Can this just be a national holiday already? Everybody fills out a bracket and nobody pays attention to their work. It's just science. My junior-high friends had to coordinate bathroom breaks to watch from a high-tech, for its time, portable TV with a rope antenna inside a locker because that's where we found the best reception. How much better could it be now that our iPhones have live TV? So let's just quit already with this whole charade of responsibility or principles and embrace the Madness!
We've all grown with the dream of a perfect first round. There's different rules and trends to respect. A 12 always finds a way to beat a 5 seed. 1 seeds and 2 seeds typically get a free pass. Trust veteran coaches. Analyze whose mascot would win in a fight. When in doubt, go with the prettiest uniforms.
This is the season, though, to be wary of the conventional rules. The defending champs, the Kentucky Wildcats, didn't even make the tournament. 14 teams made an appearance in the Top 5, with only two from the preseason ending the season in the same tier, Louisville and Indiana.
This chaos was most evident with the number 1 ranked teams. Starting with Indiana's dramatic 2 point loss in overtime at Butler, the top ranked team lost 5 straight weeks. Number 1 Duke lost to NC State in Raleigh 84-76. Then, Louisville fell at home in a battle with Syracuse, 70-68. Next, Duke blew its second chance at number 1 by getting blown out 90-63 at Miami. Finally, the coaches and AP attempted to hedge their bets, but failed when both the Coaches #1, Kansas, dropped an unexpected home game to Oklahoma St (85-80) and the AP #1 Michigan lost a highly anticipated road game at Indiana (81-73) on the same day. Now number 1 is freaking Gonzaga! Yes, that Gonzaga - the perennial Cinderella, small Jesuit university in the West Coast Conference.
If a 1 seed does not lose to a 16 seed this year, it is never going to happen. This embodies the annoying essence of the first round. No matter how surprising the result, it's never truly unexpected. That being said, all these picks are scientifically proven and 100% guaranteed to be right in every detail, and if not, no there are no refunds on this post.
The First Four
AKA the games we are supposed to pretend are the first round. We don't care about these games in the same way we don't care about the bread when we are awaiting our filet and lobster dinner. It pales in comparison to the main course, but its a satisfying way to whet your appetite.
Tuesday 5:40CT (16) North Carolina A&T OVER (16) Liberty
Liberty has 20 losses, and finished the regular season 3rd to last in the Big South. Also, for a school called Liberty, you cannot kiss in public or recline in an intimate manner (really, no lie). North Carolina A&T emerged from the MEAC, the conference which featured the upset-minded Norfolk State last year who destroyed brackets by knocking off 2 seed, Missouri. More importantly, Nick Cannon's entire career is owed to this school, who was the inspiration for Drumline. Good enough for me.
Tuesday 8:10CT (11) Middle Tennessee OVER (11) St. Mary's
St. Mary's got into the tournament with their out of conference loss to Georgia Tech and three losses to Gonzaga, and no good wins to speak of. They have an exciting guard named Dellavedova, even if he does look like Dax Shepard in Idiocracy. Middle Tennessee can counter, however, with a deep rotation that can throw several defenders at the talented point guard. Middle Tennessee went 11-3 away from home and should continue the trend in Michigan on Tuesday.
Wednesday 5:40CT (16) James Madison OVER (16) LIU Brooklyn
James Madison was the "Father of the Constitution," and Brooklyn is a town full of hipsters designing their own version of Disney Dollars. Look, if you thought I'd research every possible 16 seed, thanks for overestimating my work ethic!
Wednesday 8:10CT (13) Boise State OVER (13) LaSalle
Boise State's aggregate luck in all sports must have run out for years after the Fiesta Bowl win. Luckily, they won't need it this time. LaSalle had their moments in wins over Butler and VCU, but now key post player, Steve Zack, is hampering an injury that will limit his impact. Boise is tested, with close losses to MSU (74-70) and New Mexico (79-74 OT) and a win over 11th ranked Creighton (83-70). Plus, I hear they are playing on a blue court.
First Round - Midwest Region (Indianapolis, IN)
Thursday, March 21
5:50CT (1) Louisville OVER (16) North Carolina A&T
Yea, a 16 seed is still never going to happen.
8:20CT (9) Missouri OVER (8) Colorado State
Colorado State will dominate the boards in this game and try to slow down the game. Missouri will run, and run faster. Plus, they are going to be driven by the humiliation of last year's early departure. I expect this to be one of the wild ones with the Tigers barely prevailing.
3:40CT (12) Oregon OVER (5) Oklahoma State
There's always that one team that rides the momentum of their conference tournament into a couple unprecedented NCAA tournament wins (see Washington, 2011). There's also that team that overachieves in its regular season thanks to a talented freshman that fizzles out (see Texas, 2007). Oklahoma State's freshman PG, Marcus Smart, is the best freshman in the land and best player in this game. Oregon, though, finished one game back in the regular season of UCLA AND beat them in the Pac-12 tournament, yet finished 6 seeds behind the Bruins. They have a chip on their shoulder and can absolutely run up and down the court to outscore the Cowboys.
1:10CT (4) St. Louis OVER (13) New Mexico State
I love Saint Louis in this tournament for many reasons that will explained later. For now, the only reason I need is that a Billiken is a good luck charm ornament that looks like Weekly World News' Batboy. And according to legend, Batboy always kicked ass.
1:45CT (11) Middle Tennessee State OVER (6) Memphis
The Tigers tend to deceive because we all remember when Derrick Rose played and John Calipari could buy his recruits cars. They lost every game that mattered at all this year: against VCU, Minnesota, Louisville and Xavier. Middle Tennessee should continue its groove from Tuesday that sneaks it past Memphis.
6:15CT (3) Michigan State OVER (14) Valparaiso
This is one of those MSU teams that you forget about until Tom Izzo suddenly has them in the national championship. They have a great point guard, intimidating big men, and the gritty persona Izzo thrives on.
Friday, March 22
11:15CT (2) Duke OVER (15) Albany
They couldn't possibly lose as a two seed two years in a row, right? RIGHT?!
2:45CT (7) Creighton OVER (10) Cincinnati
Since a promising start, Cincinnati has fallen off considerably. Their rebounding is solid, but their offense is too inept to outscore the sharpshooting Bluejays.
First Round - West Region (Los Angeles, CA)
3:10CT (1) Gonzaga OVER (16) Southern University
Gonzaga is overrated, but see Louisville, above.
1:40CT (9) Pittsburgh OVER (8) Wichita State
Pitt is a perplexing team. They are ranked the 7th best team in Ken Pomeroy's overall advanced statistics, but continue to underachieve in big games. Their poor free throw shooting is their Achilles' heel in close games, but this one should be handled pretty easily. Wichita State's only quality win was a by-their-teeth 3 point win over Creighton at home. Pitt should hold them to approximately 20 points.
8:50CT (3) New Mexico OVER Harvard
Sadly, the Winklevoss twins stuck with rowing.
Friday, March 22
11:40amCT (5) Wisconsin OVER (12) Ole Miss
It's fun to pick against Wisconsin. They are a bunch of dorky white guys that seem to never smile for even a moment. Against all preconceived notions about basketball, though, they manage to overachieve every game. Ole Miss looked to be having fun against Florida, but Bo Ryan eats fun for breakfast.
2:10CT (4) Kansas State OVER (13) Boise State
Kansas State should breeze by Boise State with a nice little boost from the hometown fans in Kansas City.
6:20CT (11) Belmont OVER (6) Arizona
Belmont has key experience against other quality teams, VCU and Kansas, mixed with really good shooting. Arizona ended its season with a 5-5 record in its last 10 games, losing to Colorado, UCLA, Cal and USC. Despite the skid, Arizona has held onto its high prestige, but it will quickly prove to be unworthy.
8:45CT (7) Notre Dame OVER (10) Iowa State
2 OT losses is the closest proof we have to Iowa State being even a semblance of mediocre. Notre Dame is going to be riding their new pope swag into the second round.
6:15CT (2) Ohio State OVER (15) Iona
50% of college fans think Iona is actually Iowa. Ohio State just won the Big Ten tourney, for the best conference in the nation. That's all you need to know about this one.
First Round - South Region (North Texas)
Friday, March 22
8:50CT (1) Kansas OVER (16) Western Kentucky
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have the worst name ever. Champions climb to the top of mountains, not hills.
