|Louisville: The NCAA Tournament's top overall seed. (Getty)|
No. 1's: Louisville - Midwest (overall), Kansas - South, Indiana - East, Gonzaga - West
Bubbles/snubs: St. Mary's, Middle Tennessee St., La Salle and Boise St. are in. Maryland, Tennessee, Southern Mississippi, Virginia and Kentucky left out.
Best "second round" match-ups: Let me start by saying I hate calling it the second round due to the play-in games. It will always be the first round in my mind.
There are some 8-9 matchups that automatically jump out (Pitt vs. Wichita St. and Colorado St. vs Missouri), but those are always very close.
Oregon should have been higher than a No. 12 seed and will give a great battle to an athletic Oklahoma State team. Also look for Michigan vs. South Dakota State and elite scorer Nate Wolters, then there's match-up with two teams that couldn't be more different: Wisconsin vs. Ole Miss. Marshall Henderson going against the physical Badgers defense should make for a great contest.
Easiest region: I would have to say the East, although many analysts feel the West wins the crown. The No. 1 (Indiana) and No. 2 (Miami) are tough teams, but Marquette (No. 3 seed) and Syracuse (No. 4 seed) could both see early upsets. Neither Big East team has a lot of momentum entering the tournament.
You'll see the toughest region below, but the South has a strong No. 1 in Kansas, No. 2 in Georgetown and No. 4 in Michigan, while Ohio State has earned it's No. 2 seed out West and Kansas State at the No. 4 doesn't have a bad loss all season, not to mention Gonzaga, who has the best record in the country and comes in as the No. 1-ranked team.
Toughest region: The Midwest, hands down. The selection committee's overall No. 1-seed present to Louisville was putting Duke, Michigan St., St. Louis and Oklahoma St. as the 2-5 seeds. Then throw in a dangerous Creighton team at No. 7 and an Oregon team who many feel were wildly under-seeded at a No. 12 and this will be a battle in Indianapolis.
Second-round upset pick: Obviously when we talk upsets, we're not looking for a No. 9 over a No. 8 or a No. 10 over a No. 7. We're talking double-digit seeds advancing to the weekend. Lots of people are looking at Montana over Syracuse, but I think Belmont could give Arizona all the Wildcats can handle as a No. 11 vs. a No. 6. For a big pick, don't forget about No. 14. Davidson against No. 3 Marquette. This is more about Davidson's strengths than Marquette's weakness. The Wildcats are a strong fundamental, defensive team than can scorch it from 3-point range. They are also a little undersized in the post but match up well with Marquette, which is also undersized except for Chris Otule, who is 6-11.
Sleeper: For sleepers, we're talking about high-seeded teams advancing to the Sweet 16 and beyond. I really like two of the No. 10 seeds (Iowa St. and Colorado) who have the ability to advance into the Sweet 16. Iowa State will need to play better defense, but can score at will and Colorado hasn't been overly consistent, but is balanced enough to make a run if the Buffs could find some momentum.
Never doubt Butler, a No. 6 seed with a decent path to the Elite 8, and when No. 7-seed Creighton and Doug McDermott are on, the Bluejays are very good. As mentioned earlier, watch out for Davidson and Belmont, as well.
Final thought: As we all know, this tournament is up in the air. In a year with no dominant team, the parity seems to be at an all-time high. Any number of teams could make a run to the Sweet 16 and there are a handful of teams that are legitimate title contenders. What that means for the fans: this is going to be a fun March.
Good luck with your brackets and let the madness begin.
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