Sorry for my lack of posting the last few days. I have been hellishly busy at work and filling out what has now amounted to 569 brackets. This is my favorite time of the year, sports-wise. I get giddy just thinking about the NCAA Tournament. Thus, the goal of this Tuesday Top Ten is to help you as you fill out your brackets. Make sure you have everything done by Noon Eastern tomorrow, when the first games start.
Before I get started, let's just take a quick second to laugh at Kentucky. They bitched and moaned when they didn't make the NCAA Tournament (becoming only the fifth NCAA champion since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that didn't make the NCAA Tournament the following year), and then they went ahead and lost in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris, becoming the first team since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to win the NCAA championship one year and then lose in the first round of the NIT the next year. Well, at least they're probably getting paid well.
But I digress. This year's NCAA Tournament is as wide open as I can remember. I think there are probably 10-12 teams that have legitimate shots of going all the way. Here are a couple lists of five (since ten seemed like overkill) teams each in a few categories that you should consider when filling out your brackets. Some of these are somewhat contradictory, but such is the tournament. The teams are in alphabetical order.
Teams with the best shot at winning it all:
1. Florida. For most of the season, Florida was projected as a 1-seed. They were probably penalized by a couple late-season losses in a weak SEC, but they can shoot and defend very well.
2. Indiana. The Hoosiers have the talent and the big-game experience to cut down the nets in Atlanta.
3. Louisville. Obviously, this is the hot pick after the Cards won the Big East tourney and grabbed the #1 overall seed.
4. Miami. It's a senior-laden team with great guards, coached by a guy with Final Four experience.
5. Ohio State. I think they have the easiest road to the Final Four of anyone.
Final Four sleepers (teams seeded 4 or higher):
1. Butler. As we learned in 2010 and 2011, Brad Stevens has some March mojo.
2. Michigan. The Wolverines are probably underseeded at a 4-seed, and they definitely have the talent to beat anyone in their region.
3. St. Louis. They have great guards, which is always key in March. If they meet Louisville in the Sweet 16, it could be a hell of a game.
4. Syracuse. Jim Boeheim is an enigma in March. Syracuse could either lose in the first round or get their shit together and make a Final Four run. Neither would surprise me, although I prefer the former.
5. VCU. Bilas picked them, and he's never wrong.
Teams seeded 4 or lower who may not make it to the second weekend:
1. Duke. 'Cause fuck Duke.
2. Kansas State. I don't trust Bruce Webber in March. If the Wildcats make it to the second round, they will likely face Wisconsin, and Bo Ryan is familiar enough with Webber to come up with a solid game plan (which usually involves slowing the pace to a turtle's crawl, scowling, and having 6'10" white guys shoot threes).
3. Marquette. Davidson should not be overlooked, nor should the winner of the Butler/Bucknell game.
4. New Mexico. I think New Mexico is a very good team, but for some reason, they never seem to get it together in March, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Lobos lose to a fired-up Arizona team in the second round.
5. Syracuse. If they make it past a tough matchup with Montana, they get the winner of UNLV/Cal.
Teams seeded 12 or higher with the best chance of pulling an upset in the first round:
1. California. Mike Montgomery is a very good coach, and I think they may catch UNLV off guard.
2. Davidson. The Wildcats are always a tough out in March, as Steph Curry proved a few years ago when he led Davidson to the Elite 8 and within a basket of the Final Four. Sure, they don't have Curry anymore, but they are still dangerous, and Marquette better be ready.
3. Mississippi. The Rebs are streaky, and guard Marshall Henderson is a lightning rod. If they get hot like they did in the SEC tournament, Wisconsin (and maybe Kansas State) are in trouble.
4. Oregon. The Pac-12 tournament champs got screwed with a 12-seed, so I am guessing they will be fired up.5. South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits have Wooden Award finalist Nate Wolters, and if Michigan's not careful, he could go off for 45 and lead SDSU to an upset.