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Next to fantasy baseball or football draft day, you would be hard pressed to find a more exciting activity for most sports fans than filling out their NCAA Tournament bracket.
Considering that many more people make bracket predictions than play fantasy sports, I think it is safe to say that filling out March Madness brackets is, collectively, the most entertaining single activity for sports fans as a whole. (Which is why you should sign up for the 2010 MSF Bracket Challenge!)
The goal of this post is to help you make your predictions with the second edition of the JRod Subjective-Objective System for Picking the NCAA Tournament (Which Hopefully is More Successful Than Throwing Darts or my Mom’s Picks).
Follow the link for the background, criteria, and methodology for my bracket prediction system. Last year, as a pre-tournament bracket prediction system, it was relatively successful:
- It correctly predicted 23 of the 32 first round matchups (72%)
- It correctly predicted 45 out of the 64 overall bracket spots (70.3%)
- Most impressively, it predicted seven out of the eight Elite 8 teams, three of the four Final 4 teams, and the national champion, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
But not content to rest on these less-than-excellent laurels, I’ve switched things up a little bit this year in hopes of increasing my bracket prediction accuracy. So while the methodology will stay the same, the statistical data used will be a little bit different (sources at the bottom of page):
- Guard Experience
- Rebound Margin
- Defensive Field Goal %
- Turnover % (percentage of possessions that led to turnovers)
- Point Margin
- Winning % in close games
There are seven categories, so there should not be too many ties. In the event of a tie, that is where the “subjective” part comes in. I break ties based on gut feeling, “eye test”, or whatever other factors lead me personally to believe one team would beat another. Otherwise, every pick is based on the stats.
Without further ado, here are my March Madness bracket predictions for the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Follow the link to view the entire 2010 NCAA Tournament bracket, TV schedule, announcer lineups, and spreads. Or click the links to below to view the brackets and bracket predictions individually.
Midwest Region Bracket Predictions
First Round Picks
- #1 Kansas over #16 Lehigh
- #9 Northern Iowa over #8 UNLV
- #5 Michigan State over #12 New Mexico State
- #4 Maryland over #13 Houston
- #6 Tennessee over #11 San Diego State
- #3 Georgetown over #14 Ohio
- #10 Georgia Tech over #7 Oklahoma State
- #2 Ohio State over #15 UC Santa Barbara
Not too many upsets here, just a #9 and #10 seed advancing. Georgia Tech’s rebounding and defense give them the edge over Oklahoma State while Northern Iowa’s experience, rebounding, and prowess in close games gives them the edge over UNLV.
Second Round Picks
- #1 Kansas over #9 Northern Iowa
- #4 Maryland over #5 Michigan State
- #6 Tennessee over #6 Georgetown
- #2 Ohio State over #10 Georgia Tech
Regular readers of this site know how much I love Tom Izzo, and I predicted the Spartans to make the title game last year, but this year’s team has issues. Chris Allen was recently suspended, they have had “distractions” and “leadership issues” – to use Izzo’s words – all season long, and Maryland has one of the tournament’s best individual players in Greivis Vasquez. Thus, I was not too surprised or disappointed to see my system predict a Maryland win. I agree. What did surprise me was Tennessee over Georgetown. I am very wary of picking the inconsistent Vols to win two in a row, especially over a team playing as well as Georgetown, but you can’t argue with Tennessee’s experienced backcourt and their sub-.400 FG% defense. Plus, the Vols have been much better in close games (80%) than Georgetown (25%).
Sweet 16 Picks
- #1 Kansas over #4 Maryland
- #2 Ohio State over #6 Tennessee
This is exactly what I would have picked if I was just going on gut feeling and “eye test” so I was pleased to see the Midwest region work out this way. Kansas is just such a good team all around while Ohio State is a little bit better on the glass and a little bit better at protecting the ball than Tennessee. Plus, the Buckeyes have Evan Turner, and the best player in the field should not be eliminated before the Elite 8.
