Finally the field of 64 is set, and the real first round of the tournament tips off just after noon today (don't you dare call the play-in games the first round). I, like most Americans, filled out a bracket, which you can see posted at the top of the article.
Figured it would be fun to talk predictions as we gear up for the most exciting weekend on the sports calendar (speaking of the exciting, if you're interested in attending any of the games you need to check out PrimeSport, the premier vendor for NCAA Tournament Tickets).
Here are my picks, explained:
South - Florida
The Gators are absolute monsters, having gone 21-0 in SEC play including the conference tournament. They actually remind me a lot of Louisville last season, a veteran team that flew a bit under the radar despite their brilliance and ended up capturing the #1 overall seed. As you can see, I think they finish the season a lot like UL did last season as well. National Champs.
Midwest - Louisville
Speaking of the Cardinals, I have them coming up just one win shy of a second consecutive title. It's laughable that this team (29-5 overall, 18-3 in the American) is a four-seed, as they should have most likely been a two. And their road is tough, as they'll have to get by some combination of Kentucky, Wichita State, Duke and Michigan to advance. That said, for the second straight year Rick Pitino has his team peaking at the right time. They're heading back to the final four.
East - Virginia
Virginia is one of the toughest teams in the tournament, and I think they'll escape the East. The Cavs are well coached and may play the best defense of any team in college basketball, two attributes of teams that genuinely go pretty far. Their sweet sixteen match-up with Michigan State will be an all out war, but if they can survive that I see them getting by a really good Iowa State team in the Elite 8 and heading to Arlington, so get your Final Four Travel Packages Cavaliers fans.
West - Arizona
Yup, three #1 seeds. Call it chalk if you'd like, but I actually like money and feel like winning this thing. The Cats got by far the best draw of any #1, with (in my opinion) the weakest #2 seed (Wisconsin), weakest #3 (Creighton), and weakest #4 (San Diego State). So while Arizona has their problems (free throw shooting and no legit closer on offense) they'll ride their athleticism and defense to the final four before bowing out.
Cinderella - Baylor
No, I don't see a 14-seed making the Sweet 16 or an 8-seed going to the Final Four, but I do see Baylor, a 6-seed, making it to the Elite 8, and that's about as Cinderella as I'm going this year. The Bears finished sixth in the Big 12 but finished strong (10-2 in their last 12), and are as battle tested as any team in the field (12 games vs top 25 teams). They have one of the best shot blockers in the NCAA in Isaiah Austin, and surround him with guys who can shoot (39% team three-point shooting). They have all the elements of a team that could make a run, and I wouldn't be completely shocked if they beat Arizona as well.
Alright, so who do you have in the Final Four? Who's your cinderella? Do you have Final Four Tickets? Post your picks in the comment section.
Michael Dyer 3/19/2014 09:33:00 PM Tweet