As the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is about to start this week, I just wanted to throw my thoughts out here on what I saw today in the release of the brackets for March Madness 2016, being the giant NCAA Basketball fan I am.
I'll also make my sure to be wrong Final Four predictions:
1) Oregon is a #1!! A couple top seed surprises:
For my favourite football school to get their first ever #1 seed in the tournament is very exciting. As a Duke fan in basketball, with a soft spot for the Pac-12 (as I live in the west, and no loyalty to an American alma mater, having gone to the University Of Calgary), this does make me happy.
The ones across the board were a little surprising; I had Kansas and UNC (as much as that pains me) as Ones, but Virginia over BIG 10 Champions Michigan State blows my mind a little bit. The fact that these four #1 seeds have the most combined losses of any #1 seeds in history (at 23) might make this an interesting year...
Not 16 beating 1 interesting though. Sorry Austin Peay.
2) The South Region has potential to be completely unpredictable:
UConn could play Kansas in the second round?!
Cal and Maryland? There's some soon to be NBA players there and they could be playing each other in the second round...and then Kansas if they get through UConn. I tend to agree with Charles Barkley on California--they are a very, very talented team
Villanova at the number 2 slot? Oh, and they might have to play a dangerous Iowa team, and even Miami later...oh and you know Arizona.
Arizona who has to play the first four winner of Vanderbilt/Wichita State . That matchup is the best ever first four game ever, and I'm looking forward to it...if we actually get those games up here on our 15 sports channels that all show curling...
To recap, the South bracket has Kansas, UConn, Maryland, Cal, Iowa (who were damn good in the middle of this season), Arizona, Villanova, Miami...and the 11 seed is potentially Wichita State.
Glad none of my teams are over there...
SHAUN- I like California here. I know Kansas is really good, but I just like what the young Bears have been doing recently, and I think that Kansas might have some trouble, potentially even getting worn down in the second round.
3) The West doesn't look too scary...
Oregon looks comfy to start, with a potentially matchup I like for them in the second round with St. Joseph's or Cincinnati.
Yale's first trip to the dance since the 1960s, Ivy League teams are always scary--they work hard, they slow you down, and if they shoot well on the night, you never know.
Sadly my Blue Devils are here as a #4, potentially playing Oregon in later rounds; Baylor's athleticism and depth will give Duke fits if they play in the second round, and as much as it hurts me, I can't see Duke going much beyond the first weekend.
Oklahoma is the #2 here-- I do not know what to think about them...they were great early in the year, being carried largely by the best player in the NCAA in Buddy Hield, but they really looked sketchy late in the season.
Shaka Smart at a 6 with Texas potentially playing Texas A&M in the second round looks like a great battle; A&M is a better team, but Shaka in the tournament...man...
To recap, Oregon, Duke, Oklahoma, and a pair of Texas teams interest me the most in this bracket, and I am sure I will be surprised somewhere in here (always am).
SHAUN- I'm an Oregon guy, so for no other reason other than my fondness for the Ducks, I will put them into my Final Four.
4) The East is a festival of old school powerhouses:
I hate having to do this, but I have to talk about UNC. They're good...very, very good.
There. That's enough
We potentially have a 4/5 matchup in the second round here of Indiana and Kentucky.
That. Is. Ridiculous.
That also means we might see UNC v Kentucky on the second weekend.
Xavier's a real sleeper of a #2 seed, who play really solid basketball in a variety of styles, and there's a potential matchup with last years' runner ups in Wisconsin, and Press Virginia (West Virginia) on the horizon, which makes this bottom half of the bracket very interesting--not to mention the second most interesting First Four game ever with Michigan and Tulsa (interesting if only for the crazy surprise factor).
Seriously though: UNC, Indiana and Kentucky are all in the same bracket, with a Damn good Xavier team, and the always fun to watch West Virginia.
SHAUN- If UNC plays like they're capable of, this is their bracket to lose (and I hate myself for having to say that). I hope someone knocks them off, but, I will not kid myself.
5) The Midwest looks the easiest bracket to me:
Virginia, the weakest #1 in my opinion, but still a good team have a fairly stable looking side of their bracket. Happy Tubby Smith is back in the tournament with Texas Tech, and the 4/5 of Purdue and Iowa State is potentially fascinating.
Michigan State is a very scary #2 seed, and have a very interesting potential (late) matchup with Utah.
Seton Hall and Gonzaga is a fun matchup out in the Midwest, but that's not all that interesting beyond the first weekend as far as I'm concerned.
The best looking offensive matchup is here though, with Iowa State and IONA, as neither team really plays a heck of a lot of defense, but puts points up in bunches...but there's also a potential drag on your basketballing soul if Virginia and Butler play each other.
You like games with less than 100 total points? Exactly.
SHAUN- Michigan State. I had them as a #1 over Virginia on my board, and I think they're the best team on this side, and going to win this bracket. Valentine will step up, just like he did against Purdue in the BIG10 Championship, and Izzo is going to keep them going.
So my Final Four is California, Oregon, UNC, Michigan State to head down to Houston and fight it out for the national championship.
Which means it will probably be Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia. Because it's March Madness, and if I could actually call the tournament, I would be in Vegas, and not here, so feel free to tell me how crazy I am.
Regardless, here's to a month of fantastic basketball!
PS: Sorry Monmouth, you and Saint Bonaventure got hosed.