Elite 8 Pick
- #1 Kansas over #2 Ohio State
Such a tough game to pick (if I didn’t have a system doing it for me), and what a terrific matchup this will be if it happens. Ultimately, the rebounding, defense, and overall offensive ability of Kansas will prove to be too much for Ohio State. While no one would be surprised to see Evan Turner pull a Danny Manning and single-handedly carry his team to a title, Kansas is just too good overall to lose before the Final Four.
South Region Bracket Predictions
First Round Picks
- #1 Duke over Arkansas Pine-Bluff/Winthrop winner
- #8 California over #9 Louisville
- #12 Utah State over #5 Texas A&M
- #4 Purdue over #13 Siena
- #11 Old Dominion over #6 Notre Dame
- #3 Baylor over #14 Sam Houston State
- #7 Richmond over #10 Saint Mary’s
- #2 Villanova over #15 Robert Morris
Every year there is a #12 seed that defeats a #5 seed; here in the South my system predicted Utah State to knock of Texas A&M. I know that the Aggies from the Lone Star state have been playing well, but the Aggies from Utah are a very good rebounding team that protects the ball well, so I have no issues with this selection.
We also usually see at least one #11 beat a #6, and Old Dominion over Notre Dame is a great place for it to happen. ODU rebounds very well, plays well in close games, and does a good job defending shooters. The Irish obviously have the Big East pedigree, but this is not a great #6 seed. They are ripe for the picking.
Otherwise, it was all chalk. Many people will pick Louisville over California, but the Bears are an experienced team with a solid backcourt and a very experienced coach in Mike Montgomery. Another trendy pick will be Siena over Purdue because of the loss of Robbie Hummel and Purdue’s terrible showing against Minnesota, but the Boilermakers still protect the ball well, have a solid inside presence in JaJuan Johnson, and have experience across the board. I have enough faith in Matt Painter to think he’ll get them ready to play…and win.
Second Round Picks
- #1 Duke over #8 California
- #4 Purdue over #12 Utah State
- #11 Old Dominion over #3 Baylor
- #7 Richmond over #2 Villanova
This is easily the craziest portion of my entire bracket.
Duke will beat California. They are simply the better team all around. And I do like Purdue to beat the 12th seeded Aggies of Utah State and surprise a lot of people by reaching the Sweet 16 without Robbie Hummel.
The picks of ODU over Baylor and Richmond over Villanova will surely raise some eyebrows. Am I totally on board with these picks? No, of course not. There is a lot of risk here have two low seeds make the Sweet 16 in one bracket, but I said I’d go with the system, so I have to be consistent.
Old Dominion gets the advantage over Baylor because of the superior rebounding and ability to take better care of the ball than the Bears. The truth is that all of the stats are very even, and my gut tells me Baylor, but we do usually have at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet 16…so here is that team.
As for Richmond over Villanova, the Spiders are an underrated team that plays good defense and takes care of the ball, despite being a pretty poor rebounding team. Seeing as how Villanova is guard dominated, I don’t see Richmond’s rebounding problems being quite as big a deal in this matchup. Richmond has done a terrific job this season winning close games, in large part because of their experienced background. When the ball is handled mostly by juniors and seniors, you can have tourney success, and Villanova has not been playing its best basketball lately. I’m fine with this upset pick.
Sweet 16 Picks
- #1 Duke over #4 Purdue
- #7 Richmond over #11 Old Dominion
Purdue can beat a #13 seed and a #12 seed without Robbie Hummel, but they aren’t getting past Duke. The Blue Devils are too experienced and too good. And in the Cinderella battle of the Sweet 16, Richmond beats ODU because of their experience and ability to defend.
Elite 8 Pick
- #1 Duke over #7 Richmond
If my bracket comes to fruition, Duke will have to beat a #16 seed, a #8 seed that many people felt should be a bubble team, a #4 seed playing without its best player, and an unheralded #7 seed to make the Final Four. I certainly think that the Blue Devils, who are just as experienced as Richmond, would win this matchup and make another Final Four, where they will face much stiffer competition.
