Bracketology 101 with Brian

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

March Madness has descended upon us and the greatest sporting event of the year has arrived, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

For the next three weeks, everybody is a college basketball expert. Accountants, engineers and teachers all believe they know which teams will triumph and which teams will falter in the Big Dance. Here is my take on what to look for and expect in the NCAA tournament, as well as a couple of hints for filling out your own bracket.

First, some basic things to do and not to do. Do pick a number 12 seed to win in the first round. The 12-over-5 upset happens in virtually every tournament. Do not pick a number 16 seed to win in the first round. The number 16 seeds have lost in every game they have played, never upsetting a number one seed. Do pick some upsets. The tournament never plays out with the lower seed winning every game. Do not pick too many upsets. Yes, they will happen and you feel great if you picked them. However, for every upset you get right, you are wrong on three others and it will hurt you in the long run. The teams are seeded the way they are for a reason, and the better team will win more often than not.

Do pick an underdog to go far in the tournament. In almost every tournament, a double-digit seed makes the Sweet 16. In a fair amount of years, a double-digit seed actually made it to the Elite Eight. Do not pick a double digit number to make it to the final four. A weak team can go on a run and win a couple of games, but for a weaker team to get hot and win four consecutive games is unlikely.

Finally, do pick two schools from the same conference to make the Final Four. Recently, a trend has developed in which two schools from the same conference will both make it to the Final Four. Do not pick all four number 1 seeds to make the Final Four. It has never happened in the tournament’s history, and do not count on this year being the year it finally does happen.

Those are a few general guidelines to follow for any given year. Now I will take a look at this year’s field and offer up my un-expert opinion and predictions.

In the Atlanta Regional, Duke was given the number 1 seed in the overall tournament and the easiest route to the Final Four. The number 2 seed in the region is Texas, a team that Duke dominated earlier in the season. Iowa received the number 3 seed in that region. They are coming off a win in the Big Ten conference tournament, but I am not convinced they are a good enough team to make it to the Final Four. Syracuse is the five seed. They won the incredibly tough Big East tournament, winning four games in four days. The Big East has the most teams in the tournament with eight. If Syracuse still has energy after their remarkable run, they have the momentum for a run in the Big Dance. My first round upset in this region is Iona over LSU. I also pick West Virginia to upset Iowa in the second-round to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Oakland Region has an unproven number one and some very quality teams. Memphis is the top seed in the region. They played a killer non-conference schedule and did it adequately. However, their conference was down this year and they were rarely tested during conference play. UCLA, the number 2 seed, and Kansas, the number 4 seed, are both coming off conference tournament wins and are playing very well at the moment. Gonzaga, with player of the year candidate Adam Morrison, is the number 3 seed and Pittsburgh, one of the last undefeated teams in the country this year, is the number 5 seed. Any of the five teams has a legitimate shot to reach the Final Four. My first round upset in this region is SDSU (San Diego State) over Indiana. I don’t see a second-round upset in this region.

Connecticut, the number 1 seed in the Washington D.C. Region, also has to face some difficult teams. The two teams from last year’s title game, champion North Carolina and runner-up Illinois, are seeds 3 and 4, respectively. Illinois has been solid all year, led by Dee Brown, whereas North Carolina has played exceptionally well as of late. Number two Tennessee’s conference was down this year, so it is hard to judge exactly how good they are. My upset special is Wisconsin-Milwaukee for this region. I think they will win their first two games, beating the number three and six seeds.

Finally, the Minneapolis Region is the toughest and most open of all. Villanova is the number 1 seed. They had an injury to one of their better players, guard Allan Ray, in the Big East tournament. He appears to be able to play, but if he is unable to play at full strength, his absence could leave the region wide open. Number 2 Ohio State won the Big Ten regular season title and finished second in the tournament. Number 3 Florida is always dangerous. Boston College played well in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, barely losing to Duke in the final. They are a dangerous four seed. Nevada is coming off a conference tournament win. Arizona is always a threat, and Georgetown played well throughout their tough Big East schedule. I think this region is where the inevitable 12-over-5 happens, when Utah State defeats Washington in the first round.

I look for Duke, Kansas, Boston College and Connecticut to reach the Final Four. I then predict UConn will defeat Kansas to win their second title in three years.