Bracket Analysis, and my Final Top Four
This bracket is the weirdest bracket I've ever seen, so much doesn't make sense about where teams are and even why some are in it. This is something nobody is talking about, but this has to be the bracket with the most losses among at-large teams, ever. There is a one seed with seven losses for crying out loud. Don't let that take away from the talent, or the drama, that this season was, or this bracket will be. We are in for a crazy bracket, and here is some analysis without me filling a bracket out.
BEST FIRST ROUND MATCHUP?
There are a lot of good matchups, and while none really stand out, I like the Maryland-Xavier matchup. Xavier is a team that hasn't quite stopped the bleeding from their terrible losing streak, but has a band-aid on at least and can pull off a win. Maryland, meanwhile, has a good record but not much else. The point guard matchup here is fun as well, with Melo Trimble and Trevon Bluiett.
The 12 seeds are very good this year, with one of them in Middle Tennessee having 30 wins and none having more than six losses. To determine this, I looked at the five seeds without their matchups below them and Minnesota stuck out to me. Akeem Springs is out, and while that's not a huge loss it is something, and it also just so happens that I believe Middle Tennessee is the best 12 seed. Nothing about this team is too spectacular, and they also are relatively new to the Big Dance after not making it the last few seasons.
WHAT OTHER 11+ SEED SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?
Keep an eye out for the Atlantic 10 champion Rhode Island, as they are one of the hottest teams in the country. They are an 11 seed, playing Creighton who is without their best player in Mo Watson Jr. That didn't really take them down as much as some people thought, but they are vulnerable and Rhode Island has a good chance of upsetting the Blue Jays. They haven't lost in a month, and this team led by EC Matthews could be an underdog to make a deep run.
WHICH TOP 3 SEED NEEDS TO KEEP THEIR EYE OPEN?
No matter how strongly I feel about a 14+ seed, I never, ever pick against a top three seed. I suggest you don't either, and deal with the repercussions that everyone else will have too in your bracket. With that said, I believe Baylor should be on high alert heading into their matchup with New Mexico State. Not only has Baylor been struggling lately, including a loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament to end the season. And the Aggies are top 60 in offense and defense, and are 28-5 overall. Watch out.
MOST DISRESPECTED TEAM BY THE COMMITTEE
Wisconsin. Easily. I'm sorry Duke that you aren't a one seed, or Arizona, or that Michigan isn't a five seed or whatever. Wisconsin is not an eight seed, this team was 21-3 at one point and only has nine losses. Think about it, the other eight seeds are Northwestern, Miami and Arkansas. Throw Wisconsin in there, and which of the foursome do you think does not belong with the others? At the very least, look at what this program, and this senior class, has done over the past three seasons. This class has the most tournament wins in the last three seasons.
TEAM THAT LIKELY SLEPT WITH THE COMMITTEE TO GET IN THE FIELD
I would put Michigan State as a close second here, but Tom Izzo is the coach, and as long as he is the coach, Michigan State will get in. I don't care if Michigan State is 6-26, they will get in with Izzo. That's part of why I'm picking Vanderbilt, because they have NO business being in the tournament. SOS is best in the country, but those 15 losses shows us they can't handle that schedule. Five top 25 wins? Okay, but three are the same team, which clearly shows a weird matchup problem. And they didn't just get in the bracket, they are a nine seed, which means they have pulled some strings.
SECOND ROUND MATCHUP I'M HOPING FOR
I really want to see Iowa State and Purdue play each other, since it is a matchup of big vs. small. Iowa State essentially plays four guards, where Purdue's big men are the strength of the team, led by Caleb Swanigan. Iowa State plays fast, shoots a lot, and resembles an NBA style, and Purdue will slow it down and bang it out. It's a clash of styles and a great potential matchup.
FIRST FOUR TEAM WITH THE BEST CHANCE
Can I say I don't like any of these teams? Providence, USC, Wake Forest and Kansas State are the last four teams in the tournament (all are better than Vandy), but I think I have to go with Providence here. They have eight top 50 wins, including a home win over Butler, and USC has been falling fast. They have the best chance to get past USC, and while SMU hasn't lost in two months, they haven't played a good team besides Cincinnati since then, so that makes sense.
TEAM NOBODY IS NOTICING
When Villanova, Duke, Baylor and Florida are in your bracket, it's hard to get noticed. Virginia is a team that is a Final Four threat hiding in plain sight. Wisconsin has a mild chance of getting past Villanova, and Virginia can get past Florida. Even with a Villanova win, Virginia almost won at Villanova during the season. Also, Virginia has the best defense in the country, and that wins championships, right?
FINAL FOUR EXCLUDING THE TOP TWO SEEDS
West Virginia, Virginia, UCLA, Iowa State
It's hard to pick a Final Four without having a one or a two seed in it, but this is what I came up with. UCLA is a two seed in my mind, they have six great players on that team and are the best offense in the country. Virginia has the defense to put them their, and their bracket can beat itself up. West Virginia has proven they can beat anybody, and lose to anybody, and Iowa State is among the most confident teams in the country.
MY FIRST GLANCE FINAL FOUR (AND FINAL TOP FOUR)
ARIZONA: 30-4 (16-2 in Pac-12)
They got their revenge on Oregon, even though Chris Boucher didn't play, and beat UCLA a second time en route to a Pac-12 tournament championship. They have the youth and experience, an offensive and defensive presence, and have no really bad losses. Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier are lottery picks if they choose to go, and they are at this point (I haven't done a lot of research yet) my favorite to win it all.
VILLANOVA: 31-3 (15-3 in Big East)
The defending national champions have the toughest bracket and are not that deep of a team, but they are still going to be the team to beat. Duke is too inconsistent to rely on, and Baylor has struggled lately. I really like this team, and they have earned the number one overall seed.
KANSAS: 28-4 (16-2 in Big 12)
It will be interesting seeing them go up against Iowa State again, but this time I think Kansas will take care of business. They have a pretty easy road to the Sweet 16, but should Purdue get there instead of Iowa State, it could cause problems on the interior. Oregon on the other half of the region has injuries, and Louisville is all defense and no offense in my opinion. Kansas has an easier road than people realize.
KENTUCKY: 29-5 (16-2 in SEC)
So those of you who have criticized the Wildcats beyond belief are kind of morons, as they only have five losses on the season which isn't that much. They also won the (weak) SEC both ways, and have the talent to match up with anybody. Only Duke can really match up with the athleticism of the Wildcats, and I believe they will get their revenge on UCLA should they get the opportunity.
I will be releasing my bracket region-by-region on Thursday. I don't want you all to copy. ;)