It’s that time of year again. That time of year I waste my time, your time, everyone’s time, writing up predictions for this year’s tournament. I’ve done it before (twice before in fact) and I’ve never picked the champion and I’ve never even picked half the final four teams.
Two years ago, I picked Duke to win it all. Last year, I didn’t. I’m telling you, this is just for kicks. Enjoy.
#1 OHIO STATE OVER #16 TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO
Sometimes top seeds take a little time get going. Others are up 30 by halftime. This one will be the latter. Like my wife at an SEM club, look for Jared Sullinger to announce his presence with authority with a double-double.
#8 GEORGE MASON OVER #9 VILLANOVA
I’m tempted to take the Wildcats, simply because everyone is picking Mr. Mason, but Villanova has looked terrible lately and you can’t come into this tournament colder than Nicolas Cages’ career.
#12 CLEMSON OVER #5 WEST VIRGINIA
Call me a homer, but I like an experienced Tigers team with a game under their belt against the Mountaineers. I also think Demontez Stitt is a bit underrated and can out-perform Joe Mazzulla. I also hate nuts in my peanut butter, but that has nothing to do with anything.
#4 KENTUCKY OVER #13 PRINCETON
I loved to take the Tigers and I’ll certainly be rooting for them, but Kentucky is loaded with NBA talent. Sure they are young and they will struggle at some point in this tournament, but Princeton will have no answer for Terrence Jones.
#11 MARQUETTE OVER #6 XAVIER
Sorry fans of the Atlantic 10, but if Marquette was in your conference, they would have had enough talent to win it all. The Golden Eagles are vulnerable at defending the three, but Xavier doesn’t have anyone who shoots over 35-percent from deep.
#3 SYRACUSE OVER #14 INDIANA STATE
I actually read “When March Went Mad” this fall. Good read. I learned a few new things. Prior to reading the book, I knew that Bird walked away from Bob Knight and Indiana, but I always assumed he just transfered to Indiana State. I never realized that he had no intention of going back to college. He had to actually be convinced to give it another shot by assistant coach Bob King (who would be the head coach in 1979). If it wasn’t for Bob King, we never would have had a player to compare all the slow, white, gritty basketball players with. BTW, Syracuse wins.
#7 WASHINGTON OVER #10 GEORGIA
If the Washington Huskies aren’t a deep sleeper in your bracket, then you should double check that bracket. It’s easy to overlook those west coast teams, but the Huskies are dangerous. Two years ago, they lost in the second round. Last year they made it to the sweet 16. This year, don’t be surprised to see them move even further behind a solid inside-outside combo of Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Isaiah Thomas.
#2 NORTH CAROLINA OVER #15 LONG ISLAND
Until being blown out by Duke in the ACC title game, no team had been hotter. While Long Island won’t present much of a challenge, I’ll be most curious to see who looks and feels the most comfortable in a tournament setting. The fact is, no one on this team has ever started in a NCAA tournament game.
#1 DUKE OVER #16 HAMPTON
There is only one storyline for this game on Friday…will he or won’t he. He being Kyrie Irving and will/won’t is will he actually play. He won’t start and he won’t play a ton, but how excite will Duke nation be if they see the freshman on the court?
#8 MICHIGAN OVER #9 TENNESSEE
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to pick a Tennessee game. No team has been more inconsistent this year then Bruce Pearl’s boys. So lets focus on Michigan. It’s a bit shocking to think that this Wolverines team actually lost six in a row at one point this season (has a team ever lost six in a row in a season and get an at-large bid before?). Yet, Michigan finished 10-4 down the stretch, with two of those loses coming against Ohio State. The other two loses were a one-point loss to Wisconsin and a two-point loss to Illinois. Not too shabby.
#5 ARIZONA OVER #12 MEMPHIS
The obvious storyline is Memphis’ head coach Josh Pastner facing Arizona, the team he played for and coached for (as an assistant for Lute Olsen). The real storyline will be Derrick Williams and the fact that the Tigers will have no answer for him. The Arizona sophomore forward will be a pro next year, after averaging 19/8 this year, shooting over 60-percent from three. Not bad for a 6’9 guy.
