2017 Bracket Picks: Going to Carolina in my mind
When it comes to filling out a bracket, I usually begin with the Final Four and work backward. Not that it’s been a particularly good strategy, but you have to start somewhere, right? While I’ve faired pretty well when it comes to projecting how the Field of 68 will look in advance of Selection Sunday, my bracket picks are no more insightful than yours. So take my picks with a proverbial grain of salt (aka disclaimer if looking for advice).
Once the ball is tipped, we don’t know what will happen. It’s the beauty of March Madness. What we do know is this … incredible drama will unfold, keeping us on the edge of our seats, wanting more. Here’s to an incredible 2017 NCAA Tournament. Now, onto the picks …
North Carolina has everything needed to win a national title. The Tar Heels can win a game in the 90s or a game in the 70s. If Joel Berry stays on the floor – and avoids foul trouble – Carolina has a great chance to return to the Final Four and get another shot at the national title.
Joining the Tar Heels in Phoenix? I’ll take Duke, Arizona, and Louisville. The Blue Devils are developing into the team we expected. Sean Miller is due after so many close calls, and I think the Wildcats survive a Wild West matchup with Gonzaga. As for Louisville, this year’s group of Cardinals can defend and score (provided they don’t have to play Virginia), a dangerous combination. On Monday night, April 3rd, I can see a fourth meeting between Duke and Carolina – with the Tar Heels evening the score.
Region By Region Quick Takes and Picks …
EAST REGION – Ever year, a Region blows up. Both Virginia and Florida have dangerous first-round opponents in the early time slot (an added upset combination). It wouldn’t shock me to see a 12 vs. 13-seed matchup in Round 2. Although Florida will have a home crowd, and should advance, you have to take a chance somewhere. So let’s roll the dice.
- Villanova over Mount St. Mary’s
- Wisconsin over Virginia Tech
- Upset pick: UNC Wilmington over Virginia
- Upset pick: East Tennessee State over Florida
- SMU over Providence / USC winner
- Baylor over New Mexico State
- Upset pick: Marquette over South Carolina
- Duke over Troy
East Region – Round 2
- Villanova over Wisconsin
- UNC Wilmington over East Tennessee State
- Upset pick: SMU over Baylor
- Duke over Marquette
East Region – Sweet 16
- Villanova over UNC-Wilmington
- Duke over SMU
East Region – Elite 8
- Duke over Villanova. In what would be an incredible game at Madison Square Garden, I’ll take the Blue Devils to rally late and win a nail-biter
WEST REGION – Is this the year Gonzaga reaches the Final Four? Defensively, the Bulldogs looks like Mark Few’s best crew. But they’ll have a tough matchup with either Notre Dame or West Virginia in the Sweet 16, and Arizona is clicking.
- Gonzaga over South Dakota State
- Vanderbilt over Northwestern
- Notre Dame over Princeton
- West Virginia over Bucknell
- Maryland over Xavier
- Florida State over Florida Gulf Coast
- Saint Mary’s over VCU
- Arizona over North Dakota
West Region – Round 2
- Gonzaga over Vanderbilt
- Upset pick: Notre Dame over West Virginia
- Florida State over Maryland
- Arizona over Saint Mary’s
West Region – Sweet 16
- Gonzaga over Notre Dame
- Arizona over Florida State
West Region – Elite 8
- Arizona over Gonzaga. Tough choice here, but this go-around the Wildcats have Allonzo Trier. He inflicts a couple of late daggers to carry Arizona back home to Phoenix.
MIDWEST REGION – It’s hard to pick against Kansas in KC, especially with the Jayhawks dynamic duo of guards. So why am I going with Louisville? Call it a hunch. Rick Pitino likes his team. That’s good enough for me. On the upset front, I like Nevada, but can’t quite pull the trigger. Iowa State will have its hands full, but Monte Morris gets it done. I will take Rhode Island, though. The Rams are healthy and seem to be on a roll. The best opening-round game could well be Michigan and Oklahoma State. Expect some fireworks in Indianapolis.
- Kansas over UC Davis
- Miami over Michigan State
- Iowa State over Nevada
- Purdue over Vermont
- Upset pick: Rhode Island over Creighton
- Oregon over Iona
- Michigan over Oklahoma State
- Louisville over Jacksonville State
Midwest Region – Round 2
- Kansas over Miami
- Iowa State over Purdue
- Upset pick: Rhode Island over Oregon
- Louisville over Michigan
Midwest Region – Sweet 16
- Kansas over Iowa State
- Louisville over Rhode Island
Midwest Region – Elite 8
- Louisville over Kansas. In an epic game, Louisville’s defense clamps down late and keeps the Jayhawks a step short of the Final Four
SOUTH REGION – Also known as Blue Blood Central, with Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA. The good news for Carolina, its path to meet either the Wildcats or Bruins appears straight forward, although beating Butler (potentially) in March is never an easy-out. I’m torn on Middle Tennessee State. But even with the surprise factor gone, I’ll go with the upset pick over Minnesota.
- North Carolina over Texas Southern
- Seton Hall over Arkansas
- Upset pick: Middle Tennessee State
- Butler over Winthrop
- Cincinnati over Kansas State
- UCLA over Kent State
- Upset pick: Wichita State over Dayton
- Kentucky over Northern Kentucky
South Region – Round 2
- North Carolina over Seton Hall
- Butler over Middle Tennessee State
- UCLA over Cincinnati
- Kentucky over Wichita State
East Region – Sweet 16
- North Carolina over Butler
- Kentucky over UCLA
East Region – Elite 8
- North Carolina over Kentucky. The Wildcats beat the Tar Heels 103-100 back in December. This time, the triple-digit score is reversed. Carolina earns another shot at the title.
There you go. I’m sure by Monday, I’ll be tearing this up and starting over. Enjoy the Madness!