As soon as the brackets were announced on Selection Sunday, I applied this year’s stats-based system to every matchup and arrived at my “official” bracket predictions, which joylessly and mechanically determined that Kentucky will be crowned champion this year.
As much entertainment and satisfaction as I derived by coming up with the system, compiling the stats before Selection Sunday for quick processing that night, and then seeing the results, I have to admit that after doing it for four straight years it has stolen some of the fun out of making my annual March Madness bracket picks.
So while I will let that bracket stand as my “official” one, I am also going to do a second bracket, for both fun and the sport of it, to see if I can more accurately predict the tournament either a) rigidly based on a flawed statistical system or b) through instinct, intellect, and the insight of folks like Andy Bottoms.
Oh, and I’m entering this second bracket in the MSF Bracket Challenge, which you need to join if you have not.
Okay, let’s do this. I am entering this into the ESPN system as I type this post, calling it “Jerod’s Picks” because I’m not feeling especially creative this morning. Serious subjects bring out my serious side.
East Region Bracket Picks
Round of 64
- #1 Syracuse over #16 UNC-Asheville
- #8 Kansas State over #9 Southern Miss
- #5 Vanderbilt over #12 Harvard
- #4 Wisconsin over #13 Montana
- #11 Texas over #6 Cincinnati
- #3 Florida State over #14 St. Bonaventure
- #10 West Virginia over #7 Gonzaga
- #2 Ohio State over #15 Loyola MD
Not too much excitement here. I’m not buying what Andy is selling about Montana being able to beat Wisconsin, though I’m sure it’ll be a close game. I do like the 10 and 11 seeds though, because each team has a great player – J’Covan Brown for Texas and Kevin Jones for West Virginia – who can win a first round matchup against a decent but by no means great opponent.
Round of 32
- #1 Syracuse over #8 Kansas State
- #4 Wisconsin over #5 Vanderbilt
- #3 Florida State over #11 Texas
- #2 Ohio State over #10 West Virginia
Yep, lots of chalk here. I trust Vandy to get out of the first round, but then my distrust of Kevin Stallings’ team come tournament time creeps back in. I don’t know that I particularly trust Wisconsin either, but I do think Jordan Taylor has one final blaze of glory left in him.
Update: By now you’ve probably heard the news that Fab Melo is ineligible for Syracuse. It does not change my opinion of the Orange beating Kansas State, though certainly it will be a tougher matchup. It also doesn’t change my opinion of ‘Cuse taking care of Wisconsin, so everything in these picks stays the same.
- #1 Syracuse over #4 Wisconsin
- #2 Ohio State over #3 Florida State
I’d really like to pick Wisconsin over Syracuse, but the Orange are simply too athletic and talented for the Badgers I fear. And given Wisconsin’s checkered tournament history, it scares me a bit to have them this far. As for Ohio State, I think they started playing much better towards season’s end, and I like them to quietly march through their half of the region.
- #2 Ohio State over #1 Syracuse
As Andy has mentioned time and again, the key is William Buford. When he plays well, Ohio State plays well. I think the Buckeyes are more battle tested coming into the tournament than Syracuse, and Ohio State has just as much talent.
East Regional Champion: #2 Ohio State Buckeyes
Midwest Region Bracket Picks
Round of 64
- #1 North Carolina over #16 Lamar/Vermont
- #8 Creighton over #9 Alabama
- #5 Temple over #12 South Florida
- #4 Michigan over #13 Ohio
- #6 San Diego Sate over #11 NC State
- #14 Belmont over #3 Georgetown
- #10 Purdue over #7 St. Mary’s
- #2 Kansas over #15 Detroit
Update: I initially predicted Cal to beat South Florida and then beat Temple in the next round. I clearly was wrong. South Florida blasted Cal, so I am taking a mulligan since most brackets aren’t due until Thursday.
