One bracket is all I need.
That way, I stay focused. For the past five years, I’ve been involved in a very competitive bracket pool that keeps growing in participants with each NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot on the line.
And here we are, another NCAA Tournament! Some say that it’s the best event in sports; they’re not wrong. Thirty-two games in two days, and then 16 more games in the next two days after that. One week later, four of the original 64 college basketball teams remain. If you have a job, you’re probably missing some games unless your call into work goes something like this: “Yes, hello…I came down with the Bubonic Plague…gotta go (click).”
Strings & Laces will try to report on as much NCAA Tournament action as possible over the next coming days, but, first, I’m sharing my bracket results with reflection.
Watch as much of the tournament as possible!
Winners: (1) Villanova (31-3); (8) Wisconsin (25-9); (12) UNC Wilmington (29-5); (4) Florida (24-8); (6) SMU (29-4); (3) Baylor (25-7); (7) South Carolina (22-10); and (2) Duke (27-8).
UNC Wilmington (over Virginia) is the only upset pick; I bought what I read about the high-octane Colonial Athletic Association champions. South Carolina (over Marquette) was an offshoot choice, it just felt right regardless of knowing less-than-nothing about the Gamecocks this season.
Winners: (1) Gonzaga (32-1); (8) Northwestern (23-11); (5) Notre Dame (25-9); (4) West Virginia (26-8); (11) Xavier (21-13); (3) Florida State (25-8); (7) Saint Mary’s (28-4); and Arizona (30-4).
Again, only one upset pick (Xavier over Maryland). Maybe because the bubble and mid-major teams seem a little weak this year? There’s a lot of hype about Florida Gulf Coast, but I really like Florida State’s athleticism and determination. And it’s cool that everyone wants to ride Northwestern’s high horse for its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance under Doug Collins’ son, but, man, that story might be short-lived. Is it embarrassing to be the last major-conference Division I basketball team to make the tournament?
Winners: (1) Kansas (28-4); (8) Miami (21-11); (12) Nevada (28-6); (4) Purdue (25-7); (11) Rhode Island (24-9); (3) Oregon (29-5); (7) Michigan (24-11); and (2) Louisville (24-8).
Well, the only two-word team here is Rhode Island; we love RI’s hotness right now. Vermont (playing Purdue) had a shot for a tournament victory before a poor showing against Albany in the America East Final; Vermont shouldn’t even be in this bracket. Oregon (over Iona) might be a candidate for Most Dunks Thrown Down on an Opponent in the first round.
Winners: (1) North Carolina (27-7); (8) Arkansas (25-9); (12) Middle Tennessee State (30-4); (4) Butler (23-8); (11) Kansas State (21-13); (3) UCLA (29-4); (10) Wichita State (30-4); and (2) Kentucky (29-5).
North Carolina, UCLA, and Kentucky in the same region?!? This is a war; all three of those teams could be a one-seed. Not to mention, Middle Tennessee, which will make noise. And after watching Kansas State unleash an offensive firestorm in the First Four, Cincinnati should be grinding their teeth.
Ridiculous realization: Picked all four eight-seeds to advance, a Bracketology no-no. But all the eights (Wisconsin, Northwestern, Miami, Arkansas) seem to be clear favorites, especially Arkansas, which looked extremely physical against Kentucky in the SEC Final (could there be a heated rematch? – ehhh). Strings & Laces has all the two, three, and four seeds getting to the weekend…did we mention that the bubble and mid-major might be a little weak in 2017?
Winners: Villanova, UNC Wilmington, SMU, and Duke.
Damn, Baylor always bites the bullet in the tournament. And South Carolina has a better chance of snow in March than beating Duke.
Winners: Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Florida State, and Arizona.
Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame, remember that name. V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia, too. Bad second-round draw (Arizona) for Saint Mary’s. Xavier is no match for Florida State’s size and speed.
Winners: Kansas, Purdue, Oregon, and Louisville.
Purdue and Louisville could be regrettable picks, but we all live with regret. Kansas is lined with punks, ran by a whiny coach. Oregon is big, tough, and green.
Winners: North Carolina, Middle Tennessee, UCLA, and Kentucky.
No surprises, just like Radiohead said. Middle Tennessee is the odd team out, unfortunately.
ROUND OF 16:
Winners: Villanova and Duke.
Destined to entertain. Blue, white, some blood, and, ultimately, tears.
Winners: Notre Dame and Arizona.
The NCAA needs to move Gonzaga to the PAC-12; then we can really see what the team is made of. Until then, no Final Four pick for the Zags. Florida State gives Arizona everything it has, but the Cats make the free throws.
Winners: Kansas and Oregon.
The Midwest Region is the Bad Ass region. I like tattoos.
Winners: North Carolina and UCLA.
Choosing a winner out of the South is like locking your car: you press the button and get on with your life. John Calipari is an insightful dude, and Kentucky has great players; they’re just not going to…I don’t know, next.
Duke has a nice line to the final. The majority has Villanova taking Duke down; Duke is hot and slightly underrated this year.
Not an underdog, still an underdog. Likable without fuss.
Slug festival. Going to need an ice bath.
Winner: North Carolina.
The South Region will make or break every bracket. The system is rigged.
Winners: Duke and Oregon.
Duke and Oregon were ranked number-one and number-five, respectively, to start the 2016-17 season. Guess what teams were ranked behind them? Arizona and North Carolina. And guess what else? I didn’t realize that fact until right now!
Someone recently said that Duke “hadn’t won a title in a while, right?” The Blue Devils won in 2015. Look, I usually pick against Duke, so me choosing Duke to win my bracket means something is up. Duke has the fire, the guts, the smarts, and, arguably, the best coach in the game. As a fan of the NCAA Tournament, that might be something to be proud of.