March Madness has finally arrived. in my opinion, it is the greatest sporting event on the planet. From the pride and pageantry to the upsets and drama, the NCAA Tournament has it all. To many people, it is all about filling out the best bracket, but it is really so much more than that. Of course, if you are looking for game-by-game analysis, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time watching television and reading the articles written by self-proclaimed “bracket experts.” Just keep in mind that for the most part, they really don’t know much more than you and I, at least as it relates to filling out a winning bracket. WIth that being said, here are my picks, predictions and upset specials for all four regions. Now, I will provide a disclaimer that I do not consider myself a bracketologist by any means, but I have won multiple pools in the past. Take that for what you want.
Call it the Kentucky region. Can anybody knock off the Wildcats? Well, no team has been able to do it so far this season, and I don’t see it happening in this region either. Is there talent in the Midwest? Yes, plenty. But, I don’t see the Kansas Jayhawks or Notre Dame Fighting Irish being able to get the job done, and I’m not sure that the Maryland Terrapins can even get to the round of 16 to face Kentucky. That also means that I don’t believe that the Wichita State Shockers can exact revenge on UK from last year’s tournament, despite the number of people expecting them to face off in the Elite Eight. I don’t see them upsetting Kansas, and they may even struggle with the Indiana Hoosiers. Depending on how many points your pool offers for picking upsets, it may be worth picking the Buffalo Bulls to knock off the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Valparaiso Crusaders to upset the Terps. I could see both higher seeds emerging victorious. I also like the Texas Longhorns over the Butler Bulldogs. Either way, Kentucky is coming out of the Midwest to reach the Final Four.
This one is much more difficult. I like the Villanova Wildcats. I also like the Virginia Cavaliers. Actually, this may be the region where the most teams could potentially reach Indianapolis. It isn’t the most talented region, but it may be the most open. The Oklahoma Sooners could win the East. So could the Louisville Cardinals. Heck, I wouldn’t discount the Michigan State Spartans or the Providence Friars. Sorry, This one is just that tough. As much as I think that Louisville could make a run, I could just as easily see them getting upset in the Round of 64 by the UC Irvine Anteaters, especially with a 7’6” center in Mamdou Ndiaye. Picking other upsets is up to you, but I could see Providence losing to the Dayton Flyers or Boise State Broncos, or the North Carolina State Wolfpack or LSU Tigers knocking off ‘Nova in the Round of 32. That is truly how wide open the East region is this year. If I had to pick a winner, I would strongly lean toward Virginia or Villanova, but I think that Oklahoma is dangerous, while Louisville could be a hard-out of they can play with some consistency. Again, sorry.
This is the deepest region in my opinion, and it really isn’t even that close. I love the Wisconsin Badgers, but I really think that the Arizona Wildcats may have the greatest shot to advance to the Final Four. The Baylor Bears are loaded with talent, and the North Carolina Tar Heels can play with the best of them. When it comes down to it, UNC can have a difficult time closing out games, while Baylor doesn’t have the guns to hang with ‘Zona. If Wisconsin met Arizona closer to a neutral site in the midwest, I’d probably pick the Badgers. But, with this practically being a home game for the ‘Cats, I am picking Arizona to reach the Final Four. If you want a minor upset, I can see the Ohio State Buckeyes getting past the VCU Rams, as well as the Ole Miss Rebels possibly getting past the Xavier Musketeers. Other than that, I am calling chalk in the West more than any other region.
The Duke Blue Devils may be the heavy favorites, but I don’t see Mike Krzyzewski taking his team to the Final Four. I don’t see the Gonzaga Bulldogs making it there either. So, if the top two seeds aren’t going to Indianapolis, which team do I see advancing? That would be the Iowa State Cyclones, which was my surprise pick last season before they got hit by major injuries at the start of the tournament. This year, that changes, provided the injury bug doesn’t bite the ‘Clones in 2015. I would also pick the greatest number of upsets in this region, with the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks knocking off the Utah Utes, the Eastern Washington Eagles upsetting the Georgetown Hoyas and the Davidson Wildcats knocking off the Iowa Hawkeyes. Many like the UCLA Bruins to defeat the SMU Mustangs, but I just can’t click the Bruins after watching them drop so many bad games. Either way, I like Iowa State to knock off Gonzaga and Duke on its way to Indianapolis.
Does Kentucky continue an undefeated season to the championship game? Can Iowa State continue a remarkable run by defeating Villanova or Virgina? I have no idea. If I had to pick right this minute, I see Kentucky sneaking past Arizona in a battle of Wildcats, while the Cyclones knock off the other Wildcats of ‘Nova or the Wahoos of Virginia.
Best of luck!