Jay Bilas Bracket: ESPN Analyst Reveals His 2014 March Madness Bracket Picks

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Jay Bilas Bracket: ESPN Analyst Reveals His 2014 March Madness Bracket Picks
Rich Barnes/Getty Images

As one of the heavyweights in the world of collegiate basketball, ESPN's Jay Bilas is a name fans around the globe look to for guidance when it comes time to sit down and fill out an NCAA tournament bracket.

The field is as wide open as ever this year, further emphasized by Bilas' wild bracket, which is littered with upsets, surprises and runs that buck conventional thinking.    

While far from the only resource fans should look to for help this year, all of Bilas' explanations are backed by sound logic and have to be taken into consideration—no matter how shocking.

 

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Here's how Bilas sees things shaping up in the 2014 rendition of the Big Dance.     

 

Note: Bilas' picks with full explanations can be found on ESPN Insider (subscription required).

 

South Region

Jay Bilas' South Region Predictions
Round of 64
Matchup Winner
Florida vs. Albany/Mount St. Mary's Florida
Pittsburgh vs. Colorado Pittsburgh
VCU vs. Stephen F. Austin VCU
UCLA vs. Tulsa UCLA
Ohio State vs. Dayton Ohio State
Syracuse vs. Western Michigan Syracuse
New Mexico vs. Stanford New Mexico
Kansas vs. Eