For a while, I had talked myself out of doing a bracket this year. I wanted to have the discipline to not bother, to just sit back and enjoy watching games without caring about pools or being held to predictions.
Well, just hours before the start of the first round, I got talked back into it. So here are my picks.
Let's get the hardest part over wtih first. I have all three Philly teams losing in the second round. I don’t like any of the matchups.
I think N.C. State has too many scorers for Temple to contain. The Wolfpack have five guys who average double figures, and four are forwards: Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie, Scott Wood and T.J. Warren. Guard Lorenzo Brown is the fifth.
If it was just a matter of containing one or two guys, I’d give the Owls a better chance. But while they can (note the use of the word can) play good defense, I don’t know if they can contain that much depth for all 40 minutes.
I think North Carolina is red-hot right now, and has a lot of confidence after a surprising run to the ACC tournament final. Villanova can bang and play a low-scoring game, but I don’t know if they can play the high-scoring game that the Tar Heels will aim for.
That said, it’s often easier to slow an opponent down than to speed an opponent up. Of the three local teams, I think Villanova has the best chance of reaching the Round of 32.
I think La Salle beats Boise State in the first round, but facing Kansas State in Kansas City will be really tough. Yes, the Explorers will get some help from the Kansas fans rooting against their rival, but consider these stats about the Wildcats.
- No. 43 in the nation in offensive efficiency
- No. 14 in assist-to-turnover ratio
- No. 25 in most turnovers forced per 100 possessions
La Salle ranks 45th, 66th and 48th in those areas, respectively. Not bad, but not as good.
The Explorers’ other big challenge will be to stay out of trouble. Guys like Tyreek Duren and Sam Mills will have to stay composed as they step on the biggest basketball stage they’ve ever seen.
I think there will be a lot of close games, but I’m not convinced there will be as many upsets by seed as we’d like to watch. Consider also that a lot of mid-majors have higher seeds than the majors they’re matched up with. So Creighton beating Cincinnati may be a Red Line upset, but it’s not a NCAA Tournament upset.
I have these upsets across my bracket:
S11. Minnesota over S6. UCLA
MW12. Oregon over MW5. Oklahoma State
MW11b. Saint Mary’s (Calif.) over MW6. Memphis
W11. Belmont over W6. Arizona
E5. UNLV over E4. Syracuse
E6. Butler over E3. Marquette
S5. Virginia Commonwealth over S4. Michigan
MW7. Creighton over MW2. Duke
W7. Notre Dame over W2. Ohio State
E6. Butler over E2. Miami
MW7. Creighton over MW3. Michigan State
S2. Georgetown over S1. Kansas
These were the three hardest results for me to decide on, in no particular order:
S8. North Carolina over S9. Villanova
S1. Kansas over S5. Virginia Commonwealth
W1. Gonzaga over W4. Wisconsin
When the tournament gets to Atlanta in April...
I have Indiana, Georgetown, Louisville and Gonzaga in my Final Four, and I have Louisville’s ferocious defense shutting down Indiana’s clinical offense in the title game.
The one thing I think more than anything else is that I will be totally wrong with all of my predictions. My record in bracket pools is atrocious. So take my picks with a grain of salt, or perhaps a few grains.
Here’s my full bracket. To see a higher-resolution version, click on the picture.