Before I start breaking down this year’s NCAA Tournament bracket, I just want to be clear that I don’t count the “first four” (aka play-in games) as the first round.  These games shouldn’t even exist.  64 teams was perfect and the NCAA trying to squeeze every nickel and dime out of the tournament that they can really bothers me.  If every team isn’t playing, it’s not the beginning of the tournament.  I have no idea why ESPN calls it the first round, because it isn’t.  They’re play-in games and they’ll always be play-in games.  Just wanted to get that out there so when you hear the analysts on TV talking about the 2nd round (1st round), 3rd round (2nd round) and so on there isn’t any confusion.

South

I hope the selection committee took Kentucky out to dinner and brought some condoms because this side of the bracket is absolutely STACKED.  The #1 overall seed is supposed to be rewarded, not f*cked.  There are 6 teams that have a legitimate shot at reaching the Final Four from the South and no 1 seed (or 2, or 3 for that matter) have a more difficult potential 2nd round matchup.  UConn has gotten hot at the right time and Iowa State is a tough 8 seed.  While I fully expect the Kentucky Wildcats to make it to New Orleans, I could easily see UConn, Indiana, UNLV, Baylor or Duke getting through if that 2nd round matchup sends the 1 seed home early.  There’s no doubt this year’s South region is the NCAA Tournament equivalent of the “group of death” in the World Cup.

My picks by round:

1st Round: Kentucky, UConn, Wichita St, Indiana, UNLV, Baylor, Xavier, Duke.

2nd Round: Kentucky, Indiana, UNLV, Duke

Sweet 16: Kentucky, Duke

Regional Championship: Kentucky

West

Easily the weakest side of the bracket, there are only 4 teams that really stand a chance of getting to the Final Four.  Missouri is the favorite (how MSU get’s a 1 seed with 3 more losses is just absurd in my opinion) but I also like Florida, Louisville and Sparty’s chances, based on their fortunate seeding.  I expect Iona to beat BYU in the play-in game which gives Marquette a very tough 1st round matchup.  If there’s a high seed in trouble of not getting out of the first round, it’s Marquette.  While I like Florida, they live by the 3 and die by the 3 and Virginia is no cupcake 1st round matchup.  When all is said and done I see this region having the most upsets before we get to New Orleans.

My picks by round:

1st Round: MSU, Memphis, New Mexico, Louisville, Colorado State, Iona, Florida, Missouri

2nd Round: Memphis, Louisville, Iona, Missouri

Sweet 16: Louisville, Missouri

Regional Championship: Missouri

East

If I had to pick a region where a 3 seed or higher makes it to New Orleans it would have to be the East.  There are 5 strong teams in the East that can make some noise if things go their way.  I give the edge to THE Ohio State University but only because Vanderbilt provides a very tough matchup for Syracuse in the Sweet 16.  Those 3 teams along with Wisconsin and Florida State could make it out of the East.

My picks by round:

1st Round: Cuse, Southern Miss, Vandy, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida State, WVU, OSU

2nd Round: Cuse, Vandy, Florida State, OSU

Sweet 16: Vandy, OSU

Regional Championship: Vandy

Midwest

No #1 seed has an easier road to New Orleans than the pre-season favorite North Carolina Tarheels.  UNC won’t see real competition until the Regional Championship.  Michigan looked like an 8th grade girls CYO team VS Ohio State on Saturday.  The only teams that stand a chance of taking out the #1 seed are Georgetown and Kansas who (should) meet in the Sweet 16.  I’ll be shocked if UNC doesn’t make it to New Orleans.

My picks by round:

1st Round: UNC, Alabama, Temple, Michigan, NC State, GTown, Purdue, Kansas

2nd Round: UNC, Temple, Georgetown, Kansas

Sweet 16: UNC, Georgetown

Regional Championship: UNC

10 Most Dangerous Teams in the Tournament

10. Vanderbilt

9. Florida State

8. Louisville

7. Kansas

6. Michigan State

5. Syracuse

4. Missouri

3. Ohio State

2. UNC

1. Kentucky

The hottest teams going into the NCAA Tournament are without a doubt Vanderbilt and Florida State.  Vanderbilt beat a full-strength Kentucky while the Seminoles knocked off a John Henson-less UNC after ousting Duke by a combined 6 points to take home their first ever ACC tournament title.  FSU is athletic enough to get to the Final Four but raw enough to lose in the 2nd round as well.  Only time will tell.  Louisville would have been a juggernaut this year if it wasn’t for injuries.  They’re still a very good team.  Digger Phelps loves the Jayhawks

and Michigan State, but there are 5 teams that I feel are better poised to make a run.  While Cuse has struggled lately, they’re still the deepest team in NCAA basketball.  Missouri plays at a furious pace while Ohio State will be in every game as long as Jared Sullinger stays out of foul trouble.  A UNC/Kentucky final will bring in huge ratings as the top 2 teams in the nation face off in an instant classic.

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