I’m still not 100 percent sold on Florida. Sure, the Gators are 32-2, but they did it against SEC competition and had a few near misses down the stretch. The thing doing for the Gators is that no one else jumps out at me from this region. Kansas is a major question mark due to the Joel Embiid injury, thus why I have the Jayhawks losing in the Sweet 16. I really did not want to put Syracuse in the Elite 8, but I don’t think they’ll have trouble with an overrated Ohio State team, and the Kansas game is a toss-up. Although I didn’t pick a major upset here, Stephen F. Austin is a sleeper — the Lumberjacks haven’t lost since November.
Virginia will be a hit or a miss. I have them as a hit. In this year of massive parity, I have the Cavaliers as my national champion. All UVA does is win, thanks in part to its stout defense and shooting ability of senior Joe Harris. UVA’s toughest game of the tournament will be in the Sweet 16 against Michigan State. In years without a favorite, Michigan State somehow always winds up in the Final Four. The drubbing the Spartans put on rival Michigan in the Big Ten Championship is evidence enough that Michigan State could make a run. I picked Providence over North Carolina because I like what the Friars are doing of late and the Tar Heels laid a massive egg against Pittsburgh in the ACC tournament. My favorite matchup of this whole region might be the potential second round (third round I guess — silly NCAA terminology) game between St. Joseph’s and Villanova. Big Five in the NCAA tournament? Yes please.
Let me get this out there: I love Doug McDermott. I have for three years. This is finally his year. I have Creighton going all the way to the national championship because I think they bounce back from the Big East championship loss in a big way. Just look at what the Blue Jays did against Villanova twice this year — they show up for big games. I like Nebraska too, and it’s a shame I can’t have them going further than the second round. I have an upset pick here — North Dakota State over a (in my opinion) weak Oklahoma team. Arizona is also a strong team, and I look forward to watching the Wildcats battle Creighton.
The NCAA did its best to give Wichita State a test and make the Shockers prove they are for real. Michigan, Duke, Louisville, and a very good Saint Louis team are in this region. Wichita State is my pick for the first No. 1 to go — I think Kentucky is going to play like a team with something to prove, and they will do it by beating the Shockers in the second round. Saint Louis is a team I wish could go further, but Louisville will come out fired up. I love the Louisville-Kentucky matchup in the Sweet 16. The same principle applies for Raphiael Putney and UMass, but having watched them play in person, I don’t see them beating Duke. Duke beat Elon by 38 and UMass only beat the Phoenix by 10. (The previous sentence is useless information.) Now, I didn’t pick it, but I think Mercer could take down the Blue Devils. In that case, watch out for UMass. Another one I didn’t pick is Tennessee over UMass. If the Vols top Iowa in the First Four, they could roll for awhile. In the bottom of the bracket, my heart wants to go with Wofford, but common sense says no. After all, if you beat Elon, Michigan should be no problem, right? No, Michigan should roll. I have Louisville winning this region, because they’re Louisville and similar to Michigan State, they win in March.
MORE: Tommy Hamzik's bracket
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