Since we're less than 48 hours away from the start of the NCAA Tournament (the play-in game notwithstanding) and since Chris Liss has already hit me with his annual "I haven't watched any college hoops this year, give me all your picks" phone call (right when I'm on deadline as always...love ya, Chris), I figured I may as well go on record with my bracket.
First, one major caveat: I watch a ton of college hoops. I also devour every stat site known to man (KenPom.com, BracketScience.com, CrashingTheDance.com, The Basketball State, Storming The Floor, Basketball Prospectus and others). If every contest was decided by a best-of-99 series, stats and copious observation would speak loudest. Because of the one-and-done nature of the tourney, though, one man's gut can often be much more effective than reams of data or repeated viewings of January MEAC marathons. As such, these picks are for entertainment purposes only. If you peg your life savings on the scribblings of a somewhat informed amateur prognosticator like me, or even a know-it-all pro, you're asking for trouble.
I'm going to do four posts leading up to Thursday's opening tap. We start here with the Midwest.
1 Louisville over 16 TBA: TBA's tough, but I'll buck the trend and back the Cards.
8 Ohio St. over 9 Siena: Siena's a solid team with tourney experience, but I like Ohio State with the virtual homecourt advantage in Dayton.
5 Utah over 12 Arizona: Two teams that are terrible at causing opponents' turnovers, so I'll take Utah and their superior defensive rebounding.
4 Wake Forest over 13 Cleveland St.: Senior guard Cedric Jackson leads a Cleveland St. team that would be one of my favorite sleepers...if they weren't playing a Wake team with three future NBA first-round picks.
6 West Virginia over 11 Dayton: One of my favorite teams to watch even after John Beilein bolted for Michigan. I'm picking West Virginia deep.
3 Kansas over 14 North Dakota State: NDSU is another team with a near homecourt advantage, but Kansas' superior talent wins out. For now.
10 USC over 7 Boston College: Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway called BC the most overseeded team in the tourney. I agree, and raise you a USC team that defends.
2 Michigan St. over 15 Robert Morris: Turnover margin and too many threes allowed make the Spartans vulnerable. Just not here.
1 Louisville over 8 Ohio St.: Evan Turner could go nuts against the Cards and Louisville's loaded roster would still prevail.
4 Wake Forest over 5 Utah: Wake's 10th-fastest tempo will prevail over Utah's 218th-ranked pace.
6 West Virginia over 3 Kansas: West Virginia had to settle for a #6 seed due to its mediocre record in the loaded Big East. They're much better than that – #8 in America according to KenPom.com.
2 Michigan St. over 10 USC: The Trojans' biggest weaknesses are a lack of size and depth – two areas where the Spartans excel.
1 Louisville over 4 Wake Forest: Tons of talent on both sides, but Wake doesn't have an answer – or a defender – for Terrence Williams.
6 West Virginia over 2 Michigan St.: Da'Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff will get theirs against the Spartans' erratic perimeter D, and West Virginia's befuddling defenses will give Michigan St. fits.
1 Louisville over 6 West Virginia: ...but it'll be closer than you think.