It’s that time of the year again where millions of people will fill out countless brackets to try and pick the winner of the 68-team NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship. March Madness is upon us and is my favorite sporting event of the year, due to the unpredictability and craziness that ensues year in and year out.
It all starts during championship week, where each conference has its own tournament with an at-large, automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Here is my only gripe with the conference tournaments; it devalues the regular season winner. I feel those teams that win there conference in the regular season should be rewarded for being the top team in its division for nearly 30 games. The NCAA needs to look to change the format of that and start rewarding teams for being good during the regular season. Now that my mini rant (if you want to call it that) is over, let’s get back to the good. The conference championships give teams with absolutely no reason to be in the big dance to actually make it to the big dance, which can be fun to watch. These conference tournaments provide chances to the bubble teams, which are teams in the brink of making the tournament that aren’t quite guaranteed a spot, to enhance their resumes. It can be make or break for a lot of teams each year.
At the conclusion of championship week, the tournament field gets selected on Selection Sunday. To me, Selection Sunday is like a holiday because you find out who made it, who was left out, and most importantly you get to fill out brackets. There are various places where you can fill out brackets either online or by printing out the actual bracket. People are always getting into contests and pools to try and be the winner of the group. To make matters even more interesting this year, Warren Buffett is offering a billion dollars to anyone who fills out a perfect bracket. Now before you think you are about to hit a get-rich-quick scheme, think again. There are 9.2 quintillion – a 9 followed by 18 zeroes – different combinations of outcomes for the tournament. Needless to say, there has never been a perfect bracket no matter who fills them out. It seems each March, the more you know about college hoops, the least likely you will succeed. Some people pick the teams based on the knowledge they possess by following the sport, while others just randomly pick the teams and sometimes just by the colors of the teams. Mr. Buffett, you can write the check out to Eddie McDonald and I will be anticipating seeing it in the mail.
This year’s tournament provides many interesting matchups and potential matchups down the road. For instance, the 12-5 games are ones that have had a high success rate for the higher seeds. Last year three of the four 12 seeds advanced. Harvard, which is a 12 seed this year, takes on 5 seed Cincinnati in an interesting matchup that I believe Harvard will be victorious in. Another 12-5 matchup I like the 12 seed in is North DakotaState (12) and Oklahoma (5). I see both those two 12 seeds advancing in the tournament. *Editor’s Note* Don’t bank on my predictions to fill out your brackets. I very well could be wrong, but I’m still keeping hope for that aforementioned billion dollars. So if you do go with the picks I have listed and somehow fill out a perfect bracket like me, I’ll gladly split the billion with you. A couple other first round upsets I see happening are Nebraska (11) over Baylor (6), OklahomaState (9) over Gonzaga (8), and St. Joes (10) over Connecticut (7).
WichitaState is the only unbeaten team in college basketball remaining and will look to stay perfect for six more games and cut the nets down, but it will not be easy for the 1 seed in the Midwest region. The Shockers were placed in the hardest region of the entire tournament with other teams such as Kentucky (8) – which could be the second round matchup – Michigan (2), Duke (3), and Louisville (4). The Cardinals of Louisville should not have been a 4 seed, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled.
Now for my Elite 8 and Final 4 picks. In the South region I have Florida (1) over Syracuse (3). The East I have Michigan State (4) over Iowa State (3). In the West I have Creighton (3) over Arizona (1). And finally in the Midwest, I have Wichita State (1) over Duke (3). In the Final 4, I like Florida over Michigan State and Wichita State over Creighton. On April 7, in Arlington Texas, I see the Wichita State Shocker shocking most people and remaining unbeaten on the season and cutting down the nets.