Damn, it feels good being able to watch college basketball in March again. After a year of continuous adjustments to our day-to-day lifestyles and a near constant state of uneasiness, we finally get back the first thing this God-forsaken novel virus took from us, March Madness. After a year hiatus away from the ‘Big Dance’: We. Are. Back. The beauty behind it all? Even the most avid, active fans don’t even know what the hell is going to happen over the next three weeks. Every single one of us will run through metrics, guess, or go with their favorites to build the “perfect bracket”. Well, I got a news flash, no one is getting it right. No one is winning the bullshit “billion-dollar bracket challenge” or even coming close for that matter. This is the allure of it all. This is the point of March. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an analyst who watches college basketball for a living, or someone who makes a bracket for fun and determines winners based off of their mascot/team color, we’re all going to suck. But man o’ man, this is what we live for. From a consumer standpoint, these upcoming days are that of a fever dream. I mean, 63 games in 19 days? Are you serious? Grab me an inhaler.
Although all of this is great, you can’t forget how these players have continued to make sacrifices each day during this coronavirus. Between the constant travel, and playing in places where they could be at risk… and for what? For the love of the game? Or as we think for our entertainment? Or for the monetary gain/loss of some of us degenerates with nothing better to do. Regardless, these guys are laying it all out on the line, night-in-night-out, and it is truly remarkable. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the hell out of it while we can. After the last year that we have all endured, each of us deserves this. With that being said, let’s dive into my complete breakdown of the bracket, which will be wildly incorrect just two hours after the first tip off. Let’s go:
*Disclaimer: I am so scared to bet this tournament.
*2nd Disclaimer: I’m going to get so hot. Follow @PicksMD on Twitter for plays.
The West Region
Round of 64
1 Gonzaga vs. 16 Norfolk State/Appalachian State
· Gonzaga should have no issue rolling over the 16 seed, regardless of who it ends up being. Gonzaga is going to inflict their will against every team in this bracket, proving all of those who claim they “ThEy DoN’t PlAy AnYoNe” wrong.
8 Oklahoma vs. 9 Missouri
· In a toss-up, Missouri, though incredibly inconsistent can get by the Harmon-less Sooners. At first glance I had Oklahoma, but once their second leading score got covid, it is hard to trust them. This game is entirely dependent upon Austin Reaves, who I think will be up for the challenge, even against a stout Missouri defense, though I don’t think it will be enough. Another big factor will be the status of Missouri big man Jeremiah Tilmon, who has been struggling as of late. Mizzou gets back into their top-15 talent form and moves on.
5 Creighton vs. 12 UC Santa Barbara
· Santa Barbara will be able to handle a reeling Creighton team who has had just as many off-court issues as on-court due to their coach’s recent racially insensitive charged remarks. This is just a classic case of two teams trending in completely different directions. Give me this as the first classic 5/12 upset that everyone looks forward to each year.
4 Virginia vs. 13 Ohio
· In another upset, the next game is Ohio taking down Virginia. Ohio has the balanced, efficient offense who can take out Virginia’s pack-line defense by virtue of strong shooting. Consider this game as Jason Preston’s coming out party on a national stage. This also has to do with the fact that Virginia will not be able to get to Indy until Thursday after being forced to withdraw from the ACC tourney early due to Covid-19 complications within the team, and the fact that watching UVA is like watching paint dry. Please Ohio.
6 USC vs. 11 Drake/Wichita State
· In the play-in game, I see Drake winning. They get their second leading scorer back. Either way, I expect USC, led by superstar freshman Evan Mobley to advance easily in this one, as a fresh USC will be dangerous and hungry after their tough loss in the PAC-12 championship.
3 Kansas vs. 14 Eastern Washington
· Long story short, this game may come back to bite me in the ass. Even so, I feel after having the complications due to Covid, and the team missing a key contributor who did not travel to Indy in Jalen Wilson, I think that Kansas may be susceptible to an Eastern Washington team who is red hot and has a legitimate scoring threat at each position. Only time will tell but give me the upset.
