I spent Tuesday and Wednesday morning dishing out bracket advice before most sane people have dished out their breakfast. It only feels right that I should share what I am thinking heading into Thursday so that you can complete your bracket and have someone to blame when it all falls apart.
After all, if your coworkers got up early, they had this same advice from me, and some of them sounded like they would actually use it. You wouldn't want to be left behind now, would you.
Keep in mind that we at Mid-Major Madness have seen more of these teams in this field play than anyone out there. Even the guys talking about the players and teams on ESPN probably haven't watched them as often and for as many hours as we have. So you can be sure you are getting our best judgment on what will happen over the next several weeks.
One last disclaimer: if you win the one billion dollars with any of this, you can be sure to send some my way, and this is for entertainment purposes only. The NCAA was very clear about that Tuesday night before the First Four games tipped off.
The NCAA would like to remind you not to bet on sports in any way. Keep that in mind as you fill out your billion dollar bracket.— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) March 18, 2014
Champion: We are rolling with Michigan State over Louisville in the Championship. The Spartans are just outside the top 10 in offensive efficiency and have a top 40 defensive efficiency. They rebound spectacularly well. They block shots, they score, they are finally healthy. About the only thing they don't do well is get to the free throw line, which isn't always in your control. You could do worse than picking Michigan State, even if only three No. 4 seeds have made the final game, and I am picking two of them. Good times.
East Region: Since I told you who I have to win, here is what you need to know in the East. I saw two articles today that said you should pick Coastal Carolina for the first 16-1 upset. Sure, Nate Silver and Ken Pomeroy both give them a 4 percent chance of winning. It isn't going to happen.
We are rolling with George Washington over Memphis because I don't trust Memphis in big games. Call that educated based on past pain. Harvard is the easy upset pick over Cincinnati. The Spartans will take out Virginia to move to the Elite Eight.
Providence is on top of your North Carolina team because North Carolina is too inconsistent this year, and the Friars, despite some newsy distractions are the hot team right now. Plus UNC didn't get to play in Raleigh. Iowa State will beat both of them no matter what. We are picking a sneaky St. Joe's team to upset UConn because the Hawks just go deep on their bench and get positive production all around which can wear down the Huskies, plus Halil Kanacevic is fun to say.
Milwaukee is tall and deep but Villanova is too good to get caught this year. Wildcats beat Iowa State and fall to Michigan State.
South Region: We end up with Florida in the Final Four which should be an excellent game with the Spartans. Here is how we get there. The Gators dispatch Albany, which will end the run of one of the great pep bands in the Tournament. They will face the tough Pittsburgh Panthers, who will come close to knocking them off, but won't succeed.
Everyone wants VCU to lose to Stephen F. Austin, except sportswriters who have to keep typing Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks (see, even the nickname is long) are really good at the guard position, but you have to be tough inside to really take advantage of VCU. HAVOC rules. The Rams will play UCLA and lose to UCLA because UCLA is 20th in the country in terms of the minutes played inside by tall people. We don't make these things up at random you know.
Dayton really wants to beat Ohio State, but they won't. Same with Western Michigan over Syracuse. The Orange will let the Broncos think they will win though, which will excite Georgetown fans everywhere until I am guessing about the last two minutes of the game. Ohio State however, will win in the Round of 32. Hoya fans rejoice.
New Mexico tops a Stanford team that is just blah and Kansas gets past Eastern Kentucky, even without Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks match well against Ohio State and by then Embiid is maybe back in the middle. Florida takes out Kansas. Halfway there.
West Region: Here is where the fun happens. Arizona blows by Weber State, who has a 2 percent chance to win. That is less than Coastal Carolina and we didn't go with them. We like Gonzaga over Oklahoma State because everyone forgets that the Zags have an amazing backcourt and a really good front court. They match up well with the Wildcats too, and after watching Drexel push this Arizona team to the brink on a neutral floor, we think Gonzaga can do even better. Zags into the 16.
North Dakota State is our lock upset. We detailed that here for you. New Mexico State would be fun to watch for two more games, but they are too inconsistent. San Diego State moves on and tackles North Dakota State. The Aztecs also conquer Gonzaga, taking over the entire Pacific Coast of the United States in the process.
Baylor slides by Nebraska in a little "How do you like the Big 10?" kind of moment. Shawn Long is tough inside against Creighton, but the Ragin' Cajuns don't have anyone to guard Doug McDermott. Baylor does though, and they stop the Jays.
BYU has a 35 percent chance of winning against Oregon, and I like those odds. Even with injuries taken into account, this is a really good backcourt. The Cougars pull the 10-7 upset, but they won't pull the 10-2 upset over Wisconsin who shuts down American. The Badgers then beat Baylor and meet the Aztecs for control of the Western Hemisphere. It isn't a pretty battle, but Bucky comes out on top. Wisconsin is back into the Final Four.
Midwest Region: Wichita State should have no issues with either team that wins tonight, but Aaric Murray will be more fun to watch inside against the Shockers defense. Still, it isn't going to happen. Kentucky wins against Kansas State and we get 40-0* vs. 35-0!. Make that 36-0.
Saint Louis has the defense to not let TJ Warren beat them, so they make it out of the first game unlike their recent incarnations with high seeds. They will not beat Louisville, who takes out Manhattan even with George Beamon on the court. 36-0 will become 36-1 as Louisville makes it to the Round of 8.
We are blindly picking either Iowa or Tennessee to beat UMass because we like how they both play and we are not liking the Minutemen as we did earlier in the season. They have not played as well, nor as confidently in the last month. Duke beats Mercer because Mercer isn't actually the new Lehigh despite everyone wanting them to be. The Blue Devils take out Tenneswa in a close one to get to the 16.
Arizona State takes advantage of a lackadaisical offensive game by Texas to make the third 7-10 upset we have picked, and Michigan easily dispatches a Wofford team that has no size. Michigan then rolls over Arizona State because HERB. Duke beats Michigan because they beat them before and Michigan has no one to guard Jabari Parker, and has no toughness inside to beat Duke.
The Blue Devils then fall to Louisville who are rolling at this point. They have the goods to beat the Blue Devils. Rick Pitino smells repeat at this point, and that is bad news for Wisconsin who finally has a team against them that can stop Frank Kaminsky.
Which leads us back to the title game.
Bam. There is your bracket in a nutshell. Mr. Buffett, I will await my check.