Some love it, some hate it…or maybe some just hate that they love it.
That’s right, March Madness is back and I could not be more excited and/or concerned about announcing my picks to you, the public. I have slaved over statistics, rankings, figures, analysis and facts (also some fictions) to finally decide on the ultimate bracket to present to you all.
But, before we dive into March Madness, don’t forget about Hoosier Hysteria. While the local interest has worn off, there are still plenty of great games happening this weekend in the semi-state rounds. There are two games being played at Huntington North, not a bad trip at all, and two more being played at Lafayette Jefferson.
Warsaw fans, head to Huntington to either root for or against Merrillville in their game with Fort Wayne North Side. That game tips at approximately 6 p.m. and is preceded by Fort Wayne Luers taking on Twin Lakes. The 1-A and 2-A games will be played at Lafayette 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Speaking of high school hoops, I have one last plug to make. Jarrett Van Meter, formerly of InkFreeNews.com, recently wrote a book chronicling the journeys of three Kentucky high school basketball teams on their way to the Sweet Sixteen at historic Rupp Arena. I’m briefly plugging this because I just began reading it and have had trouble putting it down. (Yes, I read books. I’m not always on Tweetergram and Instabook or Snapface, or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays.)
As far as high school hoops goes, I think Indiana’s love far exceeds any other state (I’m a Hoosier by birth, what do you expect?), but Kentucky is on similar ground. The Bluegrass State also has something that I absolutely love, one champion. One state, one title game, one champion. I wish Indiana could find a way to bring that back. I have several theories as to how it should be done, but I digress.
Do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy of Jarrett’s book. Click this link for more information on the book and also to watch a very cool trailer.
Alright, Kosciusko hoops fans, are you ready to have your mind blown by these guaranteed tourney picks!?
This will be the last you hear from me until probably the NFL Draft so soak it up.
New York Regional
Okay, things are not very crazy in this region for me. You’ve got your top seed in Villanova and the east coast Plumlee Patch, Duke as the No. 2 seed. I am very close to chalk picks in the Sweet 16 here, as I have ‘Nova, Duke and Baylor all making it to Madison Square Garden. My major upset in the East is No. 11 USC over No. 6 SMU. Already regretting that one.
Round of 64 Predicted Winners: Villanova, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, USC, Baylor, South Carolina and Duke.
Round of 32 Predicted Results: Villanova def. Wisconsin, Virginia def. Florida, Baylor def. USC and Duke def. South Carolina.
Sweet 16 Predicted Results: Villanova def. Virginia and Duke def. Baylor.
Elite 8 Prediction: Villanova 76, Duke 63.
Regional Champion: Villanova.
Explanation: The Wildcats are the defending champions and I think Duke and Wisconsin are the only two teams that can knock them off in this regional. The Big Ten was garbage this year, so I can’t trust Bucky Badger and I’ll take my chances with Grayson Allen costing the Blue Devils late by biting off a piece of Jay Wright’s ear in the regional final.
San Jose Regional
I’ve decided to get a little weirder here because Gonzaga is the top seed and we all know that Gonzaga is gonna “Gonzaga” at some point. Two of the tourney’s biggest sweethearts play each other in round one with Northwestern taking on Vanderbilt. It’s the Wildcats first-ever NCAA tourney appearance so they’ll either get blown out by 20 against Vandy or win the whole danged thing. Disney already bought the movie rights just to be safe. Notre Dame and West Virginia look like locks in their first round games, which means they probably are going to lose. Dunk City returns as Florida Gulf Coast takes on Florida State, that’s worth watching. Every other early matchup is hereby declared boring.
Round of 64 Predicted Winners: Gonzaga, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Xavier, Florida State, St. Mary’s and Arizona.
Round of 32 Predicted Results: Gonzaga def. Vanderbilt, Notre Dame def. West Virginia, Xavier def. Florida State, Arizona def. St. Mary’s.
Sweet 16 Predicted Results: Notre Dame def. Gonzaga, Arizona def. Xavier.
Elite 8 Prediction: Arizona 64, Notre Dame 54.
Regional Champion: Arizona.
Explanation: I’ve already got one Wildcat team into the Final Four why not a second? Also, I don’t trust Gonzaga, see my above statement. I could honestly see each one of these early round games going the opposite way of how I picked it to happen, save for the 15/2 and 16/1 games. Arizona always chokes, Gonzaga always chokes, Notre Dame is due for a choke job after back-to-back Elite 8 runs. This region will have plenty of red on it when all is said and done, but I’m sticking to my guns. Also, Xavier, because why not?
