2014 NCAA Tournament Predictons: Championship Projections After Bracket Release

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2014

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 Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Over the years, I've tried many different approaches to filling out a bracket for the NCAA tournament. 

I've filled them out starting at the championship game working backward and from the first game moving forward. I've filled them out on the first day of the release and on the last day before the tournament. I've filled them out after studying each close matchup and then by going on first impression. 

None of it has made a difference. There are too many upsets, too many close matchups and just too much madness for this tournament to be successfully predicted. That's all part of what makes this one of the most enjoyable tournaments on the calendar. 

None of it has deterred me from filling out a bracket each year. I'll get into my championship predictions, but first have a look at the bracket.  

Source: Bleacher Report
All Your Bracket Essentials:


Predictions: Regional Winners

South: Florida 

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 16:  The Florida Gators celebrate with the trophy after 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 Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo b
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Florida is talented and experienced. The Gators have been flashing their potential all year and are certain to be the majority decision to emerge out of this bracket.

No. 2 seed Kansas has the talent to give the Gators a run for their money should the two meet, but injury concerns for Kansas center Joel Embiid have tempered the expectations on the Jayhawks.

Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star passed along this update on Embiid: 

The Gators have shown the consistency needed to excel in a tournament like this, and that is exactly what they'll do.


West: Arizona 

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 15:  Gabe York #1 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts as teammates Jordin Mayes #20 and Elliott Pitts #24 look on during a timeout in the championship game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the UCLA Bruins at the MGM Grand Garde
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Prior to the selection committee setting up the bracket, I had convinced myself I wasn't picking Arizona to make the Final Four. The Wildcats have the talent to make a title run, but they weren't at their best during the stretch run. 

Arizona lost four of its last 13 games and two of its last four. 

Then the bracket came out, and I had to change my tune. The Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer highlights the reasoning for my change of heart: 

Arizona will push through its relatively weak competition and make the Final Four.


Midwest: Louisville  

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 15: Russ Smith #2 and Chris Jones #3 of the Louisville Cardinals walk towards the bench against the Connecticut Huskies during the Championship of the American Athletic Conference Tournament at FedExForum on March 15, 2014 in Memphis,
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino felt his team should be a No. 1 seed, and it got a fourth seed.

No matter, the defending national champions can run this bracket. Wichita State went undefeated this season, but it did so against a weak schedule. The Shockers will not be able to handle the consistently tough competition. 

Michigan has struggled with consistency this year and has four losses since February. All have been by double digits. 

No. 3 seed Duke figures to be a major problem. The Blue Devils also struggled with consistency, and like Michigan, Duke likes to win with a powerful offense. That is a rough way to survive in the tournament.  


East: Virginia

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate after defeating the Duke Blue Devils to win the the championship game of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Iowa State, the third seed in this region, will be a popular selection here. CBSSports.com's Jon Rothstein named it as one of three popular selections following an impressive run in the conference tournament: 

I just couldn't do it, though. Virginia has impressed me too much. The Cavaliers have a wonderful defense and an approach to the game that provides consistency.

The Cavaliers do not have the most efficient offense, but they can and have overcome this with their excellent defense. Virginia enters this tournament off of a nine-point victory over Duke to win the ACC tournament, and it won't be denied a trip to the Final Four.  


Championship Predictions

Championship Game: Florida vs. Louisville

What a fun championship game this would be. We'd get two excellent and experienced teams battling out for the top prize, and Louisville would be trying to do so to become a rare back-to-back champion. 

The Gators will have to get past Virginia to reach the championship game. That also sets up to be a strong game. Virginia will look to keep the score down, but this won't bother Florida in the slightest. 

The Gators are right at home playing that style of basketball, and they will prevail due to better offensive efficiency. 

Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, Arizona has not been all that impressive down the stretch. Louisville will overwhelm the Wildcats with its pressure defense and emerge with a relatively easy victory. 

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 16:  Head coach Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators celebrates their 61 to 60 win over the Kentucky Wildcats during the Championship game of the 2014 Men's SEC Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 16, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


Champion: Florida 

The Gators have been supremely impressive, and they have everything needed to win this tournament. Florida features four players who averaged double digits in scoring. This team is experienced and balanced scoring. 

Florida is far from a lock to take this title, but there is no safer prediction in this field than the Gators.