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NCAA Bracket 2014: 10 Things to Reconsider About Your March Madness Picks

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2014

NCAA Bracket 2014: 10 Things to Reconsider About Your March Madness Picks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    You know exactly what the experts say when it comes to filling out your bracket. "Go with your first impressions and don't second-guess yourself. Make your choices and be done with it."

    That sounds great in theory, but it simply doesn't work with the NCAA tournament draw. If it were that simple, there would be no upsets and Warren Buffett wouldn't be offering his $1 billion challenge.

    There's every reason to reconsider nearly every choice you have to make. Here's a look at 10 things to reconsider in your March Madness picks.

     

Underestimating Kansas Is a Mistake

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    One of the first things that many hotshot bracket selectors look for is a glamour/historical team that is going to lose early. Kansas would seem to fill the bill since they lost in the Big 12 tournament and freshman sensation Joel Embiid (back) is almost certainly going to miss the first two games of the NCAA tournament.

    Forget about that thought process. Head coach Bill Self has put the loss to Iowa State in the conference tournament in the rear-view mirror. While Embiid won't play this weekend, Andrew Wiggins will be in the lineup. The Jayhawks have more than enough to get past Eastern Kentucky and the winner of the New Mexico-Stanford game.

    If Embiid can come back for the Sweet 16 game and beyond, Kansas may just be a team that makes great use of its No. 2 seed and gets all the way to the Final Four.

Ohio State Has Its Hands Full

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Ohio State is not the most consistent offensive team and the Buckeyes went through several games this season when head coach Thad Matta could do little more than bury his head in his hands because his team's shooting was so atrocious.

    The Buckeyes shot 45.1 percent for the season, but their lack of consistency will be a problem in the NCAA tournament. It could be a problem in the first game, when they face the 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers.

    Dayton is led by former Ohio Stater Jordan Sibert, who averaged 12.5 points per game this season. He gets a chance to torment his old team.

    The first inclination is to believe that Thad Matta's Buckeyes will simply overpower their in-state rivals, but the Flyers showed more than enough skill to hang with Ohio State if the sixth-seeded team is not at its best.

    If Ohio State comes out on fire, it should run away and get a chance to play Syracuse in the second round. However, anything less than that likely means that Ohio State will be extended for 40 minutes and could very well lose in the opener.

    Those who have Ohio State going a lot way need to reconsider that projection.

Don't Sleep on Pitt Panthers

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    When the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds meet in the NCAA tournament, the idea is that these teams are so closely matched that either team could win a very close game.

    However, when No. 8 Colorado meets No. 9 Pittsburgh in Orlando March 20, this game has every chance of becoming a blowout in favor of the Panthers.

    Here's why: The Buffs simply are not the same team they were before they lost star guard Spencer Dinwiddie to injury (torn ACL). Josh Scott attempted to step up in Dinwiddie's place, but he is not the same kind of impact player.

    Meanwhile, Pittsburgh had its signature win in the ACC tournament when it took down North Carolina, and the Panthers appear to be hitting their stride at the right time of year. You may not have heard of Talib Zanna (pictured above), but he is a stud who is averaging 12.5 ppg in the middle and can take over a game. Forward Lamar Patterson is averaging 17.6 ppg and he can light it up.

    Once the Panthers get their first win, they will have to face the executioner in the form of the Florida Gators, but they will punish the Buffs.

     

Wichita State Is a Legitimate Juggernaut

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    One of the favored pastimes of all who fill out brackets is looking for that overrated No. 1 seed that is going to get eliminated before any of the others.

    Many would like to say that Wichita State is that team. The 34-0 Shockers get no respect from all corners because they come from the mid-major Missouri Valley Conference, and this was not a great year for the Valley.

    Don't buy into that line of thinking for even a second. The Shockers are an explosive and powerful team led by stars Fred VanVleet (12.1 ppg), Cleanthony Early (15.8 ppg) and Tekele Cotton (10.8 ppg). But it's not just a star show. Head coach Gregg Marshall goes to his bench early and often, and his team comes at opponents with a 10-man attack.

    The Shockers were a Final Four team last year (losing to Louisville, the eventual national champions), so they are not going to succumb to pressure this year. Look for Wichita State to make another long run and not be the first No. 1 seed to go down.

Duke Has the Firepower

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Duke may be the team that everyone outside of Tobacco Road (and some right on it) love to hate, but that doesn't mean the Blue Devils are going to make a long run in this tournament.

    You know about head coach Mike Krzyzewski's superiority complex and his belief that everything from the ACC is better than just about any other conference. 

    None of that will have anything to do with how the games play out. The Blue Devils are capable of blowing a lot of good teams out of the tournament because they just may be the best shooting team around. Any time you can put Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Quin Cook on the floor, you can go on a long run that can turn a five-point lead into 19 points in the blink of an eye.

    The Blue Devils shot 39 percent from beyond the arc this season, and they have a plethora of players who can hit the deep shot.

