It's that time of year, folks.
It's time to pore over your brackets, scour KenPom for any little tidbit of information or stat that might give you an edge, debate endlessly over that brutal eight vs. nine game in the second round and eventually play your hunches and trust your gut before ripping up your bracket after the first weekend.
It's wonderful, isn't it?
But while there will be plenty of time to analyze the entire bracket, today I've decided to go right to Final Four and predict the four teams I think will advance out of their regions. With so many talented teams and an inability of any team to remain at No. 1 in the rankings this season, it wasn't easy to pick these four teams.
But each either has the look of a potential champion or is well suited to make a run in tournament play. Here's my Final Four—be sure to leave your Final Four in the comments.
Louisville probably has the toughest bracket to deal with in the loaded Midwest region—Saint Louis, Michigan State and Duke are all excellent teams, while Oregon, Memphis and Creighton and Oklahoma State could all make deep runs—and yet the Cardinals feel like one of the safest bets to reach the Final Four.
Louisville won the Big East regular season and conference tournament championships. They are coached by the legendary Rick Pitino. According to KenPom, they have the best defensive efficiency in the country, which is always a strong factor when determining Final Four teams.
Louisville comes into this tournament on the heels of a 10-game winning streak. They'll be challenged, but they'll add at least four wins to that streak.
West: Ohio State
Ohio State is a trendy selection to reach the Final Four after winning the Big Ten tournament and finishing the season with eight straight wins.
And frankly, it should be.
The Buckeyes have all the pieces needed to make a deep tourney run. They have a star in DeShaun Thomas (19.5 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game), a crafty point guard in Aaron Craft (pun intended), they are a battle-tested and experienced bunch and they play excellent defense (sixth in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom).
The biggest test for the Buckeyes in the weak West region will likely come in the Sweet 16, when they could meet a tough New Mexico team that could easily win this region. But the Buckeyes got hot at the right time, and Thomas and Craft will push them past the dangerous Lobos.
No region has given me more headaches than the South. I think Kansas and Georgetown are legitimate threats to reach the Final Four, while VCU and San Diego State have tempted me into pushing a lower seed all the way through this region.
But something is telling me that Florida is going to make a deep run. Maybe it's the fact that Florida has excellent guard play and can simply outgun many opponents. Perhaps it's the team's pressure defense that led to the nation's second-best defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
Or it could be the fact that Billy Donovan has led three Florida teams to the Final Four and won two national championships.
Of the three main contenders in this region, I actually think Florida is the safest pick. For as talented as the Jayhawks are, they are prone to bad losses—a February loss to TCU and late-season beatdown by Baylor come to mind—and lack a true point guard, while Georgetown only has one pure scorer in Otto Porter, Jr.
Florida doesn't have a ton of big wins this year—and the SEC certainly wasn't the strongest conference this year—but the experienced and explosive Gators can hang with the best of them and will advance out of the South region.
Sometimes you see a team and think, "That squad just has the look of a Final Four team." That's the way I feel about this Indiana squad.
The Hoosiers may have the best starting five in the country and have legitimate stars in Cody Zeller (16.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG) and Victor Oladipo (13.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG). They have the top offensive efficiency in the country according to KenPom and are 19th in defensive efficiency.
And they won the Big Ten regular-season title, the strongest conference in the land, while adding an excellent non-conference victory over Georgetown.
The Hoosiers could be in trouble against a very talented NC State team in the third round—and Miami looms on the other side of this region—but for my money Indiana is the most talented team in the country and will win the national championship.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are busting brackets and beating the buzzer all week long.
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