Alright. You have sured up your “safe picks,” but you know the difference makers will be your “Cinderella picks.” It’s a nerve-racking time of the month, and there’s plenty at stake here. There’s office bragging rights on the line where the pool winner gets that envied paper crown (Perhaps, that’s only me). There’s “Barbara” in HR, whose alma mater is Creighton, and she’s super die hard. She’s also the only person you have ever known that’s attended Creighton. So you must beat her so she can quit her yapping, and you can give her that smug look like, “Your biased, inept basketball knowledge was your undoing (Perhaps, only me again).”
Resident Sports Analyst, Pete Stine gives his preliminary observation of the NCAA Tournament field and will help you attain office pool glory. Down with Creighton!
This is easily the most intriguing region. As much as I like Iowa State, I think they get bounced without a win. NC Central can go! Jeremy Ingram scores with the best of them. I’m not sure it really matters, though. The bottom of this region has UNC versus UConn written all over it. As long as UConn can keep the Tarheel big men in check, I think they could survive and advance. But, I don’t see it happening. UNC meets Michigan State for a chance to head to the Final Four. The longer the Spartans play, the better they will get. Finally healthy, I think they keep Coach Izzo’s streak alive of never having a 4-year player not make a Final Four. Pretty awesome record. Pretty good coach.
Congratulations, Wichita State! In recognition of your undefeated season, you get Kentucky in the second round! And also have Louisville. And Duke. And Michigan in your region. But, I am not backing off the Shockers. An experienced backcourt, and a future pro in Cleanthony Early should be enough to get Wichita back to the Final Four.
Florida is the overall #1 seed, and deservedly so. If Kansas had a healthy Joel Embiid, this may be a different story. But Florida is so deep and experienced, I think they have no issue getting back to the Final Four. Watch out for New Mexico, though. They have really good guards, and big man Cameron Bairstow is as consistent as they come. But the Gators should make it through.
My favorite matchup of the second round will be Nick Johnson and Marcus Smart. Arizona was clearly the committee’s #2 overall team. However, OK State is a really tough team. I think the Cowboys can get by Arizona. And everyone else in this region. Oklahoma State is my choice to represent this region in the Final Four.
I really want to say Wichita State will win it all. I really do. But, Florida’s bench players would start for most teams. They are big. They are tough. And they will once again celebrate a National title, punching Billy Donovan’s ticket to the Hall of Fame.