    You may want to think that Duke will go out early because they couldn't handle Virginia in the ACC Tournament championship game, but that would be wrong. Look for Duke to push hard for the Final Four.

Say No to Michigan State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Michigan State pulled off a very impressive double in the Big Ten tournament when the Spartans knocked off Wisconsin in the semifinal and then beat Michigan in the championship game.

    Neither game was close as Tom Izzo's team played its best basketball of the year in winning the conference tournament.

    Many of the cognoscenti believe that Michigan State will make the Final Four from their perch as a No. 4 seed because the Spartans are finally healthy. That's a nice theory, but we doubt that Tom Izzo believes that in his heart of hearts.

    The Spartans played largely indifferent basketball during the second half of the season. Michigan State was 6-7 in the games before the start of the Big Ten tournament, and that's a long stretch of mediocrity. Even though Michigan State had a lot of injuries and is now seemingly healthy, there's no reason to believe that the team suddenly compares with the best in the nation.

    Michigan State made a nice run and should be able to handle the first weekend of NCAA competition. However, it's going to get quite tough after that, and it may keep Izzo's team from getting any further than the Sweet 16.

Harvard Does It Again

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Harvard may have an Ivy League pedigree, but they are not going to roll over for Cincinnati and become cannon fodder.

    The Crimson won an NCAA tournament game last year against New Mexico and they have become a credible team under head coach Tommy Amaker. One might think that the boys from Cambridge, Mass. are a finesse team who dazzle with outside shooting, but that is not the case.

    The Crimson actually struggle a bit with the outside game, but they can find their shots close to the basket with their passing, intelligence, determination and toughness. They can play a heavy game against Cincinnati in the first round and come out with the win. 

    Look for Wesley Saunders (14.7 ppg) and Brandyn Curry (9.3 ppg) to light it up and lead the Crimson to an upset of No. 5 seed Cincinnati. These Ivy Leaguers can play for 40 minutes and win a tough street fight with the Bearcats.

    Those who underestimate the Ivy League champions need to reconsider that point of view.

     

No Glory for UCLA, Alford

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    First-year head coach Steve Alford would like to make a good impression on his new bosses at UCLA.

    While nobody expects a championship run from the Bruins—those days are in the ancient past—UCLA is a No. 4 seed and the Bruins should be able to get by Tulsa and almost certainly survive the first weekend of the tournament by defeating the winner of Virginia Commonweath and Stephen F. Austin.

    That's not going to happen. While the Bruins have a good offensive team led by Jordan Adams (17.5 ppg) and Kyle Anderson (14.9 ppg), the defense is not there. Look for Tulsa to take it to the Bruins and spread them out. That will give the Golden Hurricane too many offensive options and allow them to take out the Bruins in the first round.

    If you thought UCLA was going a long way this year, think again.

South Is the Upset Bracket

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    Shayne Whittington of Western Michigan
    Shayne Whittington of Western MichiganJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Upsets are often the lifeblood of the NCAA tournament. While they don't always happen, the threat of the upset keeps fans on the edges of their seats and waiting to see what will happen in the game's final seconds.

    This year, the South regional could be the upset bracket. Top-seeded Florida and second-seeded Kansas should have no problems making it through to the Sweet 16. However, once you get past the top two seeds, the other "favored" teams (by seeds, not necessarily the point spreads) all have a good chance of losing. 

    We can see 14th-seeded Western Michigan upsetting slumping Syracuse, 13th-seeded Tulsa handling UCLA (see previous slide), 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin getting by Virginia Commonwealth, 11th-seeded Dayton embarrassing cross-state rival Ohio State and 10th-seeded Stanford taking down New Mexico.

    We think eighth-seeded Pitt will handle injury-depleted Colorado with little problem. 

    Look for five upset winners to emerge from first-round competition in the South.

Florida Brings It Home

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    The wise guys would like to beat the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They always want to do that because it makes them feel smarter.

    This would not be a good year to do that. Florida is simply too strong and deep to try to beat. Yes, they could lose if two or more of their players have a bad game in the later rounds of the tournament, but we don't see the Florida Gators getting beaten if they are at their best.

    Billy Donovan has plenty of front-line talent with Scottie Wilbekin (12.9 ppg), Casey Prather (14.6 ppg) and Patric Young (10.9 ppg), but he also has depth off the bench and the Gators go 10 deep. 

    Keep your eye on Dorian Finney-Smith for game-changing offense off the bench. Finney-Smith averaged 9.4 ppg, and he can do it by firing away from the outside or going to the rim and scoring on the inside. That kind of versatility from a bench player is a rarity in college basketball.

    The Gators can shoot an opponent out of a game or wear them down. It's difficult to see them losing because they have so many ways to beat you and Donovan already has two national championships on his resume.

    So, you may consider yourself a wise guy who can figure out a way to beat the top seed in the tournament. Keep that thought to yourself and don't try to outsmart yourself. Florida is the team to beat in the NCAA tournament.

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