Whether it's an office pool or a friendly wager between a few buddies, you'll be considering an expert's advice at some point when putting together your NCAA Tournament bracket.
The problem is, how do you know who is right?
Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale, Mark Schlabach: They all command a level of respect as experts and voices of authority when it comes to all things March Madness.
Yet, there has to be a line drawn between experts you should be listening to and the ones dealing pure whitewash.
If you're looking for someone you can trust, start with Digger Phelps.
While we're undoubtedly excited to see what tie/highlighter combo he rolls out for the tournament this year, Ol' Digger always entertains with his picks.
Digger's Final Four: Kansas, Michigan State, Florida State and Kentucky. It isn't all chalk but then again it's not exactly far off.
Digger Phelps is renowned for his antics and his tendency to go with picks that border on being left-of center.
He certainly looks to go against the grain when and if he can.
That's good news for bracket nerds this year, because Sparty looks great coming off a Big Ten tournament win against Jared Sullinger and Ohio State. And Phelps just is not feeling the love for Calipari's Kentucky squad which still needs to prove it can win big games.
Count on Dick Vitale this year, as well.
Dicky V is without question the largest personality behind a desk in college basketball. In fact, the only television personality in college sports who could claim to be his equal is his football counterpart, Lee Corso.
Vitale is also a pool of knowledge, though, and has no problem dishing on which teams to take seriously.
I like Vitale's picks this year as he has thrown in a couple of potential curve-balls in Missouri and Florida State as Final Four members. Florida State is especially stylish given its great run this year capped off with a victory over Duke in the ACC Tournament.
In Dicky V's world, most things are "awesome, baby!" and his picks shouldn't be any exception. As good as Kentucky is, I can't completely fault him for picking them to take home the crown, but it will be interesting to see if this is year that John Calipari can finally get over the hump.
As far as the Final Four is concerned, though, you have to like where Vitale's head is at.
Of course, there are a couple of experts you need to watch out for.
Sorry to say, but Jay Bilas is one of the one's to watch out for.
I'm a huge Bilas fan. He's down to earth, funny and generally makes a good deal of sense when breaking down match-ups and how a team's path through the tournament stands in terms of relative ease or difficulty.
Which is perhaps why I'm so surprised, then, to see his Final Four consists of all No. 1 seeds: North Carolina, Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan State.
The field rarely, if ever, funnels down to all four No. 1 seeds remaining. Upsets always happen, they need to happen. Middle to lower seeds like Indiana, Vanderbilt and Connecticut all have the potential to ruffle a few feathers and, what's perhaps more troubling is that Bilas has Kentucky winning the tournament on top of it all.
It's an ultra-political move by Bilas, and not one I'm a big fan of. Kentucky might be an overwhelming favorite to waltz to a national championship and it may be the case that they end up winning, but not in a Final Four populated by all the No. 1 seeds.
I'm also not buying stock in Myron Medcalf's 2012 prognostications.
I like a healthy mix of upsets and favorites, but Medcalf's prediction that Vanderbilt goes to New Orleans is a bit of a stretch.
Sure, they beat Kentucky. There's something to be said for that and they have the shooting ability to give anyone a run for their money but in a field with Wisconsin, Syracuse and K State looming, I just don't see the Commodores making it past the Sweet 16.
Speaking of Wisconsin, he has them going out in the first round at the hands of No. 13-seeded Montana. The Badgers have sputtered of late, but I think they pull it together and at least make it to the second round based on the strength of their inside game.
I'm just not buying it Myron.
Without analysts, we'd be left to our own devices. That is, picking largely in favor of higher seeds and trying our best at guessing which upsets will happen where.
It's a tough business, really, putting together a tournament bracket. It's also a labor of love and our beloved experts help make it a little easier to line up the perfect tournament bracket in March.
Apologies to Myron Medcalf and Jay Bilas, I just think they're off the mark in 2012. Phelps and Vitale, on the other hand, I feel are on to something.
Regardless of how March plays out, Vitale will undoubtedly be right about one thing:
It's awesome, baby.
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