#13 OAKLAND OVER #4 TEXAS
Yep, I’m jumping on the bandwagon feet first. I’m probably going to regret this, but that’s my life story. Experience gives me a hard-on and Oakland actually has more of it. The Longhorns have more talent, but of their top four stars, two are freshman, two are sophomores. After writing all that, I know I’m going to regret jumping on board this bandwagon. Texas will win, they’ll end up facing and beating Duke in the Sweet 16 and it will be all my fault. F*ck!
#6 CINCINNATI OVER #11 MISSOURI
I’d love to pick against another Big East team, but let’s face some facts. The Tigers from Missouri have dropped four of their last five games, but that’s not the number that’s keeping me from taking Missouri. Oh no. The stat I think is key is offensive rebounding. The Bearcats can. The Tigers can’t stop it. Cincinnati is 10th in the nation in offensive rebounding efficiency. Missouri is #313 in the nation in defensive rebounding efficiency. Ouch.
#3 CONNECTICUT OVER #14 BUCKNELL
I actually think the Bison can win this game. They are a solid defensive team and the Huskies can certainly miss a ton of shots. Bucknell is going to make it their mission to stop Kemba Walker, but surprise, surprise, Connecticut isn’t a one-man team. Look for some solid stats from freshman Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith.
#7 TEMPLE OVER #10 PENN STATE
The Owls have actually lost in the first-round the past three years, but that streak ends today. The reality is, Temple is a solid, smart offensive team that takes good shots and is 11th in the nation in FG efficiency. Look for Temple’s top-40 defense to shutdown Penn State’s only good scorer, Talor Battle.
#2 SAN DIEGO STATE OVER #15 NORTHERN COLORADO
So far in the West bracket, I’ve only picked one upset (Oakland over Texas) and I’m not even confident in that pick. So why stop now? I’d look for Northern Colorado to keep it close for a while, especially against a San Diego State that has zero tournament wins, but the Aztecs will prevail.
#1 KANSAS OVER #16 BOSTON U.
I do love Boston Cream Pie. That’s all I can really say about this blowout.
#8 UNLV OVER #9 ILLINOIS
The Fighting Illini are one of the better defensive teams in the field. They’re best at shutting down the threes. Too bad for them the Running Rebels don’t shoot a lot of threes. They do their damage inside. However, the difference in this game will be free throws. Illinois is one of the worst FT shooting teams in the field.
#5 VANDERBILT OVER #12 RICHMOND
Is it me or this a really boring 5/12 match up? I really could care less. I can’t find a single storyline to talk about. Yawn.
#4 LOUISVILLE OVER #13 MOREHEAD ST.
Over the last month, the Cardinals have beaten Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Morehead St. has not.
#11 VCU OVER #6 GEORGETOWN
Without Austin Freeman, the Hoyas have been a bad team, dropping four straight without their star player. He’s going to be back from his broken hand, but is he really going to 100%? Something tells me VCU will continue to prove Jay Bilas and everyone else wrong.
#3 PURDUE OVER #14 ST. PETERS
I like picking 14-seeds to win in the first-round. I just do. However, 14-seed St. Peter’s is one of the worst offensive teams currently still playing this season. They’re #277 in offensive adj. Efficiency, #321 in turnover %, #321 in two-point % and 306 in free throw %. Ugly.
#7 TEXAS A&M OVER #10 FLORIDA STATE
Forget first one to 50 wins, try first one to 40. Both teams are solid at the D (the Seminoles are second in the nation), but the Aggies at least have something that resembles an offense and are one of the few teams that can match Florida State on the boards.
#2 NOTRE DAME OVER #15 AKRON
Did you know that the Fighting Irish have the third best offensive according to Kem Pom? They shoot the ball well, they don’t turn it over and they knock down both three pointers and free throws. It helps that their top-five players are all seniors.
#1 PITTSBURGH OVER #16 NC-ASHEVILLE
Last year, Duke got the easiest road to the Final Four in the Southeast Region. The nation went nuts. They claimed the committee was showing favoritism to Duke. Jason Whitlock said it was because Duke has white players and not a lot of tattoos. Of course this year, Pittsburgh, despite not being the best of the #1 seeds, gets the easiest path. Yet, no articles about favoritism. No complaints about the committee wanting the Panthers in the Final Four. I guess it’s only favoritism when it happens to Duke.
