It's just one man's bracket, and the college basketball odds don't back up some of the teams this handicapper has advancing to the Sweet 16 in this year's NCAA Tournament.
So, I sorta' let the cat out of the bag regarding a lot of my free NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament picks, half of the Sweet 16 to be exact, when discussing Point of Elimination Odds earlier this week. My predictions then were that all eight of the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds would play on after this weekend.
That's being repeated not to note some earth-shattering prognostication since 1 & 2 seeds are a combined 241-7 in their opening games, giving them a 50-50 chance at the very least to win one more and go on to play in the four regionals. No, I bring that up because those eight teams -- Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Michigan State, Villanova, Oklahoma and Xavier -- won't be discussed much more after this point.
Do I really expect all eight 1-2 seeds to make it? No, especially given recent failures by both the Jayhawks and Wildcats who make my list. Still, those two chunks of chalk do look nice to punch tickets to Louisville (South), Anaheim (West), Philadelphia (East) and Chicago (Midwest) along with the other six.
Top 4 Continue On In West
The next few rungs on the ladder aren't so safe. Nos. 3-14 battles have upended 5-12's as chic upset picks on the NCAA Tournament Odds for the tournament, though it's the low guy in the 6-11's that I'm seeing as the way to go this time.
Let's start in the East Region where I've got Michigan advancing past Tulsa in the First Four and then upsetting Notre Dame in Philly on Friday. After the Wolverines screwed me twice last week, maybe betting the Maize & Blue to win a couple is the way to go. That is where the run should end, though, and I've got West Virginia advancing to the last quarter in the East.
Their opponent will be Pittsburgh as the 10th-seeded Panthers first surprise Wisconsin and then Xavier. North Carolina and Kentucky, following a win over Indiana, round out the East.
Another 6-11 upset I like is Texas falling to Northern Iowa in the West up in OKC. Texas A&M then beats UNI in the follow-up to set up an Aggies-Sooners clash out in Anaheim next week. I'm also going chalk in the top half of that bracket with Duke getting past Baylor to meet Oregon in the next stage.
Are We Destined For A KU-MSU Championship Game?
The wild card team right now in the Midwest has to be Gonzaga. Just when it looked like the Bulldogs might miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, they got things in gear and come in on a good push. Gonzaga, though rife with disappointments in the past, is another 11-seed I like in the opening round, but the follow-up against Utah is pointless since Michigan State successfully navigates past either.
I will go on and take the Utes vs. Gonzaga, awaiting how the point spread plays out before I add it to my official Free NCAA Tournament Picks. Virginia and Purdue round out the rest of the Sweet 16 in the Midwest.
Yet one more 6-11 I like is the Arizona-Wichita State matchup this Thursday in the South. The Shockers looked very good in the second half of their play-in game against a solid Vanderbilt in one of Tuesday's First Four contests, and have more than enough talent to get past the Wildcats.
There's a tussle between my heart and my gut going on in the top half of that bracket where I have UConn taking on Kansas with a Sweet 16 trip on the line. My gut says take the Huskies to upset the Jayhawks, but my heart wins out as KU advances to meet Maryland next week in Louisville.
My NCAA Tournament Picks: East (North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pittsburgh); West (Oregon, Duke, Texas A&M, Oklahoma); Midwest (Utah, Michigan State, Virginia, Purdue); South (Kansas, Maryland, Wichita State, Villanova)
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