You’ve heard it by now – this is the March Madness unpredictable Final Four year. There are no Goliaths. There are only Davids.
Well that’s just so much nonsense.
There is no dominating #1 seed that seems unstoppable going in but in any given year everyone has a laundry list of fatal flaws attached to the presumptive #1 seeds anyway. And don’t let anyone kid you. Just because there’s no clear favorite at the top doesn’t make it anymore likely that Austin Peay, Dayton or Stoneybrook is going to win it all this year.
So let’s take a look at each region and so who has the best shot at outlasting the competition.
This is a relatively weak bracket. That’s good news for top seeded Kansas who I have making their way into the Final Four. Their #2 seed competition Villanova is a traditional underachiever. Middle and lower seeds I might normally consider dangerous here like UConn, Temple don’t appear as dangerous as usual. If Kansas isn’t the team to come out of the South, then my most likely suspect would be #6 Arizona. That’s not necessarily high praise for the Wildcats, it’s a comment on how pedestrian the rest of this bracket is.
In the first round, my upset special is #13 Hawaii against #4 California. Hawaii is underseeded here and Cal is an unknown commodity. They could be ripe for the picking.
My last four standing in the South are Kansas, Maryland, Arizona and Villanova. You know the rest.
The Midwest offers an interesting look at the top 2. 2-seed Michigan State is a time-tested tournament team. Tom Izzo’s defense and rebounding formula works. By contrast, the #1 seed Virginia Cavaliers have an offensive achilles heel that has kept them from going all the way. So should these top 2 be switched? It may not matter.
In the first round, my best bet upsets are #9 Butler and #11 Gonzaga, but my real dark horse teams in this bracket are #7 Dayton and #5 Purdue. One of these two could make it as far as the regional final and maybe even sneak into the final four.
That said, my last four in for the Midwest are Butler (yeah I have them knocking off Virginia), Purdue, #3 Utah and Michigan State with the Spartans eventually punching their ticket to the final 4.
This is probably the best of the four brackets, but again, in a year with no big front runners it’s hard to say. I’m a big fan of the top 2 in this bracket as #1 North Carolina is a bona-fide championship contender and #2 Xavier has more than earned its higher than usual ranking. But look further in this bracket and you’ll see a number of “could go all the way teams” including #6 Notre Dame and a very dangerous #4 Kentucky team.
My upset specials for the first round are #9 Providence (I happen to like the Friars a whole lot but they sadly run into the Tar Heels in their second game – if they win that one, watch out!) and #14 Stephen F. Austin knocking off West Virginia. If I wasn’t big on the Irish, I’d also say to keep an eye on their first opponent, the winner of the #11 play-in game between Michigan and Tulsa.
For my East final four, I’ve got North Carolina, who I also have going to the overall Final Four, Kentucky, and mark down North Carolina/Kentucky as the best of the eventual Sweet-16 games, with Notre Dame and Xavier rounding out the field.
Although this bracket has what I view as the weakest of the #1 seeds in Oregon, it is one of the strongest brackets top to bottom overall, and the field includes perennial strong contenders such as Duke at #4.
In the first round, I have #10 VCU as an upset pick. I’d also keep an eye on #12 Yale against #5 Baylor. In addition, I have a big second round upset with #8 St. Joseph’s taking out top seeded Oregon.
My West final four are St. Joe’s, Duke, #3 Texas A&M and #2 Oklahoma, and good news Sooners fans, I have Oklahoma not only making the Final Four, but winning it all in a finals showdown with North Carolina.
Enjoy your March Madness everyone!
Featured image via Big 12