Winner: Eastern Washington
7 Oregon vs. 10 VCU
· In a hard-nosed matchup, I think the undervalued Oregon Ducks are the right play. Led by Third Team All-American Chris Duarte, the Ducks are lethal and have been slept on due to their playing in the PAC-12, which almost always leads to a lack of east coast viewership/awareness. As for VCU, the defensive minded Rams will put up a good fight behind A-10 Player of the Year Bones Hyland but will not have enough offense to take down the Ducks. Dana Altman is a wizard in March and I expect that to continue.
2 Iowa vs. 15 Grand Canyon
· Simply put, the team with some of the best 3-point shooting in the nation, along with the best player is going to win this game. Iowa is going to inflict their will early and often. Grand Canyon is no slouch though, as I have found myself sweating out some of their bets on random Friday nights this year. Not this time.
Round of 32
1 Gonzaga vs. 9 Missouri
· This is an intriguing matchup in the sense that Missouri is a team that, when hot, was a top 10 team in the country. Even with that being the case, I do not see a world where Gonzaga loses to this spotty Mizzou team unless The Smith’s and Pinson hit a combined 10 threes, with a double-double from Tilmon… and that still may not be enough. Zags roll onto the Sweet 16.
12 UCSB vs. 13 Ohio
· In a battle of the two potential cinderellas, I typically lean with the side who has the best player. In this matchup, that team is Ohio and their stud PG Jason Preston, who averages a modest 16/7/7. Bobcats advance.
6 USC vs. 14 Eastern Washington
· I believe that Eastern Washington, after having a great first game is going to have their hands full here. They should be happy to even make it to the second round, but they are going to be introduced to a different beast in Evan Mobley. He is going to do whatever he wants against this mid-major, and 20-10 his way into the sweet 16.
2 Iowa vs. 7 Oregon
· This will be one hell of a game, no other way to put it. Though, as I continue to say, the best players show up on the brightest stage, and though each team has an All-American, Iowa is the side with the best player, not to mention if Wieskamp is healthy, this whole region may be in trouble. Iowa to the sweet 16.
*This may f up my bracket if Oregon plays to their potential
1 Gonzaga vs. 13 Ohio
· This is where cinderellas run comes to an abrupt halt. Gonzaga will pump the brakes off the Bobcats, as they are just too much fire power in every single aspect of the game. This one should be close early, but the Zags will win by 15+.
2 Iowa vs. 6 USC
· If the basketball gods give us Mobley vs. Garza, this may be the best big on big matchup of the year. These two could be the two best big men in the nation, with Mobley being the highly regarded potential top 3 pick. Though in the end I believe it will be Iowa’s 3-point shooting that continues to carry them, and I expect PG Jordan Bohannon to play a large role in their victory.
1 Gonzaga vs. 2 Iowa
· In this classic ‘chalk’ 1 seed vs. 2 seed matchup, I have the Zags overpowering Iowa’s less than impressive defense. Although these are each two completely different teams than the last time these two met in December. Iowa will have their hands full yet again, and even their Midwestern grit still will not be enough to stop the team that should be cutting down the nets in early April. Gonzaga to the Final Four.
The East Region
Round of 64
1 Michigan vs. 16 Mount Saint Mary’s/Texas Southern
· Another classic no-need for a write-up game. No 16/1 upset this year. Michigan wins easy.
8 LSU vs 9 St. Bonaventure
· Don’t get me wrong, the Bonnies are a hell of a team out of the A-10, always have been, but this LSU team is being completely undervalued. They have one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, and I believe the Bonnies will not be able to run with the Tigers in this one. LSU boasts the 5th most efficient offense in the nation, and I believe they will use this game as a statement.
5 Colorado vs. 12 Georgetown
· At first glance, a hot Georgetown team coming off a Big East run of dreams seems like the easy 5/12 play, but once you dig a little deeper, I believe this is a poor matchup for the Hoyas. The main reason for this you may ask? Simple answer: McKinley Wright IV. One of the most underrated Point guards in the nation is going to remind everyone that just because his games are on past everyone on the east coast’s bedtime doesn’t mean he isn’t a damn bucket.
