March Madness is here and by now, you've probably ingested enough NCAA bracket material to last until 2017.
From ESPN to Fox Sports, NBC and beyond, it seems as if there is an expert from every imaginable corner of the country.
With many brackets set to close Wednesday or early Thursday before the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament begins, the most crazed fans among us are still out there, consuming endless amounts of "risky" and "safe" predictions, finding new experts to trust and learning that there is always reason to wait until the last minute to fill out those pesky March Madness brackets.
For those of you last-minute shoppers, boy do we have a treat for you.
Here are your last-minute expert bracket predictions as the clock strikes midnight on Cinderella's bracket-filling festivities.
The following aren't going to be your everyday cookie cutter bracket picks—be honest, you're still reading bracket predictions because you're looking to make your bracket bold and innovative.
If that describes you, this is your kind of last-minute prediction show.
After Selection Sunday's immediate expert analysis, Syracuse Orange star Fab Melo was declared ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, which certainly has changed perceptions and prognostications, at least according to ESPN.
In the five hours following the no-Melo news-break, ESPN bracketeers flocked to their pixelated pictographs to switch Syracuse out of favor, out of the Final Four and even out of the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen.
Prior to the Melo-shot, 10.57 percent of participants had picked Syracuse to win it all. In the five hours since dis-Melocation, that number dropped to 8.82 percent.
Similarly, the Orange's odds of making the championship game were lowered from 22.16 percent to 18.62 percent, while their 41.23 percent vote of confidence to reach the Final Four turned into a shaky 35.27 probability.
Could 2012 be the dawn of Shakespeare's newest play, The Tragedy of Fab Melo, the Foe of Pandects?
Ah, the newspaper
If you're like most obsessive March Madness enthusiasts, your last-minute expert prediction isn't going to come from ESPN men like Jay Bilas or Dick Vitale and it won't be the result of a Sports Illustrated feature.
No, for now is the time when you turn the most unconventional of sources.
In this day and age of iPads, terabyte computers and smarter-than-human smart phones, the most unconventional of sources is ... the newspaper.
Print newsman Mark Giannotto of The Washington Post recently released his March Madness bracket ahead of the big show.
Billed as the Post's sports expert, Giannotto makes some fairly safe bets: Kentucky, Syracuse and UNC all make it to the Final Four, with the Tar Heels defeating the Wildcats for the 2012 National Championship.
Along the way, Giannotto predicts these key upsets:
- Baylor over Duke (Sweet Sixteen)
- NC State over San Diego State (First Round)
- So. Florida over Temple (First Round)
- Long Beach State over New Mexico (First Round)
- Long Beach State over Louisville (First Round)
- Missouri over Michigan State (Elite Eight)
Those are six last-minute upsets to consider for your last-minute bracket.
Wichita State's nickname is the Shockers and according to FSN Detroit's Dave Dye, that is the perfect name for the upstart team from Kansas.
Wichita State won the 2011 NIT tournament and in 2012, looks to make the most of its No. 5 selection to the NCAA Tournament's South region.
When the Shockers play VCU on Thursday, Dye predicts Wichita State to start a healthy tradition of winning that won't end until the National Championship game, when Wichita State will fall to the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Dye has exactly one No. 1 seed making it into the Final Four, his own hometown Michigan State Spartans—what a ... shocker.
Dye explains his fascination with the Shockers' program: "I like Wichita State because it starts four seniors and a junior. The Shockers also have a 10-1 road record and there are some hostile arenas that they have to go to in the Missouri Valley."
The only question is whether Wichita State can stand up to a big name program like Kentucky.
According to Dye, that'll be a piece of cake.
Last year's "Best Upset" ESPY winners, VCU
Every year, ESPN gives an ESPY Award to the underdog that most impressed us over that past season with their "Best Upset" category. Last year, Final Four Cinderella story VCU won the ESPY for "Best Upset" after defeating Kansas 71-61 in the Southwest Region Final of the NCAA Tournament.
This year, provocative college basketball blogger Ken Pomeroy is predicting that a No. 16 seed will beat a No. 1 seed for the first time ever in NCAA Tournament play.
