WRITTEN BY: RODNEY SCEARCE
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I’ve taken my time, I’ve analyzed my picks, and I’d like to assure you that I’m confident with my selections.
But, I’m not.
This is by far one of the toughest brackets I’ve ever had to deal with. There are so many wild cards in play this tournament season. Here’s a few to keep in mind:
1.) More mid-majors (and dangerous ones, too) – I’m counting eight (nine, if you want to include the Bonnies) that are all easily capable of winning one game. A couple of them will surely make the Sweet 16. Unfortunately, there are so many this year that we see last year’s Cinderella (VCU) set to take on one of the mid-majors most likely to make some noise, Wichita St. That’s disappointing because both of them could have made a run. The other six to be careful of when filling out your bracket: St. Louis, Long Beach State, Murray State, Creighton, Ohio, and Belmont.
2.) UCONN – Which team are we going to see out there? They’re extremely talented. The have all the athleticism and size to take on anyone, but they so often this year have played like goofs and made their team look like a joke. Calhoun is back and they seem to have a chip on their shoulder. Watch out for them in the second round against Kentucky, they may just break everyone’s bracket.
3.) Henson’s wrist – I’m a Tar Heel fan and I’d like to say they are going all the way, but if Henson’s wrist limits him, my guys won’t make it out of the Sweet 16. If something amazing happens and they do, Kansas will destroy them in the Elite 8. Yes, Henson’s wrist on his non-shooting hand is that big of a deal.
4.) Fab Melo – This guy just doesn’t get it. He can’t keep his grades up (“up” is a deceiving word here) and has now effectively ruined his team’s chances of a run. With Melo now ineligible, when does Syracuse lose? I think they still cruise in to the Sweet 16, but Vandy takes them easily. The first team with an effective inside game will beat them. Hell, we may even have our first 16-seed take down a #1. I highly doubt it, but I’ve seen Asheville play and they are no joke. Still, at the same time, I feel bad for Melo. Syracuse is a really good school and it’s probably much more difficult for him to keep up his grades there than it would be at most other schools. I bet he now wishes he had taken that signing bonus at Kentucky. If Calipari can get DeMarcus Cousins through eligibility, he can do it for anyone.
I’ll run through each of my brackets. With the wild cards in-play and all of the uncertainty, I folded and went with my gut opinions.
As much as I’d love to write down UCONN for my Sweet 16, I can’t convince myself to gamble against Kentucky so early. Unfortunately for Indiana, they aren’t playing in the state of Indiana and quite frankly, they stink anywhere else – I’ve got Wichita State matching up against UK in the Sweet 16. This one is no problem for Kentucky and they cruise to the Elite Eight. The bottom half of the bracket is much less competitive. Baylor and Duke, no doubt about it. I’ve got Baylor taking Duke because no one on Duke will be able to defend Perry Jones III. Unfortunately for Baylor, Kentucky can defend Jones and Kentucky will subsequently represent the South in New Orleans.
I don’t care who wins between Memphis and St. Louis because at the end of the day, neither beat Sparty. I keep hearing about New Mexico making a run. I just can’t convince myself that they will beat both Long Beach and Louisville. I’ve got Louisville making the Sweet 16. Murray State is good, but one win against St. Mary’s didn’t do it for me – Marquette tramples them. Florida wants to welcome Missouri in to the SEC in a potential Round of 32 matchup. Not happening – Missouri works them and Bradley Beal chucks up the deuces to Gainesville because he’s headed to the NBA. Missouri over Marquette and Michigan State easily beats Louisville. The Missouri and Michigan State matchup will be a tough one to call. In one bracket I’ve got Missouri and another I’ve got Michigan State. If I had to bet, I’d go with Draymond Green and Coach Izzo.
Syracuse makes it to the Sweet 16 because Kansas State isn’t big enough to take advantage of no Fab Melo. Wisconsin will try to slow down Vandy and turn it in to another drawn-out boring game, but it won’t happen. Vandy wins this one, no problem. Unfortunately for Florida State, they don’t get to play UNC and Duke each game so even if you have them making it to the Sweet 16, they won’t beat Ohio State. Ohio State will take on Vandy in the Elite Eight because a Melo-less Syracuse can’t compete with them. Ohio State wins this game. It’ll be tough, and Vanderbilt could pull it out, but I still like the Buckeyes.
I like UNC to beat Creighton and take on the Wolverines in the Sweet 16. NC State will roll over the Aztecs, but hit a wall against the Hoyas as Georgetown moves on. Kansas will not have a problem against St. Mary’s or Purdue and I’ll still take the Jayhawks over the Hoyas as they move on to the Elite Eight. UNC will beat Michigan because Michigan can’t run with them, end of story. The UNC/Kansas winner will rest solely on Henson’s wrist. If he’s healthy, the Heels will match up just fine against the Jayhawks in this rematch from the Final Four in 2008. Roy Williams will get his vengeance and the Heels will march on down to New Orleans.
Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, and North Carolina will make up my Final Four. From these 4, I believe we’ll see a rematch from the December 3rd game in Lexington – the Kentucky Wildcats vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels. Kentucky is more talented and by all accounts, they should win. However, I will NEVER pick Kentucky over the Tar Heels. EVER. I say the Heels get their revenge from the one-point loss at Rupp and cut down the nets for their 3rd time in 8 seasons. You can discount this as me being a homer, but let’s be honest, the Heels have a real shot and I’m not making any drastic predictions. However, I’ll go back to my wild cards – if Henson’s wrist is not 100%, UNC will be lucky to even make the Final Four and you may see the Wildcats get Calipari his first championship (only to be taken away a few years later following another NCAA investigation). – Sorry, had to say it.
Enjoy the tournament.
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Rodney Scearce is the Public Relations Coordinator for a major professional sports team. He earned his bachelor’s from the University of North Carolina and received a Master’s in Business Administration and Master’s in Sport Business Management from the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. Having grown up in the Research Triangle, Rodney was born into a basketball culture. He grew up a fan of the Charlotte Hornets but his passion is college basketball. He was in the heart of North Carolina for the golden years of Dean Smith and Coach K. He understands the Tobacco Road rivalry and considers his own involvement a badge of honor. Though he strongly dislikes Duke, his respect for the program and the rivalry is second to none. Rodney is a diehard fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Carolina Panthers, but will tell you that his expertise lie within college basketball and everything involved with it. You can follow Rodney on Twitter @rscearce.