March Madness 2014: Bold Predictions for Each Region of the Bracket

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2014

Mar 15, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; The Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowslby presents Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg and players the championship trophy after the game against the Baylor Bears in the championship game of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. The Cyclones won 74 - 65. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Face it. You're not going to win your NCAA tournament bracket pool by being conservative. Now's the time to take a chance and risk looking like an idiot in a few weeks.

All Your Bracket Essentials:


Few sporting events are as much fun as the Big Dance. Even if you have no rooting interest, you can earn bragging rights over friends by correctly calling that No. 14 vs. No. 3 upset. Or maybe you nailed that No. 5 seed going all the way to the Final Four.

Going all chalk is both boring and unproductive when it comes to winning any money.

In that spirit, here are a few predictions from the four regions that are bound to come true. Or they'll blow up in my face. Either way, it's going to be a great ride.



Syracuse Will Advance to the Final Four

TALLAHASSEE, FL - MARCH 09:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orangemen speaks with Trevor Cooney #10 during a game against the Florida State Seminoles at the Donald L. Tucker Center on March 9, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.  Syracuse won the game 7
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

I wish I could give a laundry list of reasons of why Syracuse will make the Final Four other than it's a gut feeling.

Jim Boeheim is no stranger to having his teams overachieve in the NCAA tournament. Look at last year's run to the Final Four.

The Orange's stifling zone defense will get them past an undermanned Kansas, and against Florida, they'll shut down the Gators just enough to give C.J. Fair a chance to win the game.

I did say that these would be bold predictions.


Dayton Will Upset Ohio State

Mar 14, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward LaQuinton Ross (10) reacts to getting fouled on a play against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Ohio Sta
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Few second-round matchups are as intriguing as Dayton vs. Ohio State. You don't normally get two in-state schools meeting this early in the tournament, especially two that rarely play each other in the regular season:

The problem with the Buckeyes is that they didn't find a replacement for Deshaun Thomas. When the shots weren't falling, OSU could at least count on him to come through. Now, that role falls to LaQuinton Ross, and he's not the same kind of player.

If the Flyers can put some points on the board, they'll be in business against the Buckeyes.



Creighton Will Lose to Baylor

Mar 15, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Creighton Bluejays forward Doug McDermott (3) reacts against the Providence Friars during the second half in the championship game of the Big East college basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: A
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Stop Doug McDermott's supporting cast and you stop Creighton. It's that simple.

In the Big East final, McDermott scored 27 points, but the rest of the team only had 31. One player isn't enough to get past really good teams in today's college basketball, and the Bluejays don't have much else other than McDermott with which to counter.

Baylor enters the Big Dance playing its best basketball of the season. The Bears played Iowa State tough in the Big 12 final, but they ran out of steam. If they could get a similar effort over 40 minutes against Creighton, they'd be into the Sweet 16.



The Duke Blue Devils Will Lose in the Third Round to Tennessee

If Tennessee can get past both Iowa and Massachusetts, it would be stiff competition for Duke. The Vols are extremely underrated coming into the tournament, as Ken Pomeroy has them as the 13th-best team in the country heading into the tournament.

When the Volunteers are good, they're very good. They beat Virginia by 35 points, Xavier by 15 points and should've beaten Florida in the SEC semifinal had they not choked the game away late.

Their record looks bad, but four of their most important losses came to the Gators and Wichita State, per Jimmy Hyams of WNML in Knoxville, Tenn.:

Tennessee is a dangerous team with nothing to lose and everything to prove. Against what can be a spotty Blue Devils team, they'd be primed to pull off the upset.



Connecticut Will Beat Villanova

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 15: Amida Brimah #35, Niels Giffey #5, Shabazz Napier #13, Ryan Boatright #11 and Lasan Kromah #20 of the Connecticut Huskies huddle together against the Louisville Cardinals during the Championship of the American Athletic Conference
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Villanova is one of the weakest No. 2 seeds in the bracket. It's a close race between the Wildcats and Wisconsin.

The Connecticut Huskies have a very underrated defense, which Pomeroy ranks as 11th in the country. Don't forget UConn is one of two teams to beat Florida this season, and it has wins over Cincinnati and Memphis.

CBS Sports has an RPI comparison of the two, and while Villanova gets the edge, it's much closer than you'd think considering their differences in seeding.


Iowa State Will Advance to the Final Four

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

After watching the Big 12 final, I'm sold on Iowa State. The Cyclones were pretty abject in the first half and then massively turned things around in the second, per College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster:

With Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane, Fred Hoiberg has a three-headed monster that's impossible for nearly anyone to stop.

Some might knock Iowa State's defense, considering it gives up almost 74 points per game. You have to take into account the fact that the Cyclones are such a fast-paced team that they're bound to give up a lot of points to the other team.

In the Big 12 final though, ISU did a great job on Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, limiting them to 15 combined points. Their defense isn't great, but it's good enough to at least win the East region.

Let's hope we can get Virginia and Iowa State in the Elite Eight to see two polar opposite offenses face off.