SohowmanyNCAAbasketballgamesdidyouwatchthisyear?

Two,three?

Onewithacoupleofcollegefriendsatasportsbarget-together?

Andnowit’stournamenttime,andyou’rescramblingtofindoutwhichteamstopickinyourtechnicallyillegalofficeNCAAtournamentpool。

I’mheretohelp,withsomeadviceandpointers,brokendownby?

region。

Ofcourse,thegreatallureoftheNCAAtournament,beyondthesheerzaninessandthelast-secondshotsandtheleapingandtherawelationofthewinners,istheunpredictabilityofitall。

WhilethereisamethodtotheMadness,it’simportanttorememberthatnothingabouttheBigDanceisasurething。

Andnooneshouldwantitanyother?

way。

Now,everyyear,thereisonepersoninthebracketpool?

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usuallysomeonealotlikeme?

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whohaswatchedsomuchcollegebasketballthatheorsheseesflawsineventhebestteamsandpotentialinallofthemediocreones。

Thiscanleadtoover-pickingagainstthetopseedstooearly,basicallybecauseyou’resuchanexpertthatthelawsofrealitydon’tapplyforsomereason。

Yes,lastseason’sFinalFourwasremarkableinpartforitslower-seededparticipants。

Butitwasremarkablepreciselybecauseitsorarelyhappensthatway。

Thereasonteamsviesohardforhighseedsisbecauseyourchancesofadvancinggoupdramaticallythehigheryourseed。

Sure,youstillhavetoshowupandplaywell,butthehigheryourseed,themorelikelyyouropponentisovermatchedandthesettingforyourgameisfriendly。

Specificmatch-upsdofactorheavily,ofcourse。

Butattheendoftheday,thepowerhousesarepowerhousesfora?

reason。

SOUTH

Thisseason,thetopthreeteams,whilebynomeansflawless,appeartobeacutabovethenexttierofteams。

Theoveralltopseed,Kentucky,isveryunlikelytoloseitsfirstthreegames。

Yes,itcouldhappen。

Butit’snotsomethingthatgetsyourbracketanywherebecauseitwouldbearealshocktoeveryone。

SolongasfreshmanAnthonyDavisdoesn’tbreakhislegordriveacarintoacrowdofpeoplebetweennowandFinalFourweekendinNewOrleans,Kentuckyisextrainoculatedagainsttheupsetbugbyhavingthenation’smostdisruptive,possiblybestandcertainmostunibrowedplayer。

TheSouthRegion,Kentucky’sregion,isfullofbig-nameteamswithfatalflaws。

Fourth-seededIndianadoesn’tplaywellontheroad,No。

2seedDukeshootswaytoomanythreestowinconsistentlyandNo。

3Baylorhasshownalackoftoughnessinbiggamesdespiteowningastableofthoroughbredplayers。

ThebiggestworryforUKfansisactuallymorelikelytobeNo。

9seedConnecticut,whocouldbewaitinginathird-roundgame。

UCONNhasthetalentandsizetohangwiththeWildcats,nottomentiondefendingnationalchampioncoachJimCalhoun,whohasreturnedafterhavingbacksurgery。

TheHuskieshaveteamchemistryissues,however,andhavelookedmostlypedestrianoverthepasttwomonths。

OtherteamstowatchforintheSouthareUNLV,whobeatNorthCarolinaearlyintheseason,andthewinnerofasecond-roundmid-majorclashbetweenWichitaStateandVirginiaCommonwealth,bothofwhomplaystrongteamdefenseandhavego-toscorers。

Interestingly,threeoflastseason’sFinalFourteams?

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Kentucky,UCONNandVCU?

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areintheSouth?

Region。

AsearchforpotentialspoilersleadsyoutounderachievingXavier,whowasoncerankedinthenation’stop15butwhosqueakedintothefield。

TheMusketeershaveaqualitybigmanandsuperiorbackcourtplay,whenallcylindersarefiring。

NotreDamehasoverachievedallseasonanditscoachhasapoorhistoryintheNCAAtournament。

Xavier’spotentialsecondopponentwouldbeDuke,whohashadagoodseasonbutwhohasflirtedwithdisastermanytimes。

DependingonwhichXaviersquadshowsup,afewwinsarenotoutofthequestion。

EAST

TheEastRegionfeaturesaslewofteamswhoplayploddingbuteffectivebasketball。

Whetheranyofthemcanbeeffectiveenoughtobeattop-seededSyracuseisanothermatter。

Syracusehasdominantdepth,experienceandaHallofFamecoachinJimBoeheim,nottomentionatricky2–3zonethatgivesteamsfits。

There’sreasontowonderwhethertheOrangehavebeentestedoutsideaBigEastconferenceofquestionabledepth,butit’sinarguablethat‘Cusewon31ofthe33gamesithasplayed。

Vanderbilt,theregion’sfiveseed,isaninterestingpotentialSweet16matchupwithSyracuse。

TheCommodoreswereapreseasontop10pickbutstruggledtofindtheirstride。

Vandyappearstobehittingitattherighttime,though,winningtheSECtournamenttitleoverKentucky,andithastheshooterstogivetheSyracusezonetroubleaswellaslegitsizeinthepaint。

VanderbiltwillfirsthavetogetpastIvyLeaguechampHarvardandthenlikelyWisconsin,assumingtheBadgersaren’tpickedoffbyupset-mindedMontana。

