by Paul West
This year’s March Madness tournament caps off a topsy-turvy NCAA basketball season; not only was the top ranking the proverbial kiss of death, but nobody seemed to want to hang on to a top five ranking either! Nevertheless, we made it, as always: Selection Sunday has come and gone, and the play-in games are tomorrow evening.
Despite the advice of pessimists, you don’t have to close your eyes, tape your bracket to a dart board or pick by color or mascot; you don’t have to just let your most hoops-clueless friend, coworker or family member fill in your bracket. Nor do you have to just “go chalk” and pick all the highest seeds, as some suggest.
I humbly offer, below, my carefully woven combination of numbers-crunching and “eye test” wisdom. I’m not necessarily saying that my analysis is the path to the perfect bracket! I do, however, hope that my modest proposal will help someone, somewhere–maybe even me!–win their pool. The breakdowns will be brief but salient, and each region will be covered in an individual post. First up: the Midwest region.
Enjoy, and good luck.
Paul West’s Region-By-Region Bracketology
1 Louisville vs. 16 NC A&T/Liberty (Lexington, KY): Probably not much chance here, especially with Louisville close to home and coming off of winning the Big East title game. North Carolina A&T and Liberty will battle hard for the opportunity to play on CBS, but they don’t have much more than a puncher’s chance. Pick: Louisville.
8 Colorado State vs. 9 Missouri (Lex KY): Four double-digit scorers, Phil Pressey and Alex Oriahki vs Colorado State’s strong rebounding edge. Mizzou’s close to home, and should pull this one off despite letting one slip away over the weekend. Pick: Mizzou.
5 Oklahoma State vs. 12 Oregon (San Jose, CA): Oklahoma State State is a tough squad, but Oregon’s putting it together at the right time. Their big men, EJ Singler and Arsalan Kazemi, can pass and shoot and are generally versatile. The Ducks will also be playing close to home. Pick:Oregon.
4 St Louis vs. 13 New Mexico State (San Jose): St Louis plays a hectoring defense, and New Mexico State has a problem with turnovers. Might be a low-scoring slugfest at first, but St. Louis is one of this year’s most dangerous dark horses. Pick: St. Louis.
6 Memphis vs. Middle Tennessee State/St Mary’s (Auburn Hills, MI): I’ve had faith in St Mary’s all season, why would I sell them out now? With an elite point guard in Matthew Dellavedova and an underrated big man in Brad Waldow, they’ll win their play-in. Memphis hasn’t particularly impressed me, and St Mary’s are used to playing against versatile teams with good big men (i.e. Gonzaga). The Gaels are this region’s big upset. Pick: St Mary’s.
3 Michigan St vs. 14 Valparaiso (Auburn Hills): The Spartans have been playing tough ball lately, and this one’s in their home state. Not saying it’s impossible that Valpo could win, but it’s unlikely. Pick: Mich St.
7 Creighton vs. 10 Cincinnati (Philadelphia, PA): Creighton has a platoon of sharpshooters, led by elite scorer Doug McDermott; and Cincy can’t score. I would be shocked if the Bearcats won this one; the only way they have a chance is if the referees are particularly AWOL. Pick: Creighton.
2 Duke vs. 15 Albany (Philadelphia): If the Blue Devils lose this one…well, they won’t. Pick: Duke.
Round of 16: Louisville loses to St. Louis in a hectic battle, and Duke beats Michigan State. Duke’s balance counters St. Louis’ defense, and Duke goes to the Final Four.