I'm just sitting here, sipping away on some Crown Royal - which I won for free at a raffle while supporting a very worthy cause, so it's win/win - and looking at my bracket picks and there are some really tough questions this year. So why not share what I'm agonizing over? Maybe it will give you some insight to pick a better bracket. Maybe somebody can sway me in the comments section. Or maybe I'll just come to a better conclusion by typing it all out. Maybe it will even be entertaining. Or not. Whatever, dude it's free so just read it.
And don't forget to join the DWG bracket pool at this link. Valuable prizes are there to be won.
The top half here is pretty straight forward if you ask me, particularly the 8/9 game between GMU and Nova, where Mason should kill the sliding Wildcats and Ohio State will have little trouble with anybody, including Kentucky. I think UK was ripe for a first round upset until they were matched against Princeton, who won't be able to remotely keep up with them. The Princeton offense is cute and can work in some instances, but Kentucky is too athletic and too fast. It wouldn't surprise me if the Tigers keep in close for a half, but Kentucky wins hands down.
The bottom half, however, is a mess for me because both second round games are tough. Syracuse has been both good and bad this year, however what they've had the most trouble with is teams with good, penetrating guards - which exactly what Xavier bases its offense on, particularly Tu Holloway. On the other hand, Xavier hasn't beaten anybody out of conference play - look at their schedule, they've missed on every chance to get a good win. But on the third hand, they did dominate the A-10, for whatever that's worth.
The other game, UNC vs. Washington, is going to be an absolute circus ball barnburner. Washington is a much better team than they're 7 seed, but unfortunately when circus ball goes bad it goes bad in a hurry. Carolina on the other hand snagged a two thanks to a late run through the ACC, but looked pretty bad in their ACC Tournament games. Is Harrison Barnes about to make the leap on the biggest stage or can Justin Holiday shut him down? Can Kendall Marshall run with Captain Circus Ball (Isaiah Thomas)? Is Terrence Ross's emergence in the Pac-10 Tournament a real thing or a fluky blip through a mediocre season? Does Washington have enough skilled bigs to slow down an emerging Tyler Zeller and rebounding machine John Henson? And can either of them stop Matthew Bryan-Amaning?
That's the game where I'm having the biggest issue, because whoever wins that is my elite 8 team opposite Ohio State. Putting a seven seed there might be a recipe for disaster, but like I said I don't think Washington is talented like a 7, more like a 3 or 4. In a wide open tournament they could make a big run. In any case, that section of the bracket is without question the most talented and hardest to pick.
One of the toughest first round games here for me in Oakland vs. Texas. I was convinced I was going to pick Oakland in their first round match up, because their entire season looks like a run-up to a first round upset: tough non-conference schedule with a bunch of misses, easy run through the conference, an NBA player and another dynamic scorer. And then they got Texas. Texas, who on talent should not be a 4, but more like a 3 or even a 2. Texas, who is equally capable of flaming out and could easily lose not just to Oakland but could even lose to a 16 seed. I just don't know. If Texas does get passed Oakland, however, they'll beat both Arizona and Duke. Book it.
The bottom of the bracket is pretty straight forward other than the Cincy/Mizzou game but who really cares because neither will get through UCONN. Until the sweet 16 matchup between UCONN and San Diego State, that's about as tough as it gets. I don't know if I believe in UCONN, despite that run through the Big East Tournament. Hard to pick against them, though, even if I'm a big SDSU guy. Either way the winner of that game is your final four team, whether they end up having to beat Duke or Texas.
This is without a doubt the biggest mess of a region, at least for me, because other than Pitt winning this entire region, a lock, I've changed the outcome of basically every other game ten times. For some reason I'm having trouble picking Belmont over Wisconsin even though my entire plan was to pick Belmont over anybody because they play so similarly. I also want to pick Utah State over K-State because I think that's a perfect matchup for USU - an undisciplined, mediocrely coached team prone to underachieving - but they haven't beaten anybody this year and I can't stop thinking about how last year's team could keep up with Texas A&M athletically, and this year's team is probably less athletic while K-State is way beyond last year's A&M.
At the bottom here it's stunning that Florida is a two seed, and they could run all the way to the elite 8 or they could get dropped in the first round if their guards aren't shooting well. St. Johns might be the toughest team but just lost leading rebounder and third leading scorer DJ Kennedy to a knee injury. Everybody knows about Jimmer and BYU, but what can you expect from a team who just booted their best interior player for getting some stank on his hang down? Then there's Michigan State who has struggled all year but hell it's Michigan State. This year's version actually looks worse than ever, but I'm pretty sure we said that last year. And maybe the year before. I just don't know.
This whole region is a complete mess for me right now. The only thing I'm remotely sure of is that Pitt is winning it. Other than that, anything else could happen. Hell I could see Gonzaga getting to the elite 8. And, just to throw a little more confusion your way, Old Dominion is absolutely the worst possible second round matchup for Pitt, and as sure as I sound about Pitt winning it wouldn't remotely surprise me if ODU wins. Crazy year.
This is the region I'm most confident in. Kansas is a very good team that's also very vulnerable, but fortunately for them they don't face a team that can beat them until Notre Dame in the elite 8. Louisville is a good team that will get to sweet 16 and I wanted to pick them to beat the Jayhawks, but they just aren't a good enough team to do it. I like their guards but neither Knowles or Siva is the type to dominate a game and I don't think they have the interior guys to handle the Morrisisis's, so KU moves on.
In the bottom half the toughest game to pick is Georgetown vs. Purdue. The Hoyas were looking very Final Four sleeperish but faded hard once Chris Wright went out with a broken hand. He's supposed to be back for the tournament (and it's his non-shooting hand) but who knows how it will affect him? The game is in Chicago as well, which settled the coin flip for me and convinced me to push Purdue through to the Sweet 16. Not that it really matters, because either team loses to Notre Dame. Both the Irish and the Jayhawks could have been vulnerable to the right (wrong?) team, but both caught a break and are on a collision course to the Elite 8. That will be a great game, and I see the Notre Dame pulling it out because Kansas has to choke somewhere.
I feel better now. I know what I'm going to do. Go ahead and prove you're smarter than me. And forward the link on to as many people as you want. I'm still going to win. And then I get to keep all the prizes.