4 Florida State vs. 13 UNC Greensboro
· Hey man, congrats to Greensboro for making the tournament! It’s a real shame that this is their first-round matchup though. This UNCG team is going to have their hands full with one of the deepest, and most physical teams in the nation... a Leonard Hamilton special. I love the Seminoles in this one.
Winner: Florida State
6 BYU vs 11 Michigan State/UCLA
· First things first, Sparty is taking this play-in game on the shoulders of Joshua Langford and premier defender Aaron Henry. As for the next game, I feel as though the Mormons may have their hands full in this one, as they typically don’t do well in the Midwest... the whole reason they even settled in Utah that is. If Sparty can ever play to their potential, they could steamroll over this BYU team. Don’t let Izzo get hot in March.
Winner: Michigan State
3 Texas vs. 14 Abilene Christian
· Two words: Shaka Smart. The former VCU Rams coach has his best team since being named head coach at Texas. This team can score on each level between Coleman, Jones, and Sims, not to mention their grit on the defensive end. No possessions off. Poor Abilene Christian, hope they enjoyed the trip.
7 Connecticut vs. 10 Maryland
· This damn game man. GRIT. This is most likely the toughest game of the first round in my eyes and has led to back-and-forth decisions. In the end, I believe that between Bouknight and Whaley (Big East DPOY) will lead the Huskies, and may be too much for the spotty Terrapins. This will be a hell of a game and I cannot wait, as Maryland with Ayala, Morsell, and Wiggins will not go down without a fight. Winner beats Bama next round.
2 Alabama vs. 15 Iona
· Whose back of the week: Rick Pitino! In the week that his son gets fired, he takes a mid-major through an unlikely conference tournament run and just like that he’s back in the big dance. Though after this game, Pitino will more than likely be accepting the Indiana, or another major conference job, since this Alabama team led by Herb Jones will send Iona home quickly. Rammer Jammer advances easily.
Round of 32
1 Michigan vs 8 LSU
· This is where this bracket starts to get very hectic. I believe that Livers, the heart and soul of this Wolverine team will prove to be missed heavily, and the fast-paced Tigers will be able to take down the 1 seed Wolverines.
4 Florida State vs. 5 Colorado
· I believe that FSU’s length, athleticism, and defensive principles will provide a tough time for McKinley Wright in this matchup. Frankly, I don’t even think this game will be that close, and Scottie Barnes will become (more of a) household name by the end of this. The freshman phenom is a stud and a game-changer.
Winner: Florida State
3 Texas vs. 11 Michigan State
· If given this matchup, we are in for a damn treat. This game will be predicated on grit, and who wants the game more. I think Texas will prove to be too much for the hit or miss Spartans, who haven’t been able to string 3 good games in succession all year, so why would they start now?
2 Alabama vs. 7 Uconn
· In another game that is a coin-flip despite the differential in seeding, I believe that Uconn will go on another improbable run that the Huskies have been known for over the years. Th Huskies will take down a Bama team who will be outsized and become too reliant on the 3-ball in this one.
4 Florida State vs. 8 LSU
· This will be one of the fastest paced games in the entire tournament. On one side you have a lethal offense averaging over 80 points per game in LSU, against a stout Florida State defense with elite rim protection. I have Florida State taking this one as you know, defense wins championships… or in this case a bid to the elite 8.
Winner: Florida State
3 Texas vs. 7 Uconn
· In another fun one, this is where I have Uconn’s improbable run coming to an end. Texas is a complete team, with a coach who has taken far less talented teams to the final four (love you vcu). Again, I think the depth and versatility of Texas will be the difference in this one, though we shall see.
3 Texas vs. 4 Florida State
· This game may as well be a coin flip but at the end of the day… In the words of former Longhorn football head coach Tom Herman, ‘Okay cool… hook em’. I think the Longhorns keep their run alive, as they have the size and interior presence to hang with the Seminoles. This will be one of the greats though.
The South Region
Round of 64
1 Baylor vs. 16 Hartford
· Man o’ man, Baylor may put up 100 in this one, nothing else needs to be said. Thanks for coming out, Hartford!
