My bracket, along with explanations of upset picks and Final Four games:
UNC-Wilmington over Virginia: Regular season champion with a strong record away from home as well as in close games against one of the slowest paced teams in the field. The pace will keep it close enough for UNCW to have a chance to eke out a win.
USC over SMU: The play-in game is often more beneficial to the participant than the awaiting team for the first round, as there has been a play-in game winner every year since the field expanded to 68 in 2011. I like USC more than Kansas State as this year’s version.
Wichita St over Dayton: Vegas doesn’t even consider this an upset. Horrible seeding by the committee gives Dayton a brutal round 1 draw.
Middle Tennessee over Minnesota: Again, Vegas doesn’t see this as an upset. This year’s version of MTSU is even better than the one that knocked off 2 seed Michigan State last year
Rhode Island over Creighton: Rhode Island is one of the hottest teams in the field coming in.
Vermont over Purdue: Vermont has to be considered the hottest team in the field coming in, as they haven’t lost a game since December.
Michigan St over Miami FL: 9 over 8 isn’t much of an upset, but it’s really hard to see an Izzo team getting bounced in round 1 two years in a row. They’ll find a way to get the W.
Michigan over Louisville: This year’s greatest story, winning 4 games in 4 days after a plane crash. Their run continues just a little longer as they avenge their 2013 title game defeat against the Cardinals.
Michigan over Oregon: Oregon can only go so far without Chris Boucher. His loss will be felt in a big way in this match-up.
Arizona over Gonzaga: Avenging an early-season loss, the Wildcats were identified in my ratings as one of the four strongest teams this season.
Kentucky over North Carolina: Another upset featuring a rematch, but this time the same team advances. North Carolina’s resume was a bit inflated due to fortunate scheduling in conference play, and this was validated in a disappointing ACC tournament showing. Meanwhile, Kentucky went out of their way to play everyone in the non-conference, and while they didn’t win all of them they are certainly battle-tested despite cruising through the SEC this year.
Villanova over Arizona: Last year’s champion is back with very strong team. It’ll be tough in a pseudo road game, but the extensive tournament experience will pay off on the biggest stage.
Kansas over Kentucky: Talent vs. Talent. There’s just a little bit more on the Kansas side this year.
Villanova over Kansas: My ratings identify these as the two best teams this year, with Villanova receiving the edge as the top team. Will this be vindication for BoW after another bad score in the Bracket Matrix? We’ll find out in about 3 weeks.
Enjoy the madness, everyone!