By: Nick Pooler
There comes a time when March fever kicks in. To me, that fever starts in October. College basketball is by far my favorite sport to watch and pay attention to. (Even though the Oakland Raiders are right there next to it). Every year I root for Louisville, my dream school that I was accepted to but figured I’d save my future money and stay close. This year I find myself hanging on the edge of my seat hoping that they get in as they sit nervously on the bubble with a big game against Virginia this afternoon.
One thing that I don’t do in college basketball is go with my heart. About 6 or 7 years ago, I found college basketball to be my true passion. I loved the madness and craziness of it. Not one dull thing about it. Starting last year, I figured I would go all in. Starting in October I started a google doc document. This document by the beginning of March had reached 79 pages long of notes for my bracket in hopes to get as perfect as possible. This strategy was time consuming, but definitely worked for the most part.
I started that bracket by getting 31 out of 32 games correct in the first round. I was head over heels and really thought this was my year. Then came the second round and everything was out the window. I then spent the next 3-4 weeks wondering what went wrong and why I picked the teams I did. At this point, it became a part of my everyday life. As the bracket is about to be announced this Sunday, and I prepare to attend the ACC championship game this Saturday night in Brooklyn, I would like to give out some helpful tips on filling out your bracket. You can listen to special analysts all you want, but I am going to give you the honest truth. All of my work is coming from countless hours of watching the most pointless games. For example, I was up until 1 AM last night watching the first round of the Mountain West conference tournament! Without further of due, here is some notes I have put together.
Teams that are heavily talked about but in my opinion are easily first round upsets: Tennessee, Florida State, Clemson, TCU, Texas A&M, Houston, St. Mary’s and Nevada. If you plan on picking any of these teams based on what you hear, my advice would be to change your mind as soon as possible. Tennessee and Clemson have been in the top 20 all year. All of the experts love these teams. In my opinion, I see them going anywhere from 3-5 seeds and no doubt being victims of an upset from a 12, 13 or 14 seed. As for TCU and Nevada, I have a lot of respect for these two teams. TCU won the NIT last year and had high hopes until their star guard went down for the year and that is when I changed my mind. Nevada I am on the edge with. I really enjoy watching them, but the conference they played in and the bad losses they took put me on edge. Lastly, I presume Florida State, St. Mary’s, Texas A&M and Houston are all going to be 8/9 seeds. If you seem them, my advice is don’t take them. If you do, make sure to not take them to upset the 1 seed in the next round either!
Now onto the teams that I think could go either way. I know this doesn’t really narrow it down much, but the way I categorize these teams in my notes is, “Teams that could easily be upset but with the right matchups can make a final four run”. Here are those teams, Virginia, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Kansas, Auburn, Gonzaga, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arizona and Villanova. Yes there are some top teams in there, but that is because you can not have a bracket where top teams don’t go down somewhere! When filling out your bracket, make sure to look deep into these teams and make sure they really can win that game based on matchups.
Cinderella teams come and go every year. Last year, South Carolina stunned everyone, as they made it to final four before losing to Gonzaga. This year who will you pick? Just some food for thought from the teams that have clinched an auto-bid so far: Murray State, Bucknell, Loyola-Chicago and South Dakota State are potential upset picks that have what it takes to make a run to the second weekend. Teams that should receive at large bids that may be anywhere from a 6-11 seed that could make runs include, St. Bonaventure, Baylor, Kansas State, UCLA, Louisville, Missouri and Wichita State. These teams could be dark horses to make runs, keep a close eye on them.
Lastly, the moment of truth. These are the teams that I think have a legit chance of winning this whole thing; Michigan State, North Carolina, Duke and Xavier are my front runners. But if I was to pick teams lower than a two seed to be a sleeper to reach the finals, I would look for Michigan, Florida or Purdue.
Now you can take my advice or you can never look at this again, as for every year, you never know what can happen in March. I wish all of the best to everyone reading this and their brackets this year, and I hope your special team makes that run in the big dance.