March Madness: Bracket Predictions and Final 4 Picks for 2012 NCAA Tournament

Now that I have written more words than I care to count about all 68 teams, all 32 first round (yes, I refuse to call it the second round) games, and all four regions, it’s time to run down my predictions for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Now keep in mind that I watch a lot – and I mean a LOT – of basketball (just ask my wife and kids), and while you would think that would be an advantage, the net result for me is that I over-analyze everything based on different things I have seen from each team over the course of the year.

And even though it can be agonizing at times to figure out who will win some of these games, there’s is nothing better than putting pen to paper and filling out a bracket.

I’ll be entering it in our MSF Bracket Challenge and encourage you to do the same if you haven’t done so already.

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Fab Melo of Syracuse is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. Does Andy predict an early exit for the 'Cuse as a result? (Image via SUAthletics.com)

[Related: NCAA Tournament Predictions Based on “Four Factors” Predicting System]

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
  • #13 Montana over #4 Wisconsin
  • #6 Cincinnati over #11 Texas
  • #3 Florida State over #14 Saint Bonaventure
  • #7 Gonzaga over #10 West Virginia
  • #2 Ohio State over #15 Loyola (MD)

I’ll give the reasoning behind my other picks, but for the first round, I’ve already done that here.

Round of 32

  • #1 Syracuse over #8 Kansas State
  • #5 Vanderbilt over #13 Montana
  • #3 Florida State over #6 Cincinnati
  • #2 Ohio State over #7 Gonzaga

Even without Fab Melo, I think the Orange get it done against K-State by pressing more and forcing Angel Rodriguez into bad decisions and turnovers.  It scares me a little bit to take Vandy this far, but they’re playing with a ton of confidence right now.  Cincinnati doesn’t shoot all that well to begin with, and FSU’s defense should be the difference in that matchup.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Zags go down in round one, but either way, I think the Buckeyes advance.

Sweet Sixteen

  • #5 Vanderbilt over #1 Syracuse
  • #2 Ohio State over #3 Florida State

If I was scared about picking Vanderbilt before, I’m terrified here.  Still, I like John Jenkins as a zone buster and think Jeffery Taylor is the perfect guy to put in the middle of ‘Cuse’s 2-3 zone.  I’ve beaten into the ground how critical William Buford is for OSU, and I think he’s going to come up big in his final NCAA Tournament run.

Elite Eight

  • #2 Ohio State over #5 Vanderbilt

This game would provide a terrific post matchup between Jared Sullinger and Festus Ezeli, but I’ll take my chances with Sullinger in that one.  Throw in Aaron Craft’s ability to pressure Brad Tinsley, and I’ll go with the Buckeyes to earn a trip to New Orleans.

East Regional Champion: #2 Ohio State Buckeyes

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William Buford is the key for Ohio State's Final Four hopes. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

Midwest Region Bracket Picks

Round of 64

  • #1 North Carolina over #16 Lamar/Vermont
  • #8 Creighton over #9 Alabama
  • #5 Temple over #12 California/South Florida
  • #4 Michigan over #13 Ohio
  • #11 North Carolina State over #6 San Diego State
  • #3 Georgetown over #14 Belmont
  • #7 Saint Mary’s over #10 Purdue
  • #2 Kansas over #15 Detroit

My first round breakout of the Midwest can be found here.

Round of 32

  • #1 North Carolina over #8 Creighton
  • #5 Temple over #4 Michigan
  • #3 Georgetown over #11 North Carolina State
  • #2 Kansas over #7 Saint Mary’s

North Carolina-Creighton would be an exciting, high-scoring affair, but the Heels just have too much inside.  At some point Michigan’s reliance on the three-point shot is going to cost them, and I love Temple’s backcourt trio of Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, because strong guard plays wins in March.  Georgetown is fantastic defensively, which should be the difference in their second round matchup.  The Gaels have a great offense led by Matthew Dellavedova, but they have no answer for Thomas Robinson inside.

Sweet Sixteen

  • #1 North Carolina over #5 Temple
  • #2 Kansas over #3 Georgetown

Temple doesn’t have much frontcourt depth, which is a huge problem against Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo.  I nearly went with Georgetown in the other matchup, but I’ve learned my lesson on picking against the Jayhawks after this season.

Elite Eight

  • #1 North Carolina over #2 Kansas

While I’ve certainly been disappointed in UNC at times this season, there’s just too much talent on the team not to come out of this region, which I think could wind up a complete mess.  They have an elite passer in Kendall Marshall and two big guys that few teams can match on the inside.  I’m still not sold on Harrison Barnes as the elite-level talent he was believed to be coming out of high school, but he’s still a reliable scorer from the perimeter.

Midwest Regional Champion: #1 North Carolina Tar Heels

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Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, and John Henson all came back to school for one purpose: to win it all. Will they?

West Region Bracket Picks

Round of 64

  • #1 Michigan State over #16 LIU Brooklyn
  • #8 Memphis over #9 Saint Louis
  • #5 New Mexico over #12 Long Beach State
  • #13 Davidson over #4 Louisville
  • #6 Murray State over #11 Colorado State
  • #3 Marquette over #14 BYU
  • #7 Florida over #10 Virginia
  • #2 Missouri over #15 Norfolk State

My first round breakout of the West can be found here.

[Related: The 16 Sweetest NCAA Tournament Upsets Of All-Time]

Round of 32

  • #1 Michigan State over #8 Memphis
  • #5 New Mexico over #14 Davidson
  • #3 Marquette over #6 Murray State
  • #2 Missouri over #7 Florida

I was really high on Memphis coming into the tournament, but this isn’t the best matchup for them.  I wouldn’t be shocked if they upset Sparty, but I’ll take my chances with Tom Izzo.  The Lobos are fantastic defensively and can beat teams both inside and out, and I think their toughest matchup in the first two rounds comes against Long Beach State.  The Golden Eagles have been one of my favorite teams this season, and the leadership and toughness of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom will be the difference.  I thought both Florida and Virginia were overrated this year, so I only picked the Gators in round one because I had to.  Mizzou is just too efficient on offense, while Florida is too reliant on the three.

Sweet Sixteen

  • #5 New Mexico over #1 Michigan State
  • #2 Missouri over #3 Marquette

I debated the first game for a while, and both squads are among the best defensive teams in the country.  But I’m going with the Lobos who would be playing relatively close to home and have a number of offensive weapons with which to combat Michigan State’s tough defense.  I love Draymond Green, but I have concerns about the inconsistency among his supporting case.  The other matchup would pit two of my favorite teams from this season against one another, but I think Missouri matches up well against the Golden Eagles and would excel in an uptempo game.

Elite Eight

  • #2 Missouri over #5 New Mexico

I was beyond skeptical of the Frank Haith hire and had significant concerns when Laurence Bowers went down with a knee injury, but this team has responded to every challenge along the way.  They’ve shown the ability to overcome their lack of height and depth, and more often than not, their opponents have been forced to adjust to them and not the other way around.  Guard play is key in the NCAA Tournament, and the Tigers have one of the best collections of backcourt players in the country.

West Regional Champion: #2 Missouri Tigers

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Marcus Denmon is one of the top players in the West Region. Andy thinks Missouri wil be the top team. (Photo by Dak Dillon - DakDillonPhotography.com)

*****

So far, Andy has a lot of chalk advancing to the Final Four with one #1 seed and two #2s.

Does he have surprises in store in the South Region? And who does he pick to win it all? Continue reading to find out.

About the Author

Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms