In this post, I plan to just look at the teams and there rankings, make a quick analysis of the bracket division, make a prediction for the first four, and possible final four match ups. I hope to go through my predictions a bit later after I've had more time to contemplate. Some of my leaning should come out during this assessment as well.
# 1 Ranking
The top ranked teams in each bracket are an intimidating bunch but even these choices by the committee were controversial and don't necessarily predict the final four. Kansas, Oregon, North Carolina, and Virginia were the picks. Three of the teams won their conference final but Virginia was also in the ACC so they lost to North Carolina. The two teams that I really like are North Carolina in the East and Kansas in the South to make it to the final four. Oregon in the West will probably be the team I most underestimate. North Carolina has a very tough bracket and Virginia in the Midwest could get deep without facing any difficult teams. I am tempted to pick Kansas in one of my brackets to make it all the way from the way they've played this year.
Villanova, Oklahoma, Xavier, and Michigan St. are the teams that start at the bottom of their brackets and work their way to the number one team by the elite eight. Michigan St. in the Midwest is my favorite in this category and would be a likely team to take out Virginia. Oklahoma in the West also looks like a likely final four contender. Xavier in the East and Villanova in the South have a lot to prove not playing in a big conference but both teams could deal some surprises as they get deeper into the bracket but they are also at a high risk of upset.
Miami, West Virginia, Utah, and Texas A&M are the third ranked teams that originate in the middle. All of these teams should at least get out of the first round but if I had to pick an upset here it would be Miami in the South though the ACC is ranked high this year or Utah in the Midwest though the Pac-12 is underestimated. My SEC bias may be getting in the way here and Texas A&M could have trouble versus Green Bay. These teams all look really good but West Virginia looked great in the Big 12. They are in the toughest bracket section in the East however.
Duke, Kentucky, Iowa State, and California are all big name teams that have a chance of going very far but also busting brackets because they have been so good in past years but may have trouble succeeding in this tournament. Kentucky in the Eastis the team that I hope as a fan will go farthest but I'm also the most blind due to my bias. Duke in the West is another team that I always favor a bit too much except for the one season where they win it all. Iowa State in the Midwest and California in the South are teams that I don't know much about so could hurt my predictions
Baylor, Maryland, Indiana, and Purdue are in the most dangerous ranking zone. Almost every this ranking experiences an upset so it will be hard to predict which team will go on. I think Baylor in the West looked good and came from a strong conference. Purdue almost took out Michigan State in the Midwest. Indiana in the East may get into the next round but then face a tough Kentucky team. Maryland in the South could get into the sweet sixteen. Being fifth ranked is tough because after the first round they could face a number four team and then a number one team. This section of the bracket almost always experiences an early upset.
Arizona, Texas, Notre Dame, Seton Hall are in one of the toughest ranking positions in this tournament. Notre Dame was great last year and only got stopped when they met a great Kentucky team. They will have their work cut out for them in the East with a strong West Virginia in round two. Texas in the West could be the victim of an upset to Northern Iowa or eliminated in the second round against another university from the same big state. Either way it does not look good for the Longhorns.
Iowa, Oregon State, Dayton, and Wisconsin all look like very powerful teams that are underrated. Wisconsin made it to the finals last year but are spending a year recovering after losing their players. They are another tough addition to the East bracket. Dayton is also a team that has been known to go far in the tournament but their advancement in the Midwest will require a major upset against the Michigan St. Spartans. Oregon State in the West is like for an upset against a VCU team that has a better record and has performed well this season. Iowa might also be upset since they face tough competition while at the same time if they get hot, they could go far.
Colorado, Saint Joseph's, USC, and Texas Tech. This first round of the bracket is always hard to predict because they have to face a team that is so closely ranked to them. USC in the East could make it through the first round but the East will not be kind to them. Any eighth ranked team in any bracket will most likely face a number one team if they win so all of these teams have one of the toughest roads to the final four.
This ranking crosses into the bracket where a team will have to pull an upset in order to progress. The number nines have the greatest chance of pulling this off and it not being too shocking. Connecticut, Cincinnati, Providence, and Butler all have strong pedigree in the tournament and a chance to make waves by upsetting a number one in the early rounds. UConn in the South won only two years ago and proved their strength in their conference tournament. They will not let Kansas cruise past them easily.
Temple, VCU, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse are all in a position to get an early upset in the first round and these teams have shown that they can win but did not win enough for a high rank.
My first First Four prediction comes here and I'm a little shocked that anyone is still reading at this point but I am going with Wichita State over Vanderbilt to get the number eleven spot versus Arizona in the South. Wichita State has been great in previous years and Vanderbilt did beat Kentucky to get their spot. Michigan and Tulsa also face off for an eleven spot and I'm going with Michigan for this pick in the East. The other two elevens are Northern Iowa in the West Gonzaga in the Midwest. Gonzaga has a chance to go far if they perform to their previous ability.
One of these teams will upset their #5 opponent but this year it is unclear which one that will be. South Dakota State, Yale, Chattanooga, and Little Rock all have a chance to make it to the second round. Right now I'm leaning towards Yale over Baylor in the south but West but South Dakota State also look like a contender in the South.
Hawaii, Stony Brook, Iona, and UNC Wilmington all have a chance to take out the big names in the number five spot but I think it is highly unlikely that any of them will. Several of these teams have already experienced the spotlight in bold predictions by experts, especially Stony Brook who many think will take out Kentucky. Not in any of my brackets.
Buffalo, Green Bay, Fresno State, and SF Austin are all in a tough position against powerful number three teams. The team with the best chance is Fresno State in the Midwest versus Utah but I don't think any of these teams will be around into the late rounds.
At the bottom of the brackets are UNC Asheville, CSU Bakersfield, Middle Tennessee, and Weber St. All of these teams would have to really get a giant stroke of luck to be in the second round.
My final First Four predictions are Florida Gulf Coast University over Fairleigh Dickinson for the sixteenth spot and a chance to lose to UNC in the East. I choose FGCU only because they have been in the tournament before and I think this experience benefits them. I'm taking Southern over Holy Cross simply on the names but who knows. The other two 16s are Austin Peay and Hampton. As fun as it would be to pick them, I don't think there is any upset in store this year.
This is a quick look at the selection process as I begin to make my predictions for the bracket. I look forward to make guesses on this blog and seeing how they turn out round by round. March Madness is here!