Need help filling out a bracket? Here's a stab at one
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - There's nothing that says March Madness quite like picking a bracket (or two or five or 10 or how many it takes) and Local12.com is giving you a chance to show just how much you know (and how little we know) by playing against some of us from Local 12 in our bracket game by clicking here.
My bracket will be there, too, and here is a region-by-region look of how it breaks down and why:
- Click here Local12.com NCAA Tournament Central with all of our coverage
- Click here for Skinny Podcast where Rick Broering, Chad Brendel and I do a consensus bracket and talk about how draws for UC, Xavier will go and the UK/NKU matchup
- First Round Winners: No. 1 Villanova, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 5 Virginia, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 SMU, No. 14 New Mexico State, No. 10 Marquette, No. 2 Duke.
- Second Round Winners: Villanova, Virginia, SMU, Duke
- Region Semifinal Winners: Villanova, Duke
- Regional Championship Winner: No. 1 Villanova
The Skinny: Duke is a chic pick to win it all and for good measure. The Blue Devils are extremely talented and playing very well heading into the tournament. I don't think they will have to struggle to beat Marquette in the second, but an SMU upset in the regional semifinal isn't out of the question.
Villanova has played consistently well all season and have a pretty good core back from last year's National Championship team. The only thing the Wildcats are lacking is a post presence, but I'm going with the guys who have done it before to advance to the Final Four again.
As for the first-round games, a UNC-Wilmington upset of Virginia is possible and I don't think Florida is getting past the second round, no matter which of those two teams meet the Gators.
Keep in mind if Virginia does advance to play Villanova that the Cavaliers almost pulled an upset in Philadelphia in the regular season.
I picked New Mexico State over Baylor because the Bears have been an early flop before and can go through scoring droughts. I would pick SMU in the second round anyway so that's why I'm going with the first-round upset.
South Carolina also has a hard time scoring, which is why I went with Marquette in the first round.
- First Round Winners: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 9 Vanderbilt, No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 4 West Virginia, No. 11 Xavier, No. 3 Florida State, No. 10 VCU, No. 2 Arizona.
- Second Round Winners: Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Florida State, Arizona.
- Region Semifinal Winners: Notre Dame, Arizona.
- Regional Championship Winner: Arizona.
The Skinny: Gonzaga is really good - the Bulldogs beat Iowa State, Florida and Arizona during the regular season - but they weren't challenged basically over the last two months of the season facing West Coast Conference teams and it's going to come back to bite them.
Notre Dame should be able to handle the West Virginia press in a likely second-round matchup (the Fighting Irish average just nine turnovers per game) and I'm banking on the schedule it faced preparing it to beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 even if monstrous and skilled 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski is a matchup nightmare.
Xavier can certainly beat reeling Maryland (4-6 in its last 10 games) in the first round, but beating Florida State in the second round will be too tough.
I don't think much of the WCC obviously so it's hard to give St. Mary's the edge over VCU, and it really doesn't matter because the way Arizona is playing it will beat either one in the second round.
The Arizona-Florida State Sweet 16 matchup would be outstanding, but going with the hot Wildcats.
That would set up an Arizona-Notre Dame regional final and Arizona simply has too many offensive weapons and it just seems to be the right time, draw and team for Sean Miller to get over hump and advance to the Final Four.
- First Round Winners: No. 1 Kansas, No. 9 Miami, No. 5 Iowa State, No. 4 Purdue, No. 11 Rhode Island, No. 3 Oregon, No. 10 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Louisville.
- Second Round Winners: Kansas, Iowa State, Oregon, Louisville.
- Region Semifinal Winners: Kansas, Louisville.
- Regional Championship Winner: Kansas
The Skinny: This may not be the toughest region, but it may be the toughest to figure out. Aside from Kansas, Louisville and Oregon being sure-fire first-round winners, a case could be made for each team winning in the other five first-round games.
Both Miami and Michigan State have enough talent to upset Kansas, but if the Jayhawks are on their 'A' game in this tournament they will be very tough to beat. Frank Mason and Josh Jackson are among the top players in the entire tournament, but Jackson was suspended for the Big 12 Tournament opener, which Kansas lost, and off-the-court issues have hounded this team all season.
Iowa State played well down the stretch of the regular season and then won the Big 12 Tournament title. It also won at Kansas so a deeper run than the Sweet 16 is possible ... as is a first-round loss.
Purdue has a dominant player in forward Caleb Swanigan (18.5 ppg, 12.6 rpg) and has enough talent to go as far as the Final Four, but also has been inconsistent enough to even lose in the first round.
Oregon is compromised by the injury loss of center Chris Boucher, which occurred in the semifinal round of the Pac-12 Tournament. The Ducks still have enough talent to advance to the Final Four, but Louisville will be the road block.
If Kansas reaches the Elite Eight I think it gets to the Final Four, because I'm not sure Louisville can score enough to beat the Jayhawks.
- First Round Winners: No. 1 North Carolina, No. 9 Seton Hall, No. 12 Middle Tennessee, No. 4 Butler, No. 6 UC, No. 3 UCLA, No. 10 Wichita State, No. 2 UK.
- Second Round Winners: North Carolina, Middle Tennessee, UCLA, UK.
- Region Semifinal Winners: North Carolina, UCLA.
- Regional Championship Winner: North Carolina.
The Skinny: Only three teams have a realistic chance of winning this regional: North Carolina, UCLA and Kentucky.
The best thing to happen to the Tar Heels is losing in the semifinal round of the ACC Tournament even if it came against rival Duke. North Carolina went through a gauntlet over the final eight regular season games, with six coming against teams ranked in the top 20. The Tar Heels went 6-2 with the lone losses coming to Duke and at Virginia.
Kentucky went 11-0 to close out the season, but didn't beat any team of note outside of Florida, which lost its top inside player to injury by the time the teams played.
UCLA has started playing a little more zone and its defense has improved enough to get it past the Wildcats in the regional semifinal. UCLA beat UK in Rupp Arena in December.
UC should win its first-round game against Kansas State, but not sure it can score enough to beat UCLA.
The Sweet 16 party-crasher is Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders beat No. 2-seed Michigan State last season and are even better this season.
- Semifinal Winners: Arizona, North Carolina.
- Champion: North Carolina.
The Skinny: As much as I respect Villanova for what it did last season and what it's done this season, it's simply hard to repeat. Arizona can matchup with Villanova's perimeter talent, and Villanova has no answer defensively for 7-foot freshman Lauri Markkanen (15.6 ppg).
North Carolina and Kansas would be a great matchup. The Tar Heels have a few more weapons, and their size will be the difference in a title game matchup with Arizona, too.