The stats that I used predicted a Cal win over Temple and a Belmont win over Georgetown. Since I don’t trust either Temple or Georgetown very much, I’m happy to roll those picks into this bracket. (Or was, anyway, in Temple’s case.) Also, Purdue never loses first round games, and I think Robbie Hummel won’t allow them to lose this one. Keep your eye on that Kansas-Detroit game. Don’t be surprised if Ray McCallum is the best player on the floor; and if he is, Detroit can give Kansas fans a scare before ultimately coming up short.
Round of 32
- #1 North Carolina over #8 Creighton
- #4 Michigan over #12 Cal
- #14 Belmont over #6 San Diego State
- #2 Kansas over #10 Purdue
The score of the North Carolina-Creighton game might resemble one of those old Loyola Marymount games with Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. The Tar Heels’ talent and size will win it in the end. Belmont is clearly my Cinderella of the tournament’s first week. I’m fine with that. This team almost beat Duke and has had tournament success before. They are probably under-seeded as it is.
- #1 North Carolina over #4 Michigan
- #2 Kansas over #14 Belmont
Again, North Carolina simply out-talents and out-sizes an opponent. Plus, for the first time Michigan won’t have the point guard advantage, as Kendall Marshall is probably playing the position better than anyone in college basketball right now, including Trey Burke. I really, really, really wanted to pick Belmont, but I just couldn’t. This is a scrappy bunch of Jayhawks that Bill Self has. They’ve overachieved in many ways this year. I think that mindset will help them to not overlook the third straight double-digit seed they’ll have faced.
- #1 North Carolina over #2 Kansas
This is where the Jayhawks’ run ends, finally playing a team with elite talent. North Carolina is an imperfect team. They don’t defend well, they sometimes play sloppily, they sometimes coast. But they have as much talent as anyone in America, and many of them came back for a deep tourney run. When talent is focused, it’s dangerous. I think the Tar Heels will be focused.
Midwest Regional Champion: #1 North Carolina Tar Heels
West Region Bracket Picks
Round of 64
- #1 Michigan State over #16 LIU
- #8 Memphis over #9 Saint Louis
- #12 Long Beach State over #5 New Mexico
- #4 Louisville over #13 Davidson
- #6 Murray State over #11 Colorado State
- #3 Marquette over #14 BYU/Iona
- #7 Florida over #10 Virginia
- #2 Missouri over #15 Norfolk State
Here is my second 5-12 upset. Long Beach State has a coach in Dan Monson who has won in the tournament before, and they will have the best player on the floor in Casper Ware. They are also battle-tested from a tough non-conference schedule. I hate knocking out Steve Alford this early, but I have to go with my gut. Just as I wasn’t buying what Andy was selling predicting Montana over Wisconsin, I’m not buying that Davidson will beat a Louisville team that just won the Big East Tournament.
Round of 32
- #1 Michigan State over #8 Memphis
- #12 Long Beach State over #4 Louisville
- #3 Marquette over #6 Murray State
- #2 Missouri over #7 Florida
I do, however, trust that Long Beach State can beat the Big East Tournament champ. Double-digit seeds can often become Cinderellas when they have a great player, especially a guard. Casper Ware is that guy, and he’ll win the battle with Peyton Siva. Plus, Louisville is a flawed team that can shoot itself out of any game.
- #1 Michigan State over #12 Long Beach State
- #2 Missouri over #3 Marquette
It ends here for Long Beach State though. Michigan State is too big, too physical, and too experienced. And I like Missouri over Marquette because of their supreme chemistry and momentum.
- #2 Missouri over #1 Michigan State
I hate picking against Tom Izzo here, and I would not be shocked at all if the Spartans went all the way and won him another title, but at some point I think the loss of Branden Dawsen will catch up to the Spartans, and I don’t trust the Michigan State guards quite enough to pick them over Missouri’s.
West Regional Champion: #2 Missouri Tigers
At this point you may be thinking: this dude has picked the #1 and #2 seeds to make the Elite 8 in every region! What the hell? How lame!
Don’t worry. I saved my crazy region for last…
Continue reading to see Jerod’s shocking – but well-reasoned (or so he says) – picks in the South Region, plus his pick for who will win the National Championship.