BYU's loss last night already put a dent in my bracket as I blindly followed Peter's upset picks (just kidding, but not really) so you can pretty much guess how good these predictions are going to be. That said, I'm publishing this piece mainly so I can get some clarity from you all about the East region or as I like to call it the "I HATE EVERY TEAM I PICK TO GO TO THE FINAL 4" region. Seriously. I think I've shuffled through five teams in various brackets going to the Final 4 and every time I write it down, my reaction is:
It is such an odd bracket that I basically try to avoid it and I'm sure it will be my best of the four once the results happen. That is just the way the tournament works.
Oh by the way, if you want to compete against this bracket, be sure to join our bracket challenge HERE!
Without further complaining, here is my breakdown of the regions
Did you guys hear Kentucky was in the tournament this year? No? That makes sense as they are a super sleeper but I think they might have the talent to at least get to the Sweet 16. Seriously though, the Kentucky chatter has been deafening and it is hard to refute any of it. They are a supremely talented team that is playing about as good as they have all season right now. That is a recipe for disaster for everyone else. They have been challenged and have escaped several times this season so they don't necessarily walk on water every time they hit the court but it will take a complete effort to take the Wildcats down.
Trendy pick that will kill you: Notre Dame. The ACC tournament champs have become a very popular team in this year's bracket discussions. I'm not buying it as the Irish aren't a great defensive team. I flirted with having them lose to Butler in the round of 32 but eventually had them getting taken out by Wichita State.
Upset I'm dying to see: New Mexico State over Kansas. I live to see Kansas and/or Duke go out early in the tournament (insert Gonzaga has that issue joke here, too) and Kansas' inconsistency is scary. They can win it all or they can lose in the first round. I'm hoping it is the latter.
Final Four team: Kentucky. I know. I'm lame.
Ahhh the bracket that Gonzaga was going to top before BYU ruined everything and then flamed out in the tournament. The West bracket is actually loads of fun and should produce some exciting basketball. Wisconsin, Arizona, Baylor, North Carolina, and even Arkansas are capable of stringing together a tournament run. You also have a dangerous power conference double digit seed in Ohio State that will get a lot of picks to pull upsets. As someone that has watched Arizona a lot this season in the PAC-12, it is hard to pick against their talent and cohesiveness.
Trendy pick that will kill you: Wisconsin. There is no more trendy team this year than Wisconsin so this is the only real choice to fill this spot. Wisconsin has been labeled as the team that has the best chance to beat Kentucky but the West region presents some tough challenges. North Carolina won't be a pushover in the Sweet Sixteen and Arizona is probably playing better basketball right now than anyone in the nation.
Upset I'm dying to see: Georgia State over Baylor. I swear I have no ill will towards the Big 12 but I am having a hard time getting geeked over an upset in this bracket. I mean, does anyone really care if Harvard pulls the upset? Is that going to make or break their lives? Baylor is dangerous but in this tournament, a cold night shooting can be your death and the Bears aren't a great shooting team.
Final Four team: Arizona. I really, really like Arizona and how they are playing right now. They've won their last five games by an average of 23 points, which included the PAC-12 tournament. They have skill all over the court and a solid point guard in T.J. McConnell that will drive the Wildcats to the Final Four.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not this bracket. Ugh. I hate it so. If you are Villanova, you are salivating in this bracket because it is filled with a bunch of "yeah, but" teams. Virginia, case in point, had a great year BUT are banged up and trending the wrong way. Oklahoma has talent but is so reliant on Buddy Hield and, hell, they lost to UW this year (FUNNY SIDEBAR: DID YOU REALIZE WASHINGTON WAS RANKED NO. 16 AT ONE POINT THIS YEAR?? HAHAHAHAAHAH). Louisville, Northern Iowa, Providence...ahhhh I hate it. The logical thing here would be go chalk and move on but, what is the fun in that?
Trendy pick that will kill you: Northern Iowa. When the brackets were released there seemed to be massive discussions about Northern Iowa getting to the Final Four. While that is very possible, I am rooting heavily for the team from the state just North of me in Wyoming.
Upset I'm dying to see: UC Irvine over Louisville. See, I don't hate the Big 12! Honestly, I am pulling for UC Irvine for two reasons. First, you have to root for the Anteaters. It has to happen. Second, the Cardinals seem like the perfect early upset candidate. In all honesty, though, I have this bracket full of upsets meaning that it will be 100% chalk.
Final Four team: Michigan State. I hate this bracket and I hate this pick but you know what I don't hate: Tom Izzo in March so why the hell not.
On this site, this is the bracket that separates the men from the boys. I always have the hardest time with how far to pick Gonzaga. Usually my head works like this "well, if I pick them and they lose, I will just be doing what I do every year but if they break through and get to the Final Four, I will look like an idiot that hates my own school". In this particular case, I happen to love this team and enjoy the matchups so you can guess where I am heading. I am biased but the top of the South is very strong. In Duke, you have the most talent not named Kentucky. In Gonzaga, you have a two loss team with a veteran backcourt and insanely talented front line and Iowa State is fresh off a Big 12 title. For me, this is the 2nd most fun bracket just behind the West.
Trendy pick that will kill you: Stephen F Austin. I wanted to pick Eastern Washington but don't want to offend a large contingent of reader so I will go with SFA. They are Northern Iowa-lite in terms of media hype to pull the upset over Utah. I tend to think Utah is a very dangerous team in this tournament and has what it takes to make life really miserable for the top seeds.
Upset I'm dying to see: UCLA over SMU. I hate UCLA. I mean hate. Hate meaning that I can't watch them when they aren't playing Gonzaga and hate meaning that I was in the building when the game that shall not be discussed happened. But I also strongly dislike Doug Gottlieb and his fixation with how UCLA was so bad this year they basically shot on the wrong hoop all season. Give credit to the Bruins, they played a really tough schedule, are playing better as of late, and were rewarded for it.
Final Four team: Gonzaga. Pretty please?
Kentucky vs. Arizona. I would love to see this matchup. NBA players all over the court, two really outstanding coaches, and the two hottest teams going right now. Part of my reason for this pick is because EVERYONE is picking Kentucky but the other part is that I actually think Arizona can beat Kentucky and I think they get it done.
Michigan State vs. Gonzaga. This is that part of the bracket when you pick your team to go so far, that you actually start getting to matchups you think they really can win. I love how the Zags matchup with Michigan State because of how they defend now and how much edge Domantas Sabonis brings to this team in the post. They won't get bullied and they will advance to the title game.
Arizona vs. Gonzaga. A rematch of one of the best games of the year. While this result is somewhat homer (I'm a Gonzaga blogger, by the way), it isn't overly far fetched. While I would love to say that the Zags will cut down the nets in Indianapolis, having watched Arizona over the past few months, I think Sean Miller's team takes the title this season in another absolutely classic matchup.