6:20CT (8) North Carolina OVER (9) Villanova
Villanova has some impressive wins, beating Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown. They also have some really bad losses, falling to Alabama, Providence and Seton Hall. The only difference is which locker room they dress in. Villanova leaving Philadelphia is like Superman leaving the Earth's golden sun. Roy Williams books a date with his former team.
6:27CT (3) Florida OVER (13) Northwestern State
I can't believe Northwestern State is in the tournament, and THE Northwestern has never made it. Does that seem fair to you? Florida will punish them for their indolence.
8:57CT (6) UCLA OVER (11) Minnesota
Shabazz Muhammad looks like he can't wait to leave for the pros. Jordan Adams just broke his foot. Oregon shocked them for the Pac-12 title. But in the end, its Ben Howland versus Tubby Smith. Howland will avoid UCLA the embarrassment of a first round exit.
8:20CT (7) San Diego State OVER (10) Oklahoma
Basically, I don't think the Big 12 is good. When out of conference, Oklahoma lost to Gonzaga (sure), Arkansas (really?), and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (Fire Bob Stoops!). San Diego State is no spring chicken either. This one will be gross, but SDSU pulls it out.
5:50CT (2) Georgetown OVER (15) Florida Gulf Coast
If you haven't seen Otto Porter play yet this year, you're in for a sweet surprise.
Thursday, March 21
8:45CT (5) Virginia Commonwealth OVER (12) Akron
Shaka Smart has once again molded a defense that terrorizes dreams. This season, VCU has the best turnover percentage since 2004 and the best steal percentage since 2000, posting staggering numbers in both categories. Akron has to watch Lebron continue a historic winning streak after he left their town. God hates Ohio.
6:15CT (4) Michigan OVER (13) South Dakota State
Trey Burke is one of the top 5 players in this tournament and Tim Hardaway Jr. will show up for tournament time. Michigan has struggled somewhat, but with the Big 10, not a team the likes of South Dakota State, who lost to middling Minnesota by 26 points.
First Round - East Region (Washington, D.C.)
Friday, March 22
3:10 CT (1) Indiana OVER (16) James Madison
Cody Zeller is going to have serious little brother complex during this tournament. His older brother, Tyler, won the national championship with UNC in 2009. Cody wants to prove he's better and that he's worthy still of a high draft pick come summertime.
12:40CT (9) Temple OVER (8) North Carolina State
Temple has randomly compiled some really good wins against Syracuse, Villanova, St. Louis and VCU and almost beat Kansas. They also have some bad losses. You might think the same of North Carolina State, who beat Duke early, but that was all the way back at the start of 2013. Since, they have dropped 8 games and looked listless doing so, and C.J. Leslie won't stop pouting.
Thursday, March 21
6:27CT (5) UNLV OVER California
Simple: Never bet against a team from Las Vegas on the biggest gambling day of the year.
8:57CT (4) Syracuse OVER (13) Montana
Jim Boeheim loves to toy with our hearts. Syracuse looked down and out, Boeheim told the press he wants to quit and go golfing, then the Orange came roaring back in their final Big East Tournament. With Southerland hitting 3s like he is, and Boeheim contemplating retirement, expect the Orange to make another crazy final run.
11:40CT (6) Butler OVER (11) Bucknell
Brad Stevens is a boy genius. He doesn't lose games he's not supposed to and he wins games he has no business in. The Bulldogs defense will drive Bucknell insane.
2:10CT (3) Marquette OVER (14) Davidson
Their guys can fly, especially Vander Blue, who just has one of those names that's destined for March Madness glory. Plus, their big men, Gardner and Otule, are some of the most multi-skilled in the dance.
3:40CT (7) Illinois OVER (10) Colorado
Another conference that isn't very good is the Pac-12. Also, Brandon Paul is an absolute stud that can put the Illini on his back at any moment. Plus, if we go by girly mascot-superiority rules, a Duck is like one rung above Hilltoppers.
1:10CT (2) Miami OVER (15) Pacific
Miami is in the Atlantic, dummies. What is this Pacific nonsense?
Round 1 completed. The perfect bracket lives, for now.