NCAA Tournament Bracket 2014: Early Picks and Projections for March Madness

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIMarch 16, 2014

Mar 9, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Wichita State Shockers guard Fred VanVleet (23) brings the ball up court during the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament against the Indiana State Sycamores at Scotttrade Center.Wichita won 83-69. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Get your brackets ready. Following the aftermath of Selection Sunday, the field of 68 teams that will compete in the 2014 NCAA tournament has finally been revealed.

As always, there were some surprise teams that sneaked into the field, as well as some interesting shifts among top positions in each region. Now that we know which path each team must take to earn a coveted national title, we can begin to predict which teams have the best chances to emerge victorious.

Let's take a look at some early picks and projections as March Madness gets underway.


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Florida Has a Favorable Schedule in the South

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 16:  Scottie Wilbekin #5 and Casey Prather #24 of the Florida Gators celebrate their 61 to 60 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in the Championship game of the 2014 Men's SEC Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 16, 2014 in Atla
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After Florida put away Kentucky on Sunday in the ACC finals by a score of 61-60, the Gators further secured the No. 1 seed in the South Region.

The Gators are to face the winner of Mount St. Mary's and Albany for their first contest. Florida's defense shouldn't have a tough time getting through this Round 2 game.

After Colorado and Pittsburgh face off, the winner of that contest would be the next to face the Gators. Pittsburgh should be the favorite here, and if the team does move on, the Panthers will face yet another team whose defense will give them fits—Pittsburgh lost to Virginia's top-ranked defense in the ACC tournament.

Whether VCU, UCLA or another team gets through Round 3, Florida's defense is stout enough to keep the remaining teams at bay, leading to a Sweet 16 berth for the Gators.

From there, Florida will have an improbable hot streak going and will be a likely team to enter the Final Four.

There may be nothing stopping Florida this year.

Prediction: Tournament Champions


Villanova on Upset Alert in the East

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13:  Fuquan Edwin #23 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates the win as Josh Hart #3,Darrun Hilliard II #4 and James Bell #32 of the Villanova Wildcats react to the loss during the quarterfinals of the Big East Basketball Tournament at
Elsa/Getty Images

The Villanova Wildcats have been struggling mightily lately. After struggling late in the season, the Wildcats continued their losing streak, as No. 8 Seton Hall sent them packing early in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

Villanova won't have it any easier in the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats could face Connecticut in the third round. Despite losing to Louisville in the AAC tournament, the Huskies have been playing some inspired basketball lately. They defeated No. 11 Cincinnati (twice) and No. 19 Memphis near the end of the regular season.

With Connecticut stepping up in a big way against ranked teams, and Villanova looking sluggish of late, the No. 2 Wildcats are officially on upset alert as early as the third round of the tournament.

Prediction: Lose in Round 3


Wichita State Will Run the Midwest

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 9: Cleanthony Early #11 of the Wichita State Shockers looks to get past Khristian Smith #32 of the Indiana State Sycamores during the MVC Basketball Tournament Championship game at the Scottrade Center on March 9, 2014 in St. Louis,
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Wichita State shocked the nation, going 34-0 through tournament play. The knock on this team is that it hasn't exactly had a rough schedule. However, the Shockers have been dominating opponents all season long and are looking to prove themselves in the NCAA tournament.

The Shockers' toughest competition in the region is the Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals have looked great lately, running the table in the AAC tournament.

Louisville has been on a major hot streak entering the big dance, and the Cardinals are certainly a team to be feared in the tournament. However, they have faltered over the season against well-rounded teams such as Cincinnati and Memphis.

Wichita State is one such team. With a stout defense that feeds its dynamic offense, the Shockers have the firepower to get ahead early and maintain their lead from there.

If these teams do meet, expect Wichita State to deliver yet another shocking performance, as they take out the toughest team in the region early and cruise to the Final Four from there.

Prediction: Lose in Final Four


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