Kansas City Regional
You can all just start boiling down right now because I am not about to make any of you Purdue fans happy with my predictions. Purdue will make or break tons of brackets this year. Either Purdue will pull the same stuff it did in the Big Ten tourney or it will make a deep run. Make no mistake, Purdue has the talent to win the entire tournament. But it also has the ability to lose to Vermont in the first round. Plus, the Boiler have a tough road to the Final Four having to, most likely, go through Kansas and Louisville. I have a few upsets in this one that I really like.
Round of 64 Predicted Winners: Kansas, Miami, Iowa State, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Michigan and Louisville.
Round of 32 Predicted Results: Kansas def. Miami, Iowa State def. Vermont, Rhode Island def. Oregon and Louisville def. Michigan.
Sweet 16 Predicted Results: Kansas def. Iowa State, Louisville def. Xavier.
Elite 8 Prediction: Kansas 85, Louisville 73.
Regional Champion: Kansas.
Explanation: I love the Jayhawks. Well, I love them more than I love most other teams. I think Kansas is the safest choice in this bracket. Rhode Island plays a Creighton team that lost its best player and then could play an Oregon team that lost its best player. That’s a nice set up. Like I said before, Purdue is going to be a huge key to everyone’s brackets. In fact, that could be said for a lot of Big Ten teams. Either way, I’m choosing not to believe in the Boilers, the last time I did that, Purdue ended up in the Sweet 16 (2010). Maybe I’m still bitter about IU having a bad season, but I’m sticking with my anti-Purdue approach.
Welcome to the grand finale. This, this right here, is why you clicked on my article. This is the region that I have chosen to shock you all. This is the year that a No. 16 finally defeats a No. 1 and it is going to happen in Greenville, SC. That’s right, I am foolishly predicting Texas Southern to topple North Carolina because, why the heck not? Every year since I started doing brackets as a kid I have told myself, “I’m picking a 16 to beat a 1.” Every year I chicken out. Sure, I’ve picked the 15 beating the 2, but that’s child’s play! This is big time. This is happening. That’s the biggest upset I have here, but it’s worth losing the rest of my bracket if I get it right just so I can gloat. Former IU coach Mike Davis runs the TSU program, that’s no reason to believe the Tigers will win, but there is no reason for UNC to be a No. 1 seed. Again, this is crazy to pick, but if it happens, you will all be amazed!
Round of 64 Predicted Winners: Texas Southern (book it!), Arkansas, Middle Tennessee State, Butler, Cincinnati, UCLA, Wichita State, Kentucky.
Round of 32 Predicted Results: Arkansas def. Texas Southern, Butler def. Middle Tennessee State, UCLA def. Cincinnati, Kentucky def. Wichita State.
Sweet 16 Predicted Results: Butler def. Arkansas, Kentucky def. UCLA.
Elite 8 Prediction: Kentucky 77, Butler 65.
Regional Champion: Kentucky
Explanation: I hate Kentucky, but the Wildcats are peaking at the right time coming into the tournament, that’s always a plus. I don’t like North Carolina, even if my crazy prediction just ends up being crazy. I think the Tar Heels could lose to Arkansas, Butler, Wichita State or Kentucky. They should not be a No. 1 seed. I look at Cincinnati and Wichita State as the biggest bracket busters here (and, of course, Texas Southern) the Shockers were given way too low of a seed and will be out for vengeance. Also, No. 12 Middle Tennessee is favored over No. 5 Minnesota, that rarely happens and the last time it did the No. 5 seed won. But, I’ll hop on board with Cinderella because that’s what make March Madness fun.
Final Four in Phoenix
Wildcats, Wildcats and Wildcats, oh my! So, after making my bracket, I realized I had three teams in my Final Four with a Wildcat mascot. Maybe it’s random, maybe I am subconsciously impacted by Whitko athletics. I don’t know. But, between Arizona, Villanova and Kentucky, certainly the Wildcats will win the national championship, right? Wrong.
Semifinal One: Arizona 79, Villanova 75.
Semifinal Two: Kansas 84, Kentucky 72.
National Championship: Kansas 73, Arizona 68.
National Champion: Kansas
Explanation: I said it before, I’ll say it again: I like Kansas more than I like most other teams. The Jayhawks seem to be the safest pick in the entire tournament. I don’t see Villanova pulling the repeat, I’m already leaning on Arizona too much and I can’t bring myself to pick Kentucky, though UK would be my second choice out of these four. Looking at teams that I didn’t put in the Final Four that could win it all, I’d be dumb not to mention Purdue once more and, of course, Duke and UCLA. Don’t sleep on Michigan making a run to Phoenix either. But, again, the Big Ten was garbage this year. Also, Villanova can’t win the championship when Jay Wright only has three-quarters of his left ear.