East Region Bracket Predictions
First Round Picks
- #1 Kentucky over #16 East Tennessee State
- #8 Texas over #9 Wake Forest
- #5 Temple over #12 Cornell
- #4 Wisconsin over #13 Wofford
- #11 Washington over #6 Marquette
- #3 New Mexico over #14 Montana
- #10 Missouri over #7 Clemson
- #2 West Virginia over #15 Morgan State
Lots of chalk here expect for Missouri over Clemson and Washington over Marquette, which continues this year’s theme of Big East teams making exits earlier than I expected. Washington is a dangerous team though because of their backcourt, and they could give the Golden Eagles trouble on the glass. This is a 6-11 upset I can roll with. Many people will be picking Cornell to beat Temple – especially after Jay Bilas’ fellated them during the Selection Sunday Special on ESPN – but I think the Owls are a very good, very underrated team that will not fall prey to the 5-12 upset.
Second Round Picks
- #1 Kentucky over #8 Texas
- #5 Temple over #4 Wisconsin
- #3 New Mexico over #11 Washington
- #2 West Virginia over #10 Missouri
Texas is talented and has the potential to give Kentucky trouble, but I don’t trust them and the stats definitely are in Kentucky’s favor. Temple, as I said above, is very good. I like Wisconsin, but they aren’t in the Kohl Center. New Mexico and West Virginia are both very good teams and should be able to dispose of their double-digit seeded opponents, but the Mountaineers better be wary of a Missouri team that has a few players back from last year’s team tourney run.
Sweet 16 Picks
- #1 Kentucky over #5 Temple
- #3 New Mexico over #2 West Virginia
Temple has the experience and solid ball handling that should give Kentucky trouble, but the talent disparity is simply too great. Kentucky moves on. West Virginia is going to be a trendy Final Four pick by many because they won the Big East. However, I have two questions: 1) how fresh will they be? 2) can they score enough? New Mexico is a team that is underrated on a national scale, but is a team with experience that can score while not turning it over much. It will be a great contrast of styles than I like New Mexico to win, as my system predicted.
Elite 8 Picks
- #1 Kentucky over #3 New Mexico
I think West Virginia would be more troublesome for Kentucky in this spot, simply because of how rugged they are. New Mexico can create problems for Kentucky, but it is hard to deny the talent of the Wildcats. I would not be surprised to see them get tripped up somewhere along the way because of their youth, but I have no problems picking the most talented team in America to make the Final Four.
West Region Bracket Predictions
First Round Picks
- #1 Syracuse over #16 Vermont
- #8 Gonzaga over #9 Florida State (judgment call)
- #12 UTEP over #5 Butler
- #4 Vanderbilt over #13 Murray State (judgment call)
- #6 Xavier over #11 Minnesota
- #3 Pitt over #14 Oakland
- #7 BYU over #10 Florida
- #2 Kansas State over #15 North Texas
The Indianapolis residents reading this are probably not going to like me very much…but I like the 5th seeded Butler Bulldogs could be ripe for an upset. Butler is a very good team, but so is UTEP. The Miners have an experienced backcourt, they play outstanding defense, and have been just a little bit better than Butler at protecting the ball and winning close games. Hence, according to my system, they get the nod. Otherwise, all the favorites win, although Gonzaga and Vanderbilt were close calls.
Second Round Picks
- #1 Syracuse over #8 Gonzaga
- #12 UTEP over #4 Vanderbilt
- #3 Pitt over #6 Xavier
- #2 Kansas State over #7 BYU (judgment call)
Another double-digit seed makes it into my Sweet 16 as UTEP knocks off Vanderbilt. I’m fine with this. I like the Commodores, but I also think they are a much better team at home than in road/neutral situations. That said, it’s a very close call. The rest of the favorites should win, including Kansas State, whose experience and rebounding give them an edge.