#9 OLD DOMINION OVER #8 BUTLER OVER
The Butler Bulldogs have been one of the hottest teams in the nation. If they hadn’t won their conference tournament, they wouldn’t even have been here. They’ve already accomplished more than they should have expected. That’s why they’ll lose.
#12 UTAH STATE OVER #5 KANSAS STATE
If you haven’t notice a theme to my predictions, then you haven’t been paying attention. I like the D. I also like experience. The Aggies are 7th in defense and their top seven players are either seniors (four) or juniors (three). Now the Wildcats have done a great job saving their season. They’ve beaten both Kansas and Texas in the last month or so, but this is the same team that lost to Colorado three times. That tells me more.
#13 BELMONT OVER #4 WISCONSIN
Wisconsin’s 33-point effort against Penn State was embarrassing, but that’s not why I’m picking Belmont. I actually like the Bruins. Yes, Belmont is a small school in small conference, but they’re second in the nation in defensive turnover % and they’re 15th in offensive rebound %. If you want to pull off big upsets, steals and offensive rebounds certainly help.
#11 GONZAGA OVER #6 ST. JOHN’S
Yes, the Red Storm have a ton of seniors and I’ve said over and over I love them seniors, but what about seniors who have absolutely zero tournament experience? I don’t love them so much. The Bulldogs are battle tested and will show St. John’s what’s it is like to play in a real “lose and your out” tournament.
#3 BYU OVER #14 WOFFORD
The Wofford Terriers can do some good things. They are a strong offensive team and can nail some three pointers. However, they can’t play a lick of defense…which is a big problem if you’re facing The Jimmer.
#10 MICHIGAN STATE OVER #7 UCLA
Is it me or is it a bit shocking how much love the Spartans have been getting? Seriously, I know this is a weak region, but the PTI guys both have Michigan State going to the Final Four. Again I ask, seriously? Who have they beaten? Yeah, they crushed Purdue, but it’s not like they’ve been hot. They’ve only won six out of their last 10 games? Still, having said all that, you know Izzo isn’t going to get shutout in the tournament.
#2 FLORIDA OVER #15 UC SANTA BARBARA
Talk about getting no love. Everyone says the Gators didn’t deserve their seeding. I can’t really find anyone who has Florida going to the final four (despite an easy region). You would think they’d be able to play the “no-respect” card easily here. Of course this is a team that has lost to four teams ranked outside the top-100.
#1 OHIO STATE OVER #8 GEORGE MASON
This one should be fun. The Patriots don’t have the size to keep up with Ohio State, but they are an excellent three-point shooting team. That is the great equalizer. Just ask Kansas, who lost to Northern Iowa and their three-point shooting. Still, I just think Sullinger will be too much to handle inside.
#4 KENTUCKY OVER #12 CLEMSON
Let’s face it, no one wants to see Clemson vs. Ohio State in the Sweet 16. Everyone, including me, wants to see Kentucky vs. Ohio State. Because I want it to happen, it will.
#3 SYRACUSE OVER #11 MARQUETTE
Strangely, if my predictions come true (not going to happen), there potentially will be two Big East vs. Big East match ups in the second round. Anyhow, my wife went to Syracuse, but don’t worry, she’s a loyal Duke fan now.
#2 NORTH CAROLINA OVER #7 WASHINGTON OVER
I so badly want to pick the Huskies…and not because I hate the Tar Heels. I really think Washington has the kind of talent to really mess with North Carolina. In fact, if the Huskies get past UNC, I would put them past Syracuse as well. The problem is, this game is in Charlotte and both North Carolina and Duke will be playing there. Neither team loses inside the state of North Carolina.
#1 DUKE OVER #8 MICHIGAN
Two years ago these two teams met twice and they actually split. In Michigan, the Blue Devils really struggled with the Wolverines 1-3-1 zone. Yet, this Duke team is an experienced squad and no tricky defense is going to trip them up. Of course I almost want Tennessee to advance. You just know if Duke faces Michigan, we’re all going to have to hear about Jalan Rose’s Fab Five fluff piece.
