The NCAA tournament bracket: a source of fear, anger and happiness all on one sheet of paper.
With the field of 68 teams officially set, every bracket is perfect—for now.
There's no perfect science behind picking the perfect bracket. In fact, if someone can accomplish doing just that, they have a chance to win $1 billion in Warren Buffett's challenge. Buffett spoke about the perfect bracket challenge with ESPN's Rick Reilly:
I don't really care if somebody wins or not. All I'm concerned with is charging the right price. This has been my life. I knew as a young man that if I kept writing one deal after another deal, and charged the right price, in the end, I was going to make money.
But it's not all about being accurate. For some, there's always one bracket that has its team making the Final Four or winning the National Championship. Then there are those who pick entirely upsets and hope for the best.
Regardless of how fans of the game ultimately make their picks—darts, coin flips, etc.—simply watching the games this season should be entertaining. Here's a look at the exhilarating matchups and points to consider when navigating through the bracket.
Stick With No. 1 Seeds Early
Will a No. 16 seed finally beat a No. 1 seed?
Everyone always wants to see a No. 1 seed get knocked off in the round of 64, but it has never happened before and won't happen this season. While a team like Virginia is being questioned as a No. 1 seed, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers won't be advancing to the round of 32.
But in the round of 32, the picks can start to get dicey. Arizona could be playing Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, while Wichita State might face off with preseason No. 1 Kentucky after earning its first win.
As for picking No. 1 seeds at any point after that, ESPN Stats & Info reveals why that might not be a little more difficult:
Being a No. 1 seed isn't what it used to be. Since '09, more No. 1 seeds have lost in Sweet 16 (6) than have made the Final Four (5).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 5, 2014
After Wichita State made it to the Final Four last season, they join a bracket with 2013 National Champion Louisville and traditional powers like Duke and Kentucky also reside.
As for Florida, a matchup with No. 4-seeded UCLA, the Pac-12 tournament champions, could cut its trip to the Final Four short. While a No. 1 seed like Louisville won it all last season, be wary of the later matchups for the top teams.
Look for Teams Seeded 'Incorrectly'
The top seeds are deserving; there's no doubt about that. But that doesn't mean teams that were seeded as a No. 2, 3 or even a shocking 4 seed—Louisville—haven't earned their placement at the top of the bracket.
In fact, several writers like Dan Wolken and Eric Prisbell of USA Today have voiced their opinions about the ridiculous seeds that were released on Selection Sunday:
This is the worst job of seeding I’ve ever seen. Not even close.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 16, 2014
They talk all the time about balancing the regions. The Midwest is absurdly treacherous for WSU. Unfair to UofL and Shockers.— Eric Prisbell (@EricPrisbell) March 16, 2014
Just a handful of those seeds are the aforementioned No. 4-seeded Louisville for the right reasons and No. 1 Virginia for the wrong reasons. As for a team like Wichita State that drew a tough region, Prisbell gives his thoughts on the amount of teams that were slotted in their side of the bracket:
Why don't they just put Wichita State in the same bracket with 1969 UCLA? The Region of Death right here.— Eric Prisbell (@EricPrisbell) March 16, 2014
With Michigan, Duke and Louisville in their region, it's not an easy slate for the undefeated Shockers. Multiple teams were hot late to earn their seeds and could knock off a team incorrectly slotted ahead of it.
No. 12 Seeds Will Reign Supreme
The No. 12 seed beating a No. 5 seed is no longer an exception, but rather a rule.
With three No. 12 teams—California, Ole Miss and Oregon—all pulling upsets last season, there is reason for optimism for teams like Stephen F. Austin, North Dakota State, Harvard and N.C. State or Xavier.
Sporting News believes there will be an upset in the West bracket for NDSU:
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 @NDSU. This has upset pick written all over it.— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 16, 2014
Though it hasn't technically made the field of 64 just yet, N.C. State is also an early favorite to advance potentially as far as into the Sweet 16 for the second time in the last three years.
While they are a shocking inclusion in the field, the Wolfpack have a prolific scorer in T.J. Warren along with several key role players. Warren won the ACC Player of the Year award thanks to his hot shooting, as Shot Analytics points out:
While Creighton's Doug McDermott earned much of the hype for his scoring throughout the season, Duke's Rodney Hood believes no one in the country is better than Warren, per Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer:
Rodney Hood on State's TJ Warren: "He’s the best scorer in the country. No question about it."— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) March 15, 2014
Whether it's the Wolfpack, NDSU or even a Stephen F. Austin team on a 28-game winning streak, picking a No. 12 seed will not lead to disappointment this season.
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