team with fantastic guard play and experience that may not be matched by any other team. I can totally see Indiana doing something in this region as well, but unless they are tired or unprepared from their previous game (similarly to how they were unprepared in the BIG 10 Tournament with Wisconsin) I can see them getting knocked out early. Indiana is one of those teams where I really like them and think they are a solid team, but I worry about their longevity in the tournament. I can also see Syracuse making a run if they have a short memory of this past season, because they are definitely talented enough, but their play the last month has been dreadful. Indiana and Miami are really the only two teams I see making a run out of this conference and I'm not just saying that because they are #1 and #2 in this conference, but they are both truly the most well put together teams in this tournament. They can beat everybody they play if they wanted to and if Miami were put in the West Region they would be the #1 seed and destroy everybody in that region. If they meet in the Elite Eight, it truly is a toss up even though I love Miami a ton, Indiana is #1 for a reason. But I still have Miami.
Let's break down who I have winning in the Final Four, if all my teams make it (which won't happen and if it does this blog will make national news and I'll be all over the globe).
Michigan vs Miami: I have Miami winning this game for one reason, they have experience and a team that can really soften Robinson, Burke and Hardaway. I feel that Miami could out muscle the Wolverines and also out shoot them, which I know sounds strange considering Michigan can shoot with anybody. Considering the amount of times Burke has had to save Michigan at the end of games, and has made himself a target to be reckon with, he may become the focus that Miami looks at and places their game plan around because he is that good. Unless Burke is coming out of a phone booth in the next week, I don't see how he gets past the play of Miami in Atlanta.
Michigan State vs New Mexico: Seriously? I'm not even going to break this game down. By this point, New Mexico will have had so many stories about them and will come into Atlanta as the sentimental favorite. Michigan State will be another ho-hum story line as they again make the Final Four, giving them less of an awe-factor walking into Atlanta. It would just feel like another game to them when they get there, and with the competition they have felt all year in the Big 10, I just don't see how Michigan State walks out of this game with a loss. Considering the game in and game out competition of the Big 10, and the week off that both of these teams will have, Michigan State has the clear edge in this match-up. Michigan State goes to the National Championship.
National Championship Game: MSU vs MIA: I have Miami winning 62-59. Both these teams played early in the season against one another and Miami won 67-59. I think a similar result will occur, but I also think it will be a bit closer knowing how Izzo gets his teams prepared to play in the tournament. Miami is the team of destiny, and I think this is the year of the swagger. Michigan State has the most consistency when it comes to a programs success, but like many years when it comes to Michigan State, they have the system, but they do not have the "It" factor like Miami has for this season. Miami is a senior laden team and I can't see how they will die for the rest of the season. They have great guard play, they are beyond experienced, and they have the swagger of a team that looks hungrier than a pack of lions. They were the outright ACC champions this season and never lost to UNC and only lost to Duke once. When it comes to big time games and the spot light, they have done nothing but shown brightly and provided the effort to indicate they are ready for a title run. Only one bad loss since Christmas on February 23rd (Click Here). Other then that, they have been on a mission. You know who had one bad loss last season? Kentucky. Where did they end up. Champions. The Miami Hurricanes will be there this season, and the year of the swagger lives on.