#5 ARIZONA OVER #13 OAKLAND
This game would feature one of the better one-on-one matches in the second round; Arizona’s Derrick Williams vs. Oakland’s Keith Benson. I give the advantage to Williams only because he can shoot from the outside and can draw Benson outside his comfort zone.
#6 CINCINNATI OVER #3 CONNECTICUT
These two have already met, with the Huskies winning by eight in Cincinnati. Something just tells me the Bearcats have learned something. Call it a hunch, call it gas, but I just have a feeling.
#2 SAN DIEGO STATE OVER TEMPLE
With six players standing 6’6 or taller, I just don’t see how the Owls will be able to produce points against one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
#1 KANSAS OVER #8 UNLV
Under Bill Self, the Jayhawks have sort of been all over the place in the tournament. In seven seasons, they’ve won a title, gone to the elite eight twice, the sweet 16 once, but they’ve lost in the first round twice and the second round once (last year). You have to believe this team has learned their lesson from last year and the Running Rebels are not going to sneak up on them.
#4 LOUISVILLE OVER #5 VANDERBiLT
Did you know that four out of Louisville’s last 15 games have been in overtime? I just found this interesting because it shows they’ve played in plenty of pressure situations late in the season. More importantly, they’ve won three of those four games.
#3 PURDUE OVER #11 VCU
Okay, I think VCU has proven their point. They’ve won two games, but that’s it. They’re not reaching the Sweet 16.
#2 NOTRE DAME OVER #7 TEXAS A&M
Great offense vs. Great defense. Who wins? Typically I vote for defense, but the Irish aren’t that bad a defense. Sure they give up some threes, but Texas A&M is not the team to take advantage of that. They’re just #196 in three-point %.
#9 OLD DOMINION OVER #1 PITTSBURGH
Sorry, too many people are picking all #1 seeds to advance to the Final Four. That’s just weak. Even if all four #1′s go the the Final Four, can you really brag about that? It’s like cheering for Duke, lame…oh wait, nevermind. Anyhow, I’m picking my first #1 to fall (yes, I said first, which means there is at least one more). The Panthers are a solid rebounding team. They’re number two in the nation. That’s good. Too bad for them the Monarks are number one in the nation in rebounding %. Yep, 1 vs. 2 (in rebounding).
#12 UTAH STATE OVER #13 BELMONT
The Aggies from Utah (not Texas) are my sleeper team in the tournament. Why? Let me answer your question (that I technically asked) with another question…why not? BAM! I just blew your mind.
#3 BYU OVER ##11 GONZAGA
Every time the Cougars win a game in this tournament, the more confident they get. Usually Gonzaga playing out west in Denver would ensure a friendly crowd, but my guts says, this will be a de facto home game for BYU.
#2 FLORIDA OVER #10 MICHIGAN STATE
Why am I picking Florida over Michigan State? Simple. They’re better. Listen up people. Hear me now and believe me later, the Spartans are not going to the Final Four. How do I know this? Simple. To make it to the final four, Michigan State would have to win four straight games. They haven’t done that once this year. Not once.
#1 OHIO STATE OVER #4 KENTUCKY
Oh this is going to be fun and we should not under estimate Coach Calipari in the Sweet 16 (you can start doing that after the Sweet 16 no problem). Of course the Wildcats actually have a player (Terrence Jones) who can go body-to-body with Jared Sullinger. Yet, the difference wil be the three ball. Look for William Buford and David Lighty to light it up from deep. Kentucky’s freshman back court is not known for shutting down the three-line on the defensive end.
#3 SYRACUSE OVER #2 NORTH CAROLINA
Here’s the deal, folks…if North Carolina was playing in the Southeast or even the Southwest regional, I’d really have to consider putting them in the Final Four, but remember why I couldn’t pick Washington to beat the Tar Heels? It was location. This one is in Newark. While New Jersey isn’t technically home for Syracuse, it certainly will feel like one once all the Cuse’ grads who live in NYC show up.
#1 DUKE OVER #5 ARIZONA
By the Sweet 16, Kyrie Irving’s minutes will be up to 20+ and his confidence will be soaring. Besides, if there is one player I think can go toe-to-toe with Derrick Williams of Arizona, it’s Kyle Singler, with the help of the brother Plumlees.
