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. In the first Bracketology entry, I broke down the Midwest region. Next up: the South region.
Enjoy, and good luck.
Paul West’s Region-By-Region Bracketology
1 Kansas vs. 16 Western Kentucky (Kansas City, MO): Kansas might be dodgy sometimes, but Western Kentucky won’t likely be the team to take them out. Pick: Kansas.
8 UNC vs. 9 Villanova (KC, MO): Villanova’s tough but inconsistent. The Tar Heels are both of those things–but bigger and faster, with Roy Williams coaching. UNC has trouble adjusting if you make them slow down, but the Wildcats won’t pull that off. Pick: UNC.
5 VCU vs. 12 Akron (Auburn Hills, MI): Akron just lost their point guard to suspension; against the defensively tough “havoc” style VCU employs, that’s bad for business. Shaka Smart will have his team prepared. Pick: VCU.
4 Michigan vs. 13 S Dakota St (Auburn Hills): Michigan is super talented, especially in the backcourt with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. They’re also young, and have had trouble finishing games. If this wasn’t so close to home for them, I’d be firmer on this pick–but still, I’m calling the upset here. If you’re looking for a whopper that the casual fans in your pool won’t see coming, try this one. Nate Wolters is a next-level complete player. Pick: South Dakota State.
6 UCLA vs. 11 Minnesota (Austin, TX): The loss of leading scorer Jordan Adams will catch up with UCLA, especially against a team team like Minnesota; UCLA has trouble boxing out and rebounding, and the Gophers really hassle you on the glass. Pick: Minnesota.
3 Florida vs. 14 Northwestern State (Austin): Despite being high-scoring, NW State turns the ball over a lot and doesn’t shoot it too well from deep. That said, the Gators have been known to put up baffling performances…might be close, but if any of Florida’s shooters gets warm, they’ll be fine. Pick: Florida.
7 San Diego State vs. 10 Oklahoma (Philadelphia): San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin is the only player in the country to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Wait, what? It’s hard to see a one-man show beating the Sooners. Furthermore, SDSU is turnover-prone. Pick: Oklahoma.
2 Georgetown vs. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (Philadelphia): I think Georgetown’s a bit overrated, and Florida Gulf Coast is a tough squad. But Georgetown should win this one, especially playing close to home. Pick: Georgetown.
Round of 16: Kansas beats VCU by a nose, and Minnesota stays physical in a victory over Oklahoma. Kansas rolls by the Sooners to go to the Final Four.