8 North Carolina vs. 9 Wisconsin
· This game is my absolute nightmare scenario. Living with multiple die-hard Tar Heel fans, I NEED the Badgers in this one, but thankfully the metrics back me up as well. I believe that the slow-paced Badgers will take care of the ball (lead the nation in least number of turnovers per game), force UNC into bad shots/TOs as they have been prone to throughout the entire year and will display the experience necessary to win this one. The Badgers are one of most veteran teams in the nation, and in March teams like this thrive.
5 Villanova vs. 12 Winthrop
· People want to make this a classic 5/12 upset, especially with emotional leader Collin Gillespie out due to a torn ACL for the Wildcats, but I don’t think this will be the case. Jay Wright knows how to win in March (now), and this talented/veteran team will take care of the Eagles. Look out for Samuels and Earl-Robinson to drop 20 each.
4 Purdue vs. 13 North Texas
· Believe me I love the Mean Green, but I just cannot take them against this team out of West Lafyette. Purdue’s inside-out, hard-nosed brand of basketball translates well into March, especially when you add in the fact that they have played a continuous gauntlet since conference play began in December. This has upset potential; I just don’t see it happening.
6 Texas Tech vs. 11 Utah State
· This team out of Lubbock is for real. The reigning runner-up is back and they are totally undervalued and frankly, loaded. Headlined by Georgetown transfer, and Overtime hype beast Mac McClung, this team is gritty but can also score. These are some traits of championship caliber teams, much like the Red Raiders from two years ago. Utah State does have a player who did give himself number 44 after Wendy’s famous 4 for 4, so that’s gotta count for something, right? Gimme TTU easy.
Winner: Texas Tech
3 Arkansas vs. 14 Colgate
· Another game where I want to take the little guy so badly, I do. But in this one I can’t take the team who on top of only playing 15 games, had zero quality opponents. Arkansas is a top 3 team in the SEC and I believe they’re just going to flex a little muscle in this one early and often. Let’s just say they’re going to fill it up like a jam-packed NRA rally.
7 Florida vs. 10 Virginia Tech
· This game is a coin flip to me, much like the other 7/10 matchups. In the end, I think VT head coach Mike Young is going to reintroduce himself after his appearance in the tournament with Fletcher Mcgee and co. at Wofford just two years ago. Florida will have the best player on floor with Tre Mann, but I think Virginia Tech is out to prove something, I mean their social media team has already started chirping at figures in sports who thought they would suck this year… as a 10 seed. The audacity in that.
Winner: Virginia Tech
2 Ohio State vs. 15 Oral Roberts
· I don’t even feel like doing a write-up on this. EJ Liddell, Duane Washington, and co. are going to ball on these guys and move on easily to the next round.
Winner: Ohio State
Round of 32
1 Baylor vs. 9 Wisconsin
· Well, here it is. The game that I have been slowly talking myself into all week. Ever since Wisconsin began slipping in the rankings, I have said that they will be the most dangerous 8/9 seed ever, including beating whatever 1 seed stood in their way… and I won’t back off now. I’m no fraud or hypocrite, not now. Not ever. *Clark from Benchwarmers voice*. Wisco is going to take care of the ball and limit open opportunities for Baylor from behind the arc, and this senior-led group will be back to the Sweet 16. This team has shades of the 2018 squad who upset 1 seed Villanova as an 8 seed, so this may be destiny as some would say.
4 Purdue vs. 5 Villanova
· This game will be as gritty as any throughout this tournament, though I feel they are two teams who have been trending in opposite directions. Nova stumbled to the finish line, though has the talent to turn it around in a flash. Even so, I believe Purdue, on the back of star big man Trevion Williams and guard Jaden Ivey will be able to get passed the Wildcats. The x-factors to this game will be the matchup between the sharpshooters Stefanovic and Swider, as these two can get hot in a hurry.