ThebottomhalfoftheregioncouldseesometurmoilifSt。

BonaventurecontinuestogetAll-AmericanplayoutofcenterAndrewNicholson。

NeitherFloridaState,theBonnies’opening-roundopponent,norpotentialsecondopponentCincinnatihavemuchtoofferonoffense,andteamswhostruggletoscorecanbevulnerabletolosingbecauselowerseedscanbewonderfullyadeptatkeepinggamescloseintothefinalminuteswhenanythingcan,andoftendoes,happen。

Thatsaid,bothFSUandCincinnatiareplayingwell。

TheSeminoleswontheACCtournament,beatingDukeandNorthCarolinaonback-to-backdays,andCincinnatimadeittothefinalsoftheBigEasttournamentforthefirst?

time。

TheNo。

2seedintheEast,OhioState,isflyingabitundertheradar。

TheBuckeyesareateamwithallthetoolstomakearunatanationaltitle,includingastarthatcantakeovergamesinsophomoreJaredSullinger。

Ifyou’relookingforateamthatcouldpotentiallyreplaceSyracuseinNewOrleans,itmaybeOhio?

State。

WEST

Afterlosingitsfirsttwogames?

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toNorthCarolinaandDuke,noless?

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lotsoffanswroteoffMichiganState,theBigTenchampionandthefourthNo。

1seed。

ButtheSpartanshaveemergedfromthattoughstartacohesiveanddangerousteam,ledbyAll-AmericanDraymondGreen。

MichiganStateisastrongdefensiveunitthatplayseachpossessionlikeitsentireexistencedependsonit。

TheSpartansfaceapotentiallyintriguingsecondgamefoeinMemphis,theeightseed,whounderachievedearlythisseasonbuthasNBAtalentandhasbeenplayingwelloflate。

TheTigersalsoseemmiffedattheirseed,anintangiblefactorthatcanleadtoextraeffort。

Thatdoesn’tmeanMemphiswillbeattheSpartans?

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itmaynotevenbeatopening-roundfoeSaintLouis?

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butitdoessetupadicierdrawfortheNo。

1-seededSpartans。

EveryonekeepswaitingforNo。

2seedMissouritocomebacktoearth,buttheTigersseemtoenjoykeepingeveryonewaiting。

MizzouwontheBig12conferencetournamenttitleanditsunconventionalguard-orientedlineupisstillworking。

TheTigers’drawisfavorableearlyinthatnoneoftheteamslikelytoadvancearephysicalpowerfront-lineteamsthathavegiventheTigerstroublethisyear。

AgoodsleeperpickcouldbeMarquette,whichboastsapairofseniorleadersandateamofoverachievers。

TheGoldenWarriorsalsohaveaprettyfavorabledraw,withaplay-inwinnerfirstandtheneitherMurrayState,anover-seededmid-majorteamthatlackssize,orColoradoState,whobeatsomedecentconferenceteamsbutnobodyelseofnote。

ASweet16match-upwithMizzouwouldbeafascinatingcontrastof?

styles。

MIDWEST

Atthebeginningoftheseason,MidwestRegionNo。

1seedNorthCarolinawastheconsensuspicktowinthenationaltitle。

Allthesemonthslater,itmaybeKentuckygettingthebuzzbutnoonewouldbetheleastsurprisediftheTarHeelsmanagedtoproveeveryonerightintheend。

UNCisloadedwithtalent,wellcoachedandhasbeeninplentyofbiggamesbefore。

IthaslegitstarsinHarrisonBarnesandTylerZeller,maybethenation’sbestpasserinKendallMarshallandadefensivegame-changerinJohnHenson。

TheonlyrealissueswithUNCareHenson’shealth?

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hemissedthefinaltwogamesoftheACCtournamentwithasprainedwrist?

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andalackofattentiontodetail。

It’snotthatUNCdoesn’tplayhard。

Theyjustappeartoplayloosewithpossessionattimes,throwingtheballawayorallowingopenthree-pointers。

Inreality,UNConlylosttofourteamsallyear,thelowestofwhich,UNLV,willbeasixseedinthistournament。

Barringamajorsurprise,UNCwillbeplayingforachancetogototheFinalFourinafew?

weeks。

MissouriValleyConferencetournamentwinnerCreightoncanscorewiththeHeelsbutlikelycan’tstopthemenough。

Alabamacanperhapsstopthembutlikelycan’tscoreenough。

TempleandMichiganbothplaystingydefenseandhavesomeshooters,butitwouldn’tappeareitherhasenoughinthetanktogotoe-to-toewithCarolinafor40minutes。

Intheend,itwillbeasurpriseiftheteamUNCwillhavetobearinordertoreachNewOrleansisanyoneotherthanNo。

2seedKansas。

TheJayhawkswouldbeplayingthatgameclosetohome,inSt。

Louis,andcurrentUNCcoachRoyWilliamsmadehisnameastheheadcoachatKansasforoveradecade。

KUdoesn’thavethedepthorthescoringabilityoftheTarHeels,butitdoeshaveThomasRobinson,anAll-AmericanforwardandnationalPlayeroftheYearcandidate。

Intheend,it’salwaystoughtopickagainsttheteamsthathavebeenthebestallseasonlong。

It’swhymostfolksinyourofficepoolwillhaveKentucky,Syracuse,MichiganStateandNorthCarolinapenciledinthroughtotheFinalFour。

ButdolookcarefullyatOhioState,Kansas,MissouriandMarquette,too。

WhiletheNo。

1seedsarebydesignexpectedtocontinueadvancinginthetournament,onlytwice,in2008and1993once,in2008,haveallfourtopseedsmadeittothetournament’sfinal?

weekend。

OriginallyfromKentucky,JoshuaLarsWeillnowwritesfromWashington,DC。

HistakeonthingscanbefoundatAgonicaandonTwitter。

PhotobyBrilesTakesPictures…,via?