We know how stressful it can be to fill out a winning bracket. What upsets should you pick? How chalky should you get? Who exactly is Duke going to lose to? There’s a lot that goes into it.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Quite simply, we watch A TON of basketball over the course of the season, making us significantly more prepared to ultimately do horribly in our pools because the NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot and there’s not an exact science to a winning bracket.
But if you’re struggling to figure out what direction go with, maybe our predictions can help guide you on your journey. Here are the brackets from some of our staff experts.
“I tried to mix in a balance of what I want to happen and what I think will happen, which is how every bracket should be filled out. The good mid-majors are really good, and I think that a few of them have a good chance to make the second weekend. As far as the Final Four goes, I think there’s been a pretty definite group of teams that have the goods to win the title all year and that hasn’t changed since seeing the bracket. I avoided going all chalk with 1 seeds in favor of a couple of teams I’ve loved all season long. For the championship, I like a 2017 title game rematch that ends in the same result, much to the dismay of our Gonzaga readers. North Carolina has a healthy mix of upperclassmen and freshman talent, a Hall of Fame coach and have shown they can beat anyone in the country. Give me the Heels in a high-scoring affair.”
“This is the year the Zags do it. The best team in the country — the team that lost just three times all year — is fully healthy and ready to dominate. No, they don’t have the easiest path, but I don’t care. They are the only team that has beaten Duke at full strength and they dominated every inferior team this season until the WCC final in a fluke loss to Saint Mary’s.
Anyway, it’s not exactly bold to pick a 1 seed to win it all, so a quick note on some other stuff: Yeah, I’ve got Utah State to the Sweet 16. Come at me. You need one wild pick that makes no sense every year and this is it for me. Give me the elite defensive team with the conference player of the year (Sam Merrill) and let’s ride. I’m not married to my Nevada Elite Eight pick, but I just have an inkling that we are about to finally see the Wolf Pack live up to their potential. I have UC Irvine in the Sweet 16 because I desperately seek the approval of Kyle Cajero.
Now take a look at the Final Four. What’s better than one semifinal featuring a Maui championship rematch and the other featuring Bruce Pearl vs. Bruce Pearl’s former team? Inject that into my veins.”
“I feel like I don’t really need to justify my decision to pick Belmont to make the Sweet Sixteen. Other than that, I will probably take heat from mid-major fans for picking Nevada to lose in the first round. I’ve not been impressed by them at all this season, and I think Florida’s defense — the best they will have faced all season — will get the better of the Wolf Pack.
Of course, I have Gonzaga picked to win it all, assuming they can get past Syracuse, a team known for its recent stupid success in March. This Gonzaga team is complete at every level, and I just don’t see how anyone can match up with them, especially if Duke falls to Michigan State (as I foresee).
One other mid-major to watch will be UC Irvine, whose pod of teams features some of the shakiest high-major teams. They’ll be a trendy upset pick against a Kansas State team sans Dean Wade, but they possess the goods to make a Sweet 16 run. ”
“My bracket feels pretty standard for a mid-major college basketball writer — save for Gonzaga bowing out in the round of 32. Syracuse and its fun-killing defense has been notorious for over-performing in the tournament, and I think for as dominant as the Bulldogs have been all season, they haven’t been a perfect team.
Speaking of imperfect teams, I have Nevada in the Final Four. It’s my one pick that I really want to happen; the Wolf Pack are much better (and much deeper) than last season’s Sweet Sixteen team, and although that team had to pull off some incredible upsets to make things happen, I believe this season’s group is fully capable of doing the same thing, if not something greater.
Other than that, I’m not entirely sold on Yale, lament Wofford’s second-round matchup with Kentucky and am sky-high on UC Irvine because even though I’m
trapped in Siberia no longer in Big West country, the brand is strong. Zot.”
“I went more chalk than I ever have. I think the gap between the top 4-6 teams and the rest of the field is larger than it usually is. I think this Gonzaga team is better than the 2017 team, and I really don’t see anybody giving them a serious challenge before the Final Four. I think UNC’s guard play and rebounding wins out. I generally either get the national champion right or they lose in a historic first round upset, so as long as the Heels can get past Iona it should be smooth sailing.”
“The NCAA Tournament will be a collision course set for rematches in the Final Four. I have Duke coming out of the East after defeating Michigan State in the Elite Eight. Also in this region, Belmont looks to continue the tradition of First Four teams going on a run in the dance to the Sweet 16. I don’t trust UVA to come out of the South, and because of that Rick Barnes’ Volunteers will reap the benefits. I have chalk in the Midwest after the first round, and Blue Bloods in the Regional Final (Oh no! I’m turning into Dickie V). Time to make up for that. Gonzaga, Buffalo, Nevada, and Murray State are in the Sweet 16 out west. The Bulldogs I have coming out of the region for their second Final Four in three years. Then it’s the Zags beating Duke once more, this time with Killian Tillie, While Kentucky gets revenge for the SEC semifinals over Tennessee. The Zags have their best team under Mark Few and Rui Hachimura will lead the Bulldogs to their first National Title.”
“My typically bracket strategy is to fade the chalk and hope for madness. However, I refrained from going that route this year. I took one double digit seed to make it the Sweet Sixteen in 11 seed Belmont. I picked both Murrary State and New Mexico State to pull off upsets as 12 seeds while fading the popular upset picks of Oregon and UC Irvine. I picked Utah St to upset UNC in the round of 32. Utah State is arguable the most improved team in the country defensively and I can see them taking down the Tarheels. Even if Utah State is not able to beat UNC, I still think Kansas or Auburn would beat them in the Sweet Sixteen. The rest of my bracket is chalky, putting two 1 seeds and two 2 seeds in the Final Four. I believe we get a round four of Tennessee and Kentucky, and a rematch between Gonzaga against Duke. The Zags are by far the deepest and most talented rotation in the country. I think a Kentucky and Zags final would be very entertaining. Zags win the title and take off the underdog narrative for good.”
“This is the year that mid-majors pounce on vulnerable power teams. Belmont’s historic First Four win helps it surge past LSU with Will Wade watching from afar, while UC Irvine’s defense grinds out an ugly win over a K-State team without its own Wade (injured Dean). Northeastern brings more tears to the Sunflower State by dropping three’s on a Kansas team that got the too-good-to-be-true gift of the Midwest region.”