This post is written by Guest Contributor Daniel Bennett
As almost anybody in the sports world knows, the only thing worth a damn in March is the College Basketball Tournament. With March Madness literally hours away from beginning, the Cover 3 thought it would be good to do a tournament breakdown and bracket analysis… So, here we go!
*Note, one section for each region will read “Other Possible Contenders”. With this tournament always being one crazy upset after another, I would like to point out that I am well aware that any team in any bracket has a chance of winning, this is just who I feel has the best chance to make it to the Final Four.
Overview: The South Region starts with Kentucky as the number 1 seed, and really that is all you will need to know. This Kentucky team is one of the best basketball has ever seen, and even though with John Calipari’s history it is doubtful this season will remain in the record books. For tournament purposes, this is probably the safest pick to reach the Final Four in this region, and the best chance that any one seed has at making it to New Orleans. Outside of Kentucky, a few things to note is that Indiana has lost its senior captain to a season ending injury, making it likely that they will beat New Mexico State in the First Round, but very unlikely that they beat Wichita State in the second. As far as my bracket goes, the only other upset I have in the South is in the first round with Colorado beating UNLV. UNLV seemed to hit their stride to early and faded out towards the end of the season, while Colorado did just the opposite.
My Pick to go to New Orleans: Kentucky. Seriously, I’m sure that their players will have to take a pay cut when they go to the NBA.
Other Contenders: None. As I said above, this is the easiest bracket by far for the one seed to make it all the way to the Final Four.
Game to Watch: Wichita St./ Kentucky. I’m going to use the term “sneaky good” several times in this post, pretty much meaning that this is a team that is good, but either undervalued or just did not receive enough media attention for people to notice. It’s difficult to imagine a team that went 30-1 as “sneaky”, but I believe that this will be Kentucky’s hardest matchup in the first round, and should make for an exciting game for all you anti-kentuckyites out there.
Overview: Unlike the South, I believe that the East has the hardest route for the one seed to make it all the way. First, Syracuse, shortly after selection Sunday, announced that their starting center was ineligible due to grades. Further, looking down the road, they will either have to face an Ohio State Team, that was ranked 2nd in the country for a good part of the season, is a co-Big Ten Champion, and made it to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament or a Florida State team that won the ACC tournament and went 4-1 against UNC and Duke this season. Needless to say, Syracuse has a rough road ahead, and even with the wonderful record they accumulated during the regular season, I have them not making the Final Four. Outside of that, there isn’t much else to talk about in the East. I do not foresee any huge upsets on this end of the bracket until the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, where I have FSU knocking off both OSU and Syracuse. The rest of the teams should fall when they face one of a higher seed.
My Pick to go to New Orleans: Florida State. As a three seed, they are the lowest ranked team I have going to the Final Four. However, anytime a team has 4 combined wins over UNC and Duke in a single season, they are clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Other Contenders: Syracuse, Ohio State. When all is said and done, as much as I like Florida State in this bracket, Syracuse is a number one seed for a reason and has the easiest path to the Final Four out of the East. Ohio State played very well all season, and even though I don’t think they will win, they have the ability to knock off any team at any time in this tournament.
Game to Watch: Florida State/Ohio State – Not only do I see this being a fast-paced, high scoring game, with the woes that Syracuse is having, I truly believe the winner of this game has the best shot of making the Final Four.
Game to Miss: Wisconsin/Harvard. This is the only region I will be doing this category for, and there is a chance these two will not meet. However, I feel I should alert all of you who plan to catch a game or two this tournament about this matchup. Wisconsin scored 63 points per game during the regular season making them 263rd overall in the country. Harvard scored 65 points a game during the regular season making them 229th in the country, and both of these teams have stingy defenses. Needless to say, first team to double digits wins.
Overview: This is overall the weakest region and comes down to 2 teams: UNC and Kansas. Every other team above the 7 spot is ranked too high and doesn’t stand a chance against these two. Georgetown, the 3 seed, had a good showing in the Big East, but will not be able to compete against either of the top two in this conference. Michigan the 4 seed was 500 on the road or at neutral site games with losses including Arkansas and Iowa. I could keep going down, but you I’m sure get the idea by now. Again, I have no real upsets in this bracket until the Elite 8.
My Pick to go to New Orleans: Kansas. Simply put, I think Kansas is the best team. This was a well coached squad that did incredibly well in a surprisingly good conference this year.
Other Contenders: UNC. You had to see this one coming. Again, it’s going to come down to that final game, and while I’m picking Kansas, I would not be shocked if UNC pulled through.
Game to Watch: UNC/Kansas- Honestly, if you didn’t figure this out be now, than you haven’t been reading this.
Overview: Michigan State is the one seed in this bracket, and honestly, this is probably going to be the most exciting region to watch. Missouri, was screwed out of a well-deserved number 1 seed, and has just as good of a shot as anyone to make it to the Final Four. Marquette, is another “sneaky good” team that spent most of the season ranked in the top ten, even though most people didn’t realize it. Louisville, is an underrated Big East team that could beat out anyone in the top three in this bracket. On top of all of this, there are teams like Memphis and Florida that are lurking in the background and have the speed and the talent to upset anyone at anytime. This, for me, was the hardest bracket to pick. But hey, someone had to do it.
My Pick to go to New Orleans: Michigan State. Some may say this was a pick with the heart and not the brain, and I’m going to admit that it was close. When all is said and done, with all the talent that is on the other teams in this region, many of them listed above, equaling MSU, I cannot pick against Izzo in March.
Other Contenders: Missouri, Marquette. As I stated above, Missouri could have had the number one seed in their own right, and Marquette is a sneaky good team. It would not shock me if either of these teams make it to the Final Four. The other teams I mentioned, Louisville, Florida, and Memphis, have the power to upset a team, but I don’t believe in them. For either of those schools to make it to the Final Four, they would most likely have to beat 2 out of the three of Missouri, Marquette and MSU, which I don’t think will happen.
Game to Watch: Missouri/Marquette. As I said, either of these teams, and MSU all have a great chance of winning, and since MSU plays Louisville in the Sweet 16, I believe that this will be the better game, and should set-up an interesting matchup for the Elite 8.
SHOUTOUT: I would at this point, like to give a shoutout to the Pac-12 for what has to be the worst collective basketball playing by a power conference ever. You are a conference with perennial powers such as UCLA, USC, and Arizona, and only sent two teams to the dance, one of them a play in who, in the first half of their play-in game, scored 13 points, which actually ties the 7th fewest amount in the tournament since the field of 64 started in 1985, and that includes 16 seeds vs. 1 seeds. But even beyond that, Washington, your regular season champion, did not even get an invite. That is the first time in the history of the tournament that a power conference regular season champion was not even good enough to make the dance. Needless to say, if this was a Saturday Night Liv skit, this would appear on the “Really?!?!” segment of Weekend Update. Get your act together Pac-12, you’re embarrassing yourself and the rest of us that hold Power Conference Status.
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