Three Mondays from now, a team will cut the nets down in Houston. Predicting who that team will be is no easy science. The three best teams in the country are Michigan State, Kansas, and North Carolina, in no particular order. But Oregon, Xavier, Oklahoma, Kentucky could make a run all the way, and West Virginia, Indiana, or Maryland could surprise people.
My guess is this year there will be at least 8-10 different champions in most pools. I started running a pool when I was about ten, and during my freshman year in high school my aunt won, and everyone said I made her up and kept the money. It’s made for lots of laughs over the years. And in those years, I’ve learned about how to do poorly in pools despite following college basketball closely. So I’ll pass on my “wisdom” and give you the following ten pieces of advice.
NOTE TO READER: I HAVE NEVER WON A DIME IN ANY POOL. READ CLOSELY AND DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE. 🙂
TEN THINGS TO BE AWARE OF WHEN FILLING OUT YOUR BRACKETS
1. The potential of an Indiana-Kentucky game in the second round is great. Two rivals who hate each other and since 2012 have refused to play each other. The committee had them face off in the Sweet 16 a few years back, and it’s likely to happen again, with North Carolina waiting.
2. Picking the upsets where double digit seeds will advance is no science, whatsoever. It’s dumb luck.
3. Having said that, lean on senior laden teams who shoot free throws well and don’t turn the ball over a lot in the early rounds.
4. Two that jump out at me are 13th seeded UNC Wilmington over 4th seeded Duke. Duke is talented but only plays six guys that seem to be out of gas. They’ve been playing six guys all year and you can only do so much with that.
5. 13th seeded Iona over 4th seeded Iowa St. is another one I like. No defense in this game. I watched Iona play Monmouth this year and A.J. English can really score on this team. Doug Gottlieb is right that the over/under for this one is 185.
6. Expect disappointment from the Pac 10, or the Pac 12, whatever they call it now. They got 7 teams in, and Oregon is very good, but no major conference disappoints on a more regular basis. The last team West of the Rockies to win a national championship was Arizona in 1997. That won’t change this year. One Pac 10/12 team will make the Sweet 16-Oregon. Maybe Utah. Maybe.
7. The Big 10 had a good top and a bad bottom all year, so it’s hard to know how good they will do. But with the potential Sweet 16 games of Indiana playing UNC, Maryland playing Kansas, and Purdue playing Virginia, they’ll have a chance to make some big noise.
8. The Final 8 will be Kansas, Iowa, Baylor, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan St., Indiana, and Xavier.
9. The Final 4 will be Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan St., and Xavier. Michigan St. will beat Kansas in the national championship game.
10. I’ve still never won a dime in a pool, so proceed cautiously.