Home > Uncategorized > My 2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket*

My 2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket*

*Bracket subject to change because I still have a couple of days to think about it and I’m scared of commitment.

This college basketball season witnessed a tremendous amount of upheaval at the top of the heap. The No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll changed hands seven times and there were an unprecedented 36 losses from AP top-5 teams, 21 of which came via unranked opponents.

We saw nearly this much top-shelf turnover during the 2012-13 season (31 top-5 losses). And the NCAA Tournament that year was pretty bonkers. A trio of No. 12 seeds won at least one game. The Sweet 16 was populated by the likes of 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast and 13th-seeded La Salle. The Final Four consisted of Wichita State, Michigan, Syracuse and Louisville. By seed number, that’s a nine, two fours and a one making it out of their region, respectively.

With the number of upsets ratcheted up this year, what can we expect during the tournament that makes its name with unfathomable upsets and unpredictable outcomes?

In my opinion, A WHOLE LOT OF CHALK!

Yes, I have thought it through and I have come away what most should consider a pretty mundane bracket. 

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The South

— I still contend that this is the toughest region of the four. I know a lot of these teams have been inconsistent, but if they play up to their talent, Kansas is going to have one hell of a tough road getting out of here. However, they are easily the most trustworthy team in the region.

— Maryland, in my opinion, is the most talented team in the country. They are also extremely frustrating to watch at times as they don’t play up to that talent as much as you would like. But — NEWS FLASH — Cal is sort of in the same boat. They have NBA players in their starting five, but they seem to find ways to lose games. They should overwhelm their first-round opponents, but neither the Terps nor the Golden Bears will play well enough for long enough to get past KU. I favor Cal over Maryland only because hearing Cal guard Tyrone Wallace’s name makes me think of this.

— Villanova will make it to the second weekend for the first time since 2009. I have no doubt about that. But I think Miami has the guards to match up with Villanova’s, assuming that “good Angel Rodriguez” makes it to the game.

The West

— If you tie your wagon to Oregon as I have here, I should warn you that St. Joe’s in the second round scares me. DeAndre Bembry could carry the Hawks to victory. I just really want to see Baylor versus Oregon in the Sweet 16. That game will be all about length and athleticism and fun. I’ll take Oregon because Baylor is much more mistake-prone.

— I’m hedging my bet by choosing UNC-Wilmington over Duke. Everyone and their mama knows that Duke has depth problems, and I seriously doubt that they will win more than one game in this tourney. Baylor provides a brutal matchup for them, so I’ll just take a chance with UNC-W in the first round because, no matter what, neither team in that 4-13 pairing will make it past the Round of 32.

— With Oklahoma, it’s all about Buddy Hield and 3-pointers. If Hield isn’t playing well and the 3s aren’t falling, they are in deep trouble. But the Sooners got a really nice draw here as Oregon State is way overseeded, Oklahoma can handle VCU’s pressure with their guards, and Texas A&M struggles to defend the 3-point line.

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The East

— Look, not all No. 1 seeds can make it to the Elite 8. If I have to pick one to leave early, it’s North Carolina. First of all, a matchup with Providence’s Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil in the second round is going to be a tough task. But Kentucky is much better than a No. 4 seed right now. You know about their backcourt with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, but the key for the Wildcats is the play of their front court. If Skal Labissiere can recapture whatever it was that made him good for a one-week stretch back in early March, this is an incredibly dangerous group. And John Calipari knows a little something about getting teams deep into the NCAA Tourney.

— I can tell you right now that Wisconsin over Xavier is the pick in which I feel the least amount of confidence. I don’t think Wisconsin can battle through X’s toughness, so I’ll probably make a change there. But you have to be aware of March Madness trends. One of them is that a No. 2 seed commonly falls during the first weekend. I guess I’m picking Xavier to lose here because I find it more difficult to make that same decision with Villanova, Oklahoma or Michigan State. One of them has got to go.

— Also, the Xavier loss is another hedge as I believe West Virginia is going to roll to the Elite 8. I wish Stephen F. Austin had gotten a better matchup than facing a team that also employs a frenetic, press defense, just with better athletes. 

The Midwest

— Another tournament trend? Make sure you have at least one team seeded 12th or worse heading to the Sweet 16. I have forced the issue there by choosing Arkansas-Little Rock and Iona to advance past the first round. Without Naz Long and with a banged-up Monte Morris, this Iowa State team is not as good as last year’s edition, which was ousted straight away as a No. 3 seed by UAB. And this Iona team is miles better than that UAB squad. A.J. English can dominate a game. Secondly, while Purdue is much larger than A-LR, the Trojans can create problem’s for Purdue’s lackluster backcourt and play the game at their sluggish pace. Arkansas Little-Rock is one of the very best mid-major programs in the country and should be the most popular 12-5 upset selection.

— Seton Hall may have been a surprise winner of the Big East Conference Tournament, but I feel pretty comfortable with them as a Sweet 16 choice. Isaiah Whitehead was a revelation at Madison Square Garden, and I think the Pirates are too physical and aggressive for either Gonzaga or Utah to handle.

— The Midwest Region is the weakest of the bunch, and it seems destined for two of the more complete teams, Virginia and Michigan State, to square off in the Elite 8. Of course, Virginia has been felled by Sparty in each of the past two years, and I am calling for the three-peat. You’ve got to give the edge to Tom Izzo, and Virginia isn’t very good at stopping Michigan State’s strength: making long-range jumpers. That doesn’t mean we won’t be treated to an exquisite showdown. Malcolm Brogdon versus Denzel Valentine? Yes, please.

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Final Four

— I really have no clue who is going to advance out of the West, but I’ll give it to Oklahoma based on their star power, quick-strike offense and underrated defense. However, they will fall to Kansas for the third time this season as the Jayhawks just don’t have many weaknesses. They are extremely versatile and capable at every position. They also have a ton of March experience.

— Kentucky’s backcourt should be able to solve Press Virginia, but Kansas will face Michigan State in the championship game as the Spartans are too deep for Big Blue and have too many good shooters on the wings for Kentucky to shut them down.

— With Kansas versus Michigan State, you know I’m splitting hairs. These two are widely regarded as the nation’s best teams currently. Many, many many people have them playing for the title in their brackets. I’m following suit because the Jayhawks and Spartans seem to have the fewest number of glaring flaws. Each has a wealth of upperclassman leadership and a championship-winning head coach. Yet, Michigan State does have a leg up in one area. When the game is on the line and when they need someone to take/make a shot, they can always turn to Valentine. Kansas has a collection of stellar players, but no one stands out. Valentine can take over a big game. He’ll do that in Houston.

So, there you go. In a season without an alpha team and with a record-setting number of top squads losing, I’m going with a No. 1, two No. 2s and a No. 4 seed to make it to final weekend. Plus, I have just one double-digit seed reaching the Sweet 16 and only five double-digit seeds winning anything at all.

Clearly, I did not pay attention to my own words about how crazy this season has been.

However, in a year that has been so improbable, where nothing has gone according to the script, wouldn’t it be so like the NCAA Tournament to actually follow it for once? That would be the real upset.

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