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Bracket Picks: Upsets early, chalk late as UK wins title

dave1For traditionalists, March Madness begins today.

My picks for the 2015 NCAA tournament are posted below.  Of course, I went 1-3 while selecting First Four games in Dayton (the Flyers were my only winning pick, and they needed a late-game rally to beat Boise State).  In other words, take these picks and run the other direction.

Having watched a lot of college hoops this season, six teams stand out as the most elite: Kentucky, Villanova, Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Virginia.  Working through the bracket, my champion was going to come from this group.  And I, like most others, settled on Kentucky; not because the Wildcats can’t be beat, rather because they have proven to be the best team.

Here we go – with some early upsets mixed in, including a pick with my head (Texas) and not my heart (Butler) …

MIDWEST

Kentucky will advance to the Final Four.  Texas is a team that’s capable of giving the Wildcats a game – they were a Top 10 team to begin the season and are finally healthy.  The Longhorns have lost a lot of close games; perhaps it’s time a few of those went their way.  If so, we could see a UK-UT re-match in Cleveland with a trip to Indianapolis on the line.  If not, Notre Dame seems like the safest bet to reach the Elite 8.

  • Round of 64
  • Kentucky over Hampton
  • Purdue over Cincinnati
  • Buffalo over West Virginia
  • Maryland over Valparaiso
  • Texas over Butler
  • Notre Dame over Northeastern
  • Wichita State over Indiana
  • Kansas over New Mexico State
  • Round of 32
  • Kentucky over Purdue
  • Maryland over Buffalo
  • Texas over Notre Dame
  • Kansas over Wichita State
  • Sweet 16
  • Kentucky over Maryland
  • Texas over Kansas
  • Elite 8
  • Kentucky over Texas

EAST

Villanova has a fairly favorable draw, especially with some uncertainty surrounding the health of Virginia’s Justin Anderson.  If Anderson is able to play at 90 percent, I like the Cavaliers; but we don’t know that, so I’m sticking with Nova – an experienced team with balance and great guard play.  I also like Michigan State as a sleeper; the Spartans were this close to beating Wisconsin in the B10 tournament final.

  • Round of 64
  • Villanova over Lafayette
  • NC State over LSU
  • Northern Iowa over Wyoming
  • Louisville over UC Irvine
  • Providence over Dayton
  • Oklahoma over Albany
  • Michigan State over Georgia
  • Virginia over Belmont
  • Round of 32
  • Villanova over NC State
  • Louisville over Northern Iowa
  • Oklahoma over Providence
  • Michigan State over Virginia
  • Sweet 16
  • Villanova over Louisville
  • Michigan State over Oklahoma
  • Elite 8
  • Villanova over Michigan State

SOUTH

Much like Villanova, the top half of the region sets up pretty well for Duke, so I like the Blue Devils chances of reaching the Elite 8.  The lower half of the bracket is filled with several teams capably of making a run, including SMU, Iowa State, Iowa, Davidson, and Gonzaga.  Ultimately, I like Iowa State’s ability to score the basketball; and if we get an ISU-Gonzaga matchup, that will be fun to watch.  Duke survives and heads back to Indianapolis, the site of its 2010 National Championship.

  • Round of 64
  • Duke over Robert Morris
  • San Diego State over St. John’s
  • Stephen F. Austin over Utah
  • Georgetown over Eastern Washington
  • SMU over UCLA
  • Iowa State over UAB
  • Davidson over Iowa
  • Gonzaga over North Dakota State
  • Round of 32
  • Duke over San Diego State
  • Georgetown over Stephen F. Austin
  • Iowa State over SMU
  • Gonzaga over Davidson
  • Sweet 16
  • Duke over Georgetown
  • Iowa State over Gonzaga
  • Elite 8
  • Duke over Iowa State

WEST

Toughest projected game to pick – Wisconsin vs. Arizona.  Either team could have been a No. 1 seed.  And what a rematch this would be.  It’s probably a pick ’em game, but I’ll take Arizona largely because the game will be in Los Angeles and the Wildcats have revenge in mind.  Also, from a risk standpoint, I think the Badgers have a slightly tougher route (potentially) because of North Carolina.  On a given night, the Tar Heels have the talent and size to beat anyone.

  • Round of 64
  • Wisconsin over Coastal Carolina
  • Oklahoma State over Oregon
  • Arkansas over Wofford
  • North Carolina over Harvard
  • Mississippi over Xavier
  • Baylor over Georgia State
  • Ohio State over VCU
  • Arizona over Texas-Southern
  • Round of 32
  • Wisconsin over Oklahoma State
  • North Carolina over Arkansas
  • Baylor over Mississippi
  • Arizona over Ohio State
  • Sweet 16
  • Wisconsin over North Carolina
  • Arizona over Baylor
  • Elite 8
  • Arizona over Wisconsin

FINAL FOUR

Three of the four No. 1 seeds advance, as the Wildcats – all three of them – invade Indianapolis.  But this is Kentucky’s tournament to lose; and I think they’ll be firmly focused on the task at hand.  In an all-Wildcat semifinal, UK edges Arizona. in the other, Villanova out-Duke’s the Blue Devils.

  • National Semifinals
  • Kentucky over Arizona
  • Villanova over Duke
  • NCAA Championship
  • Kentucky over Villanova

That’s it.  Picks that by Saturday will likely look horribly wrong.  But, hey, that’s why we love the NCAA tournament.  It’s unpredictable.  I’ll be rooting for Butler to make a return trip to Indianapolis.  Enjoy the greatest three-weeks in sports.  The Madness has arrived.

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