It’s March Madness: the time of year where everyone is an expert…until the first game is played.
In terms of upsets, this year’s bracket, like most years, honestly does not have many surprises. While we all know there should be a No. 12 beating a No. 5, or a tense No. 9 versus No. 8, these can be pretty difficult to foresee. So, here are my two cents on who will take the cake and, of course, the reasoning for my madness.
First, let’s break down the elite eight.
From the south, I give the slight edge to Donovan’s team in Florida. If you would have told me a month or so ago that Florida could defeat Syracuse, I would have challenged you until I changed your mind. I was wrong about the Orange. They simply do not have enough help to contain Florida’s determined seniors of Prather, Wilbekin, and Young. It could also be argued that Florida has the easiest region in terms of teams to beat, no disrespect to Kansas, of course. It pains me to pick against Jim Boeheim, but his team lacks the spunk from the first part of the season.
The east region was by far the most difficult bracket for me to break down. As someone who would like to one day fill out that perfect bracket, how am I supposed to confidently pick against Villanova, Michigan State, Virginia, or Iowa State? Well, I made an attempt. And yes, I picked this team with confidence!
Michigan State is feeling it right now. Perhaps the hottest team at this moment, I fully believe they are going to ride this momentum to the limit. Tom Izzo and his Spartans are the current definition of a Big Ten team: strong defense and solid fundamentals. Look for Appling to come out strong in this tournament.
In the west region, I believe Arizona will be the only other No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four. By no means is their road easy though, having to beat Oklahoma State, San Diego State, and Wisconsin. Talk about a tough test. While it may be the in-state bias, having watched the Wildcats play this year, you can see two sides from them. They will either blow you away, or make you scratch your head. With the toughest test coming from the Wisconsin matchup, I am all in on the Wildcats reaching the Final Four.
Finally, the rough Midwest region certainly does no favors for the No. 1 seed Wichita State. Teams like Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, and Michigan are all proven teams that can take the Shockers out. In fact, I see Louisville prevailing from this region.
Now let’s go to the fun part, the Final Four. The place where, by this point, most brackets have already rested in peace.
As much as I love the style of the Big Ten, Florida has the senior leadership and speed to get past the Spartans. Giving up just under 58 points a game, their style looks just too quick for Michigan State to handle. With only 2 losses on the season, I have not felt this confident in the Gators since the Joakim Noah days.
I have to give the edge to the Wildcats from Arizona over Louisville. Call it home-state bias, but Nick Johnson and the Wildcats have consistently impressed me this year. Louisville has all the tools to match up well, but Johnson and Gordon have chemistry like very few teammates in the NCAA this year.
On to the championship game. After much back and forth indecision, and sleepless nights, I have my winner. Congratulations, Florida. I believe the number one seed is in fact the number one seed for a reason.
My final thoughts on this year’s tournament are all about coaching. Coaches like Izzo, Donovan, and Pitino do not just continually reach these stages by mere chance or good recruiting classes. These coachers are leaders, who know how to mature young college athletes. If I were a fan of any of their teams, I could confidently back any of these squads.
Best of luck to all the teams, and especially Florida, now that I have my bracket set.