Here Comes the Madness!
Every year on about the second Sunday of March a group of men lock themselves away in a hotel in Kansas City, Missouri and put together a list that is analyzed, debated, and generally mulled over for the next month. When they come out of that room, the NCAA Field of 68 Teams is announced.
I’ll be honest, I grew up in Northern Indiana where basketball is king and for my money, the NCAA Tournament is the single greatest sporting event every year. As soon as the brackets are announced I start to pour over them to determine who is going to win each game and eventually be crowned 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Champion.
Now the honest disclaimer, try as I may, I’m really not very good at this. I do my research, look at the teams but more often than not wind up letting my heart guide me in my choices. I will fill out probably 4 online brackets this year (for entertainment and prize purposes only) and I will be lucky if I finish in the top 50% in any of them.
Still as Teyve said in “Fiddler on the Roof” the important thing is “Tradition” so here we go!
I’ll start in the East Region because it is the one that had some of the big news lately. The #1 seed here is Syracuse but they have suffered a huge blow this week when their star center Fab Melo was declared academically ineligible. In my mind, this will push them out of serious contention for a bid to the Final Four.
That honor now falls to the #2 seed Ohio State who I do expect to make it to the Final Four this year. Every year there are a few ‘sleeper’ teams that rise above their seedings to make at least a brief run in the tournament and I expect this to happen in the East with the #12 Seed Harvard. Here is where that gut feeling comes in but I just see them making it into the Sweet Sixteen before being being denied a berth in the Elite Eight by Kansas State who I have eventually losing to Ohio State.
In the Midwest Region, the #1 Seed is North Carolina and it is hard to argue with them making a deep run in the tournament.
This is also the Region with the most Michigan flavor with #4 Seed Michigan and #15 Seed Detroit. My first thoughts were that it was going to be a short tournament for both teams as I had them losing first round games. I still don’t see Detroit, even with the talented Ray McCallum upsetting Kansas but after watching my Akron Zips lose to Northwestern last night (Akron narrowly lost to Michigan opponent Ohio in the MAC Conference Finals) I can’t see Ohio pulling the upset either.
I do have Michigan making it to the Sweet 16 along with North Carolina, North Carolina State and Kansas. Ultimately though, I think it is Kansas that makes it into the Final Four
The South Region is headlined by Kentucky at the #1 Seed and Duke as the #2 Seed. I don’t see any real upsets in this region at all. I do have #10 Xavier picked over #7 Notre Dame but that is really only a mild upset at best.
One match-up that I think will be of particular interest is #4 Indiana taking on #1 Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Not only will it be a good game but always has a lot of interest in the Midwest. It is a shame that this game comes in the Round of 16 and not a little later in the tournament. Even more of a shame is that I don’t think the Hoosiers have enough to make it past Kentucky.
In the end I have this region coming down to a match-up of #1 Kentucky versus #2 Duke. Kentucky has a strong team this year but I see this coming down to coaching with Coach Krzyzewski beating John Calipari and taking the Blue Devils into the Final Four.
Finally we come to the West Region where we have #1 Michigan State, #2 Missouri as well as a strong #3 Marquette and #4 Louisville. All in all this is not one of the easier Regions.
I see another one of the Sweet 16 surprises coming from the West although at a #6 Seed, Murray State is hardly sneaking up on anyone. I have the Racers taking out #11 Colorado State, Marquette, and Missouri before finally falling to Michigan State in the Elite 8 game. I like the Missouri squad but with it being their last year in the Big 12 Conference, something just tells me that a Final Four run is not going to be in the cards for them.
In the end, I have the following National Semi-Final Games Duke against Michigan State and Ohio State against Kansas.
For the first game, I am going entirely with my heart. Since moving to Michigan, I have ‘adopted’ the Spartans (although Tom Izzo still won’t invite me to dinner). Couple that with the fact that I really can’t stand Duke who I see as the New York Yankees of college basketball and you have me picking Michigan State.
The second Semi-Final game I’m going with a bit more from what I have seen. Ohio State again has a great team this year but after having seen Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin beat them in the last few weeks of the season, I just don’t think they have enough to beat the Jayhawks.
Now it all comes down to one game, Michigan State taking on Kansas for the National Championship. Tom Izzo has been there and he has an excellent team this year. Couple that with the fact that the last time Michigan State one the Big Ten Tournament (as they did this year) they went on to take the National Championship.
So, after all of the rounds, I am taking Michigan State 73 Kansas 67 in the National Title Game.
There it is folks, now it is time to engage in one of the other favorite pastimes . . . . picking apart peoples brackets so pick away!
My entire bracket can be found at http://tinyurl.com/764f9ct