1st Round Winners - Louisville, Missouri, Oregon, St. Louis, St. Mary's, Michigan St., Creighton, Duke, Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Arizona, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina, VCU, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, San Diego State, Georgetown, Indiana, NC State, California, Syracuse, Bucknell, Marquette, Illinois, Miami
- There were a few close calls for me. I didn't go particularly "upset"-heavy due to the fact that my deep sleepers (Davidson, New Mexico State, Montana) had bad match-ups. I agonized over: Notre Dame/Iowa State (don't like either team), Arizona/Belmont (love Belmont but couldn't do it), Oklahoma State/Oregon (the Ducks are good when healthy), and Butler/Bucknell, but none of the top-4 seeds in any bracket scared me enough to pick the underdog. My biggest upsets? Taking both #12 seeds from the Pac-12 because they (Oregon, especially) are criminally underseeded, and a #5 seed always falls.
- Best Game - Oklahoma State vs. Oregon or North Carolina vs. Villanova
- I feel dirty inside. Two chalk regions and a third with 1-2-3-5? Alas, I think the "parity" angle with this year's tournament is a bit off of the mark and a couple of the mid-seeds that I like (Creighton, Oregon, Minnesota) had second-round opponents that I couldn't take out. My one leap is taking San Diego State over Georgetown, and it's as simple as not trusting the Hoyas. I think John Thompson is insanely overrated, and they take an uber-talented roster and hamper them with a slow-down offense that makes every game close. Give me Steve Fisher 100 times out of 100.
- Best Game - Wisconsin vs. Kansas State or Kansas vs. North Carolina
- Is it a coincidence that my lowest-seeded Elite 8 team is Michigan? Probably not, but it's not as though they weren't a top-5 team for much of the year (even reaching #1) before cratering down the stretch. I actually feel safer with my Michigan-over-Kansas pick than I do with Marquette over Miami, and I really, really wish that Wisconsin, New Mexico, Michigan State, or Syracuse was in that sub-region. Alas, here we are.
- Best Game - Michigan State vs. Duke or Kansas vs. Michigan
- We've finally reached the point of the bracket where I'm different than anyone else. I have Duke knocking off the #1 overall seed in Louisville, as they have the guards to handle their pressure, and Ryan Kelly will spread them out in a big way. Gonzaga/Ohio State is a great game, but I don't OSU has the size to handle Olynyk and company, and the Zags are closer to home in LA. Florida is one of my favorite teams, and it was a mortal lock that I was taking them to the Final Four almost regardless of region, and though it pains me, they're better than Michigan. Indiana cruises past Marquette in the weakest of the four regions.
- Duke vs. Gonzaga? The country might explode, but I think the Zags are just better from top-to-bottom. Duke is reliant on the three-ball in a mighty way, and Gonzaga is actually the rare team who has the ability to throw multiple looks at Kelly. Florida vs. Indiana is a fantastic match-up, but Florida is more complete, better in the half-court, and they have a physical specimen in Young to throw at Zeller.
Champions - Gonzaga
- Did I really just pick Gonzaga to win the national championship? Well, yes, I did. I've thought that this was a "different" level for Gonzaga all season, and while they playing in the WCC, that doesn't mean that they aren't as a) deep, and b) talented as every other top seed. Kelly Olynyk is my national POY this year, averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds in only 25 minutes a game while leading the country in PER. He's a monster, and I love Gonzaga's experience as well, with guys like Elias Harris who have been there seemingly forever. A Gonzaga/Florida final would be tremendous, but I would take the Zags in a close one.
There you have it! It's the best time of the sporting year in my opinion, so don't blink and miss it. Cheers!