3 Arkansas vs. 6 Texas Tech
· This is where Arkansas’s run will come to an end. Texas Tech is too much defense, intensity, and athleticism and I feel the Razorbacks will be flustered all game by the Red Raiders style of play. But hey, at least Arkansas will be in the ‘One Shining Moment’ tribute at the end of the tourney. Beard by 6-9 points in this one.
Winner: Texas Tech
2 Ohio State vs. 10 Virginia Tech
· To be completely frank, this game should not be that close. The Hokies just are not that great of a team, and OSU has one of the most complete offenses in the nation, along with elite free throw shooting when they get to the charity stripe. The Hokies will be heading on back to Blacksburg after the round of 32.
Winner: Ohio State
4 Purdue vs. 9 Wisconsin
· In this Big 10 classic, give me the more experienced team who will make the necessary adjustments. When these two met in the regular season, Wisco had every opportunity to win but just couldn’t get it together at Purdue, but I believe that they will right the ship and head on to the Elite 8. I just can’t help myself from this prediction.
2 Ohio State vs. 6 Texas Tech
· I believe that in this one, Texas Tech, though I love them, will not have enough firepower to get through this Buckeye team. Ohio State doesn’t have the best defense, but against a Texas Tech team that struggles to hit shots, I think they could play just well enough to stifle the Red Raiders.
Winner: Ohio State
2 Ohio State vs. 9 Wisconsin
· This is where my pain sets in. After a magical run that will make me believe that the Badgers will be cutting down the nets for the first time since 1941, they will lose to Ohio State. Ohio State just has too complete of an offense for the Badgers, as proven in conference play. They take care of the ball and are elite with free throws, and that will be the difference against this predictable Badgers team.
Winner: Ohio State
The Midwest Region
Round of 64
1 Illinois vs. 16 Drexel
· Drexel, I really am sorry that you guys are about to get run through with a 100 piece on your head in the first game. You guys really tried.
8 Loyola Chicago vs. 9 Georgia Tech
· As the person that literally broke the news that Moses Wright (ACC POY) has covid (check twitter time stamps), I believe that without him this Georgia Tech team is just another team. I love Alvarado, but he will not be enough to get passed Krutwig and company, as Sister Jean gets to feel something again at 101 years of age.
5 Tennessee vs 12 Oregon State
· Long story short, this is a complete spite pick. Tennessee could come out and win this game by 30 and I wouldn’t be surprised, but I refuse to pick them. I have lost one too many bets on their inconsistency this year, to the point where they may be my least favorite team in America (minus Fulkerson, dude is way too funny to watch). Luckily in this pick I am riding the hot hand with Pac-12 champ Oregon State, as well as a classic 5/12 upset.
Winner: Oregon State
4 Oklahoma State vs. 13 Liberty
· Too. Much. Cade. That will be the headline in this game. These mask-less religious folk from Liberty will be sent right back to where they came from in the fashion of a first-round exit at the hands of the eventual #1 pick. Side note, maybe I’m wrong and Liberty is just built different because they didn’t even flinch at this pandemic by immediately deciding to bring their students back on campus, and pulling a Sweden “herd immunity” play… balls of steel.
Winner: Oklahoma State
6 San Diego State vs. 11 Syracuse
· I f****** love Buddy Boehiem. No other way to put it. He is everything I aspire to be as he just sits 6 feet behind the three-point line and just snipes. Also, the 2-3 zone in March is enough to cause any team issues. Though, SDSU is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation, shooting at a clip just under 38%. I feel like they will be able to make the necessary adjustments and shoot their way into a meeting with WVU next round.
Winner: San Diego State
3 West Virginia vs. 14 Morehead State
· Morehead State? I am sorry but they are going to get run out of the gym. For once, WVU can actually shoot this year, though they do have a less daunting defense than we are accustomed to seeing from Huggins. Though that won’t matter this round, as West Virginia moves on to face SDSU.
Winner: West Virginia
7 Clemson vs. 10 Rutgers
· Give me Ron Harper Jr. in this one all day. The early-season Wooden Award watchlist member is going to remind people just how good him and his team are. They were reeling as of late, but I believe they right the ship against this fraud of a Clemson team (Simms is good though). The under may be in play this game though. GRIT.