Sweet 16 Picks
- #1 Syracuse over #12 UTEP (judgment call)
- #2 Kansas State over #3 Pitt (judgment call)
Both of these games were very close calls, and I went with the higher seeds in both cases. Syracuse wins out because they have simply been one of the best teams in America all year and are battle tested. Kansas State gets the edge over Pitt based on being more experienced in the backcourt and being a little bit better rebounding team. That matchup could really go either way though.
Elite 8 Pick
- #1 Syracuse over #2 Kansas State
The Orangemen looked a little shaky in losing early in the Big East Tournament, and losing one of their best players in doing so, but perhaps the loss was a blessing in disguise and will allow the ‘Cuse to be rested for a deep tourney run. I like the grit of Kansas State, a team that definitely follows the lead of its coach, but the Syracuse was the best team in the Big East over the course of the season for a reason. Those reasons will lead them to the Final Four.
Final Four Picks
- #1 Kansas over #1 Syracuse
- #1 Kentucky over #1 Duke
I know that people will say that you can’t have all four #1 seeds make the Final Four, but remember that it happened just a couple of years ago. So while I’m a little bit uneasy about this as my Final Four, I’m not quite as uneasy as I’d be if it had never happened before.
As for the picks, I think Kansas is the best team in America so picking them over Syracuse is fine with me. The ‘Cuse has had a great season, but I simply don’t think they have the depth or firepower to deal with Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, and the rest of the ridiculously deep Jayhawks roster.
In the other game, it is a class contrast of styles and teams. Duke is experienced, relies on jump shooting, and is not overly athletic. Kentucky is young, ridiculously athletic, and while they can shoot the ball decently well, they dominate teams with John Wall’s drives and DeMarcus Cousins in the paint. I can certainly see Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler pulling this one of out through sheer will and experience, but once again I’ll go with the most talented team in the field.
NCAA Championship Game Pick
- #1 Kansas over #1 Kentucky
Well, well, well…wouldn’t this be interesting.
Remember just a couple of season’s ago when Mario Chalmers won it all on a last second shot against Memphis? Well he made the shot for Kansas and coach Bill Self against a Memphis team coached by John Calipari that was led by a quick, uber-athletic, point guard prodigy in Derrick Rose.
I can see something similar happening this year, but it will Sherron Collins or Xavier Henry making the shot and John Calipari once again going home as a bridesmaid. (That is, until the NCAA voids the Wildcats’ Final Four appearance at some point in the future; hey, it’s happened twice to Coach Cal, why should we not expect it to happen again?)
Ultimately, I think Kansas is the one team in America with enough talent to compete with Wall, Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and Patrick Patterson. The difference with Kansas is that Collins, Aldrich, the Morris twins, and Tyshaun Taylor all have experience to blend with freshmen like Henry. Kentucky’s edge in raw talent is not enough to compensate for the winning experience that Kansas has, and the in-game advantage they have with Bill Self over John Calipari.
Like last year, I was totally on board with my bracket prediction system’s choice for national champion. North Carolina was the best team going into the tournament and they won. This year I think the same thing will happen and the Kansas Jayhawks will capture the crown.
NCAA Championship Prediction: Kansas 74 | Kentucky 71
If you want to see the complete statistical breakdown, follow this link to my 2010 bracket prediction spreadsheet. Sources used to compile data:
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament bracket predictions source 1 — (Rebounding Margin – SportsNetwork.com)
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament bracket predictions source 2 — (Turnover % – TeamRankings.com)
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament bracket predictions source 3 — (Scoring Margin – TeamRankings.com)
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament bracket predictions source 4 — (Winning % in close games – TeamRankings.com)
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament bracket predictions source 5 — (Opponent Field Goal % – TeamRankings.com)
- NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament bracket predictions source 6 — (Guard experience – CollegeHoopsNet.com)
* – Bill Self photo credit: Definitely Dutch
* – Sherron Collins photo credit: TheShiver.com