#2 SAN DIEGO STATE OVER #6 CINCINNATI
East Coast vs. West Coast…well, technically, Cincinnati is in Ohio and that’s more like the midwest. Yet, they play in the Big East. It says “east” right in the title. Of course Depaul plays in the Big East and Chicago is nowhere near the east coast. Plus, Texas Tech will be playing in the Big East soon in football. Can it really be called the Big Easy anymore? Can they just call it “Big”? I’m really confused. Anyhow, San Diego State wins.
#4 LOUISVILLE OVER #1 KANSAS
And down goes Frazier. Yep, I’m taking down my second #1 seed. Bye-bye Jayhawks. My prediction says the smaller Cardinals’ guards (Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva) are quicker and better than what Kansas can offer on the outside.
#2 NOTRE DAME OVER #3 PURDUE
A great match up of Big East vs. Big 10. Listen, two-man teams can have a lot of success in the regular season, but to advance far in the NCAA Tournament, you’re going to need a legit third-option. Sorry Purdue.
#12 UTAH STATE OVER #9 OLD DOMINION
Two sleepers, facing off, oh yeah! The winner is one game away from the Final Four. Good times. Remember, Utah State was my sleeper team and it ain’t time to wake up just yet.
#3 BYU OVER #2 FLORIDA
These two faced off in the first-round of last year’s tournament. It was a classic opening round game. BYU won in double overtime. The Gators had no answer for The Jimmer, who scored 37 in 46 minutes. Why will they stop him this year? And before you remind me that BYU doesn’t have Davies, last year Brandon Davies played only 19 minutes and scored zero points. He can certainly produce that number again while on suspension.
#1 OHIO STATE OVER #3 SYRACUSE
Sorry Orange, but the Buckeyes were born to blow through a 2-3 zone. Born. Lighty, Buford and Sibert on the corners, Thomas at the top of the paint, while Sullinger sneaking inside behind the zone along the baseline. Again, born.
#1 DUKE OVER #2 SAN DIEGO STATE
The crowd will be heavily pro San Diego State. Yet, if Steve Fisher couldn’t beat Duke with the Fab Five, he won’t be able to do it with this group. Doesn’t make any sense, does it? It doesn’t have to. Listen, the Aztecs have a ton of talent inside with Leonard, Thomas and White, but the fact is, Mason, Miles and Ryan Kelly are under appreciated defensively. They can certainly handle their own on the defensive end and on the boards. The problem for San Diego State is, they simply don’t have anyone who can handle Smith/Irving/Curry/Dawkins on the outside.
#2 NOTRE DAME OVER #4 LOUISVILLE
This should be a good one. They’ve faced off twice, both games going to overtime. Notre Dame won at home back in February, while the Cardinals beat Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament. Forget breaking down some kind of stat. I’d just be wasting your time and my time. This is a complete toss up and my heart says Notre Dame.
#3 BYU OVER #12 UTAH STATE
My sleeper pick finally wakes up and the Cougars of BYU become America’s wet dream. Their season seemed lost when Brandon Davies was suspended, but this team just keeps winning when no one expects them too. CBS producers go into overtime creating segment after segment of the great white hope.
#1 DUKE OVER #1 OHIO STATE
With Kansas and Pittsburgh out, this semi-finals game becomes the true national title game. Here’s the deal, if the refs call a tight one inside, this game favors Ohio State and Sullinger (who has taken 250 free throws this season). If the refs let them play, then the Plumlee brothers can bother Sullinger. More importantly, by this time, Irving should be looking good and the coaching staff should know exactly how to use him.
#2 NOTRE DAME OVER #3 BYU
Catholics vs. Mormons. Look for Fredette to do what he always does (can you count to 40), Notre Dame simply has too much talent, too much experience and they also can nail threes from outside.
#1 DUKE OVER #2 NOTRE DAME
That’s right, more great story lines. You have the repeat angle, a floor full of senors (Duke two, plus Irving’s final game and Notre Dame’s five), Tyler Hansbrough’s brother Ben taking on Duke and of course the coach vs. the pupil. Long time assistant Mike Brey (Duke assistant from 1987-1994) vs. Coach K. Yummy.