- Living in the heart of Big 12 country, I advanced each team in the conference except for the young, athletic Oklahoma Sooners. K-State sees an early exit, having been eliminated by Wisconsin twice since the turn of the century (2008, 2011) and new coach Bruce Weber's Big Ten experience shouldn't be enough to overcome history.
- Upsets — Colorado got some glancing love even after defecting from the Big 12. Some of it is also due to Illinois' underachieving ways. Like innumerable other people, I have Davidson advancing over Marquette, although I believe Buzz Williams' squad is underrated. The biggest chances I took are in the loaded Midwest region with Louisville going down to a balanced, physical St. Louis, and Creighton moving past Duke. Many people fail to realize the Bluejays can score without Doug McDermott on the floor and are battle-tested having played Wichita State's stringent defense three times in Missouri Valley play.
- Sweating — Having two Big Ten teams, let alone both Michigan teams, in the Final Four has me worried. Trey Burke can put the Wolverines on his back if need be and Tom Izzo primes his teams for March each season, something that puts the Spartans far ahead of the pack in a year where there is not a clear cut juggernaut. Sending Georgetown and Florida to the Sweet 16 (and further, for the Hoyas) will keep me on pins and needles until they prove me otherwise, though.
- While there is more parity than ever, I do think there's still only a handful of teams that are legitimate title contenders. So while I loved some early-round upsets, there is still a good amount of chalk in the Elite 8 and up. It's difficult to stop - I wanted to go with that No. 13 seed to reach the Final Four, but as much as I tried, I couldn't do it. Some teams are just better, even with the parity.
- That being said, I love some double-digit seeds to advance to the third round (Round of 32) and on to the Sweet 16. As I mentioned in my initial reactions post, I really like No. 14 Davidson because of how the Wildcats match up with Marquette and then advancing on to the Sweet 16. Remember, they're on a roll. I also clearly like the No. 11's and No. 10's as I have two No. 11's (Belmont and Minnesota) and two No. 10-seeds (Iowa State and Colorado) winning second-round games.
- I read an incredible stat that only once in the past 16 years have all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16. No. 2 seeds seem like almost automatic advances, yet one always falls. That's why I picked Iowa State to knock off Ohio State (I also considered Colorado over Miami). Iowa State is a dynamic 3-point shooting team that when they're hot, the offense is very tough to stop. If they can hit outside shots and play better defense, I could see the Cyclones reaching the Sweet 16.
- As for my Final Four, I'll start in the Midwest, where honestly any of the top four seeds could be in Atlanta. I really wanted to put St. Louis in Atlanta, but Tom Izzo gets his teams ready in March as well as anyone. The Spartans are balanced and physical, which bodes well for this tournament. A lot of people are writing off Gonzaga, but I've watched at least half of the Bulldogs' games this year and they are a legitimate great team. I think Indiana is too strong for Miami in the East and if the Kansas team that played in the Big 12 Tournament shows up here, the Jayhawks have the talent to reach the Final Four.
My college basketball knowledge, is not the best, but this is what I think I know. Miami CRUSHED Duke at some point this season. New Mexico didn't hold back when scheduling opponents (the Lobos have the second-rated strength of schedule). Being in-tune to the Minnesota Golden Gophers' play kept my ear open to the Big Ten. That being said, here's the method to my bracket madness.
- Regardless of their season and ACC tournament performance, usually Duke lands in my final four. Coach K has his pick when recruiting and also happens to be a pretty darn good in-game coach.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers — I have lived in Minnesota for a scattered 17 years. I've watched Rodney Williams, Joe Coleman and Trevor Mbakwe play since their days in high school. I picked them to be a Sweet 16 team before the year and cannot go back now.
- Big Ten — Picked every team to win first round match-up, but none to make the Final Four. Known for it's grind-it-out style, the B1G contains excellent guard play. Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Victor Oladipo (Indiana) and Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke (Michigan) all need to help control the pace for their team. Guard play is essential to tournament success.
- If I needed to make a guess or felt completely lost, I determined a winner using Strength of Schedule. After SoS, I went to allowed points per game and PPG differential. If I still struggled to decide a winner, I went with the team who had a player leading them in both PPG and assists per game.
- Cinderella (If I had one) — I chose St. Mary's to be victorious in both their play-in round game and a match-up with Memphis. I like St. Mary's going to Australia to recruite players who have experience in national competition. Patty Mills, now with the San Antonio Spurs, led St. Mary's to a Sweet 16 appearance a few years back. An upset relies heavily on Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova's offensive presence. Also relentless on-ball defender, Dellavedova has not shot well in previous tournament appearances.
- Jordan Adams, second on UCLA in scoring, was able to provide 15.3 points per game. His injury can have a dramatic effect on the first round where UCLA is ranked 6th and Minnesota 11th. I can see Minnesota upset UCLA with their balanced scoring and tremendous rebounding.
- Zeller will be a tough matchup for every team, but Adreian Payne will be the difference maker for Michigan State.
- San Diego State, how can you not love them? I’m forced to since my brother is an alumni and it’s the only place I go to watch college basketball live. This pick is from the heart, not the mind. I’m not worried about the statistics, nor am I worried about what implications this pick may have on the rest of my bracket. I put my soul into this pick, and I’m sticking with it.
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