2 Houston vs. 15 Cleveland State
· Houston wins this one easily, I have watched (don’t ask why) a couple of Cleveland State’s games, and they just can’t compete with this team.
Round of 32
1 Illinois vs. 8 Loyola Chicago
· Kofi Cockburn is going to abuse Krutwig, and Dosunmu is going to show everyone why he is the top player in the country. Illinois is going to be too much for this slow-paced, defensive minded Loyola Chicago team, and the lads are sadly going to be sent home with sister Jean sooner than last time.
4 Oklahoma State vs. 12 Oregon State
· Oklahoma State continues their hot streak, beating Oregon state in a rather easy fashion in this one. Both teams come into the tourney scorching hot, though I expect the team with the best player to move on to the next round. Hell of a run though, Beavers.
Winner: Oklahoma State
3 West Virginia vs. 6 San Diego State
· I can’t explain it, but I really do not like this game. Either team could win, I mean hell Cuse’
could be in this game. I am going to stick with the team with the tougher, more proven schedule, and that is West Virginia. This game is going to be tough and defensive, and frankly, I cannot wait.
Winner: West Virginia
2 Houston vs. 10 Rutgers
· I actually just switched this winner as I sit here typing this prediction, and I am going with the Scarlet Knights. Yes, I know they are 1-7 against ranked teams, but each of their games were much closer than that, and this is a very talented team. Houston has only played one ranked opponent this year, and I believe it will be the stout defense of Rutgers that will present issues to the Cougars.
1 Illinois vs. 4 Oklahoma State
· This game is going to be so damn fun. Electrifying highlights on every possession, but you can’t tell me that the Cowboys are going to be able to contain this COMPLETE Illinois team. Even if Ayo and Kofi get contained, there is one guy that the nation hasn’t formally been introduced to, and that is Trent Frazier. This man can fill it up, and is going to be busting OK State’s ass all afternoon. Same with freshman Andre Curbelo.
3 West Virginia vs. 10 Rutgers
· Hahahah this game is going to be so funny. Size, interior presence, toughness, all of it. This is going to be one of the grittiest games of the tournament, and I truly hate this pick because they could lose earlier than this but whatever, Huggy to the Elite 8! WVU is going to do just enough to get by the cinderella Scarlet Knights, hell of a run though for the kids out of Jersey.
Winner: West Virginia
1 Illinois vs. 3 West Virginia
· My God this may be the best elite 8 matchup, and yet again, to no surprise, me and every other person in America are sending the Fighting Illini onto the Final Four. Culver and Cockburn will be a big-man battle for the ages and this shit is going to get dicey. In the end I think the supporting cast of Curbelo, Frazier, and Williams will do enough to send the illini back to the biggest stage. Party in Champaign like its 2005 again baby.
1 Gonzaga vs. 3 Texas
· I believe the Zags will be too much for Longhorn nation, though it will be nice to see Shaka Smart back in the final 4 since he captivated the city of Richmond in 2011. I think that Texas actually matches up very well with the Zags, top-to-bottom, but it will be the depth and will of Gonzaga that will keep their championship hopes alive.
1 Illinois vs. 2 Ohio State
· In a rematch of the overtime thriller Big 10 Championship game, I think that Illinois once again inflicts their will against the Buckeyes.I feel like I’m beating a dead horse by saying how good Illinois is, but I can’t stress it enough, they may be the best Big 10 team I have seen since Wisconsin in 2014-2015, the team who lost to Duke in the National Championship and took down (then) undefeated Kentucky.
1 Gonzaga vs. 1 Illinois
· This will be one of the best games we have seen in a long, long time. Way too much talent on the floor as Suggs and Kispert face-off against Cockburn and Dosunmu. This will be a high scoring affair, but thanks to a gauntlet of a Big 10 conference this year, Illinois will have the guts to take down the undefeated Zags. This will mark the first Big 10 national champion since Sparty in 2000, and I couldn’t be much happier.
Don’t take March for granted, as this is the undisputed best three-week stretch of the year.