According to Pomeroy, the 2012 history-maker will be the Lamar Cardinals, who have yet to complete their play-in game against Vermont and whose name is more likely to turn up search results of a disgruntled former Lakers star than anything related to the NCAA.
Pomeroy believes Lamar is the strongest 16-seed to ever play in an NCAA Tournament, though he admits play-in opponent Vermont is also a strong 16er.
If you can—or have the desire to—follow Pomeroy's extensive use of logarithms and other mathematical perplexities, you'll see that he truly believes either Lamar or Vermont has what it takes to beat UNC in the tournament's first matchup from regional play.
UNC is playing without John Henson, whose injury is still a question mark as the tournament approaches, which may—just may—leave the door open for Lamar or Vermont to make something incredible happen.
Goerie.com, timesnews.com—what is that?
Well, there's a first time for everything and according to GoErie sports columnist Duane Rankin, that's exactly the kind of logic that should be applied to the NCAA Tournament.
In using his methodology of "firsts," Rankin predicts the following key moments of the tournament:
Ohio will defeat Michigan in the tournament's first major upset using its No. 13 national ranking in 3-point shot defense to shut down Wolverines point guard Trey Burke.
Duke will fall to UNLV as the first second seed defeat. This prediction is based on Duke's lack of depth and presumed inability to shut down UNLV sophomore Mike Moser.
Michigan State will be the first No. 1 seed to fall out of the tournament when they lose to Memphis or Louisville in the Sweet 16. And just for good measure, in Rankin's spirit of giving the Spartans a heck of a lot of lee-way—and assuming that Syracuse, Kentucky and UNC will easily make the Final Four—Rankin predicts Missouri will prove too much for Michigan State in the Elite Eight.
Finally, Rankin sees Gonzaga losing to West Virginia on the tournament's first buzzer-beater finish of the 2012 postseason, crediting the game's location of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—40 miles from Morgantown, West Virginia—as a huge contributor.
GoErie—that's in Penn, too, right?
There, I did it—I found Las Vegas and sports together in the same photo; bettors, start your engines.
For economists filling out March Madness brackets, you might want to take a look at how Vegas sees each team's chances in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky is a 5-2 favorite to win the 2012 championship while No. 2 seed Ohio State is a 6-1 second favorite with most of Nevada's 186 sports books.
North Carolina rides in at 7-1, while Michigan State carries 8-1 odds and Syracuse rounds out the top five at 10-1.
According to Vegas oddsmaker Mike Colbert, 40-1 longshot Vanderbilt is a recent favorite among bettors, as are 75-1 Cincinnati and 60-1 Memphis.
Come to think of it, I'll put $1000 down on the Bearcats—but only if my bet involves a DeLorean and some enriched plutonium.
From Vegas to big business, March Madness is more than just a sports phenomenon.
Cincinnati area Chief Executives took to naming their NCAA Tournament picks this week, with Kevin Kabat starting the bracket reveal: The CEO of Fifth Third Bancorp has picked Kentucky to win it all with Ohio as his Cinderella selection.
CEO of Kroger Co. David Dillon picked the University of Kansas to win it all—then again, he picked Kansas as his Cinderella tale and he is an alum of the University of Kansas.
As if to prove that not all alums are incredibly biased, managing partner of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP George Vincent picked Kentucky against his own University of Michigan to win the championship.
On the other hand, TriHealth CEO John Prout picked the Michigan State Spartans to win it all while Christian Moerlein Brewing Company CEO Greg Hardman chose (the) Ohio State University.
Still trust the boss?
In the end, perhaps there is no greater expert to appreciate than the amateur, casual basketball viewer who just happened to have won Yahoo!'s 2011 NCAA Tourney Pick'em bracket pool: Jason VanDuyne.
This 19-year-old who reluctantly entered a bracket in the Tourney because of peer pressure to join a pool won $10,000 for his instinctual efforts: going with a gut feeling that Connecticut's Kemba Walker would lead his team to the NCAA title.
For 2012, VanDuyne likes VCU for upset potential, though the non-sports industry "expert" has Kentucky, Kansas and Syracuse joining Louisville in the Final Four.
As for the championship, VanDuyne has Louisville battling it out with Syracuse.
For obvious reasons, VanDuyne won't say who he thinks will win the whole tournament.