Ranking NCAA Bracketologists: Whom to Trust with Your 2013 Bracket
With the 2013 NCAA tournament tipping off in just over 24 hours, fans from the casual to the hardcore are looking for tips from top bracketologists. There are plenty of big-name analysts to choose from in looking for expert help, so knowing which ones to listen to can be a big step toward picking the right teams.
We’ve put half a dozen of the top prognosticators from around the college hoops world—including ESPN’s Jay Bilas—to the test by analyzing their 2012 tournament picks. With this year’s field looking to provide even more surprises than usual, the upset-filled 2012 tourney provides a pretty good testing ground for our pool of analysts.
Many of last year’s key games—notably the two victories by No. 15 seeds—fooled everyone on the list. However, there were some important differences in picks that help separate the good predictors from the outstanding ones.
Read on to find out which experts have earned their stripes—and your respect for their 2013 predictions.
6. Dick Vitale
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In following college basketball, there are few opinions easier to learn than those of Dick Vitale. As ubiquitous (and loud) as the ESPN analyst is, though, he’s not necessarily on the money—or even close to it.
Vitale’s 2012 picks showed his usual affinity for the ACC, with both North Carolina and Florida State incorrectly making the Final Four. In fact, champion Kentucky was the only Final Four team he nailed.
Even his most astute move (picking Louisville to make the Sweet 16, closer than most got on the Cards) was tempered by a distinctive miscue.
Vitale was the only analyst here who picked Murray State to upset Marquette, a not-unreasonable upset but another one that whiffed.
Vitale's 2013 picks are already up and can be found here.
5. Seth Davis
Photo courtesy of Subway.
Top CBS analyst Seth Davis is one of the sharpest minds in the college game for most purposes. When it comes to picking the Big Dance, though, he lagged behind the pack last year.
Davis prominently picked the Belmont Bruins to be last year’s top Cinderella, a call that fizzled when Georgetown sent them packing in the second round.
He also rolled the dice on a couple of other notable upsets—Vanderbilt to the Final Four and South Dakota State to topple Baylor—that didn’t pan out.
On the plus side, Davis did have two Final Four picks correct, nailing both title-game participants and tabbing Kentucky as the champion over Kansas.
Davis has posted video breakdowns of this year's regionals, available from Sports Illustrated (for whom he also writes) here.
4. Luke Winn
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Sports Illustrated isn’t exactly short on college basketball analysts, and Luke Winn does his job as well as any of them. His instincts, however, didn't serve him particularly well in last year’s bracket selections.
Winn’s biggest success was correctly picking the title-game matchup between Kansas and Kentucky. He also had the Wildcats coming out on top, also rightly.
Like many of these commentators, though, Winn put too much faith in Vanderbilt, sending the Commodores to the Elite Eight when they actually fell in the round of 32. He also slipped by picking South Dakota State to upset Baylor.
3. Jay Bilas
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The less frantic of ESPN’s two signature college basketball analysts, Jay Bilas is one of the network’s more cerebral commentators. He’s also coming off a solid performance when it comes to making sense of a crazed Big Dance bracket last year.
Bilas, like most of the prognosticators here, had two correct picks in his 2012 Final Four, hitting both Kentucky (as the champ) and Ohio State. He also advanced Louisville as far as the Sweet 16, as close as anyone got to the Cards’ actual Final Four finish.
The most obvious pitfall for Bilas was one that gave many writers trouble here. He overvalued Vanderbilt, sending the Commodores to the Elite Eight.
Bilas' bracket for the 2013 tournament is here.
2. Kerry Miller
Image from Kerry Miller's Bleacher Report profile
Kerry Miller, Bleacher Report’s own resident college hoops expert, is on a roll after correctly picking all 68 teams playing in this year’s field. He also did a pretty good job when it came to choosing winners in the 2012 tourney.
Miller had a pair of Final Four teams correct with Kentucky and Ohio State. In fact, he correctly predicted every game of the East regional that sent the Buckeyes to the Final Four (avoiding the Vanderbilt upset pick that flummoxed so many).
Also notably, Miller was one of the few writers on the list who had Baylor in the Elite Eight and the only one to send N.C. State to the Sweet 16, both of which proved correct.
Still, two major factors keep him from taking the top spot here. He was the only one of these writers to pick No. 13 seed Davidson over eventual Final Four team Louisville and the only one who missed on picking the national champ (opting for North Carolina rather than Kentucky).
Miller unveiled his 2013 bracket pick by pick via his Twitter feed on Sunday night.
1. Rob Dauster
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Rob Dauster handles the bracket-expert duties at NBC Sports’ College Basketball Talk, where he’s already broken down this year’s regionals. Don’t overlook his picks, because he’s coming off an exceptional showing in 2012.
Dauster is the only analyst on this list who nailed three of last year’s Final Four teams, including the correct matchup and result of Kansas’ national semifinal win over Ohio State. He also had Kentucky as the champ.
On top of all that, Dauster is one of the few who rightly picked Baylor to advance to the Elite Eight. Even his most notable mistake (Vanderbilt in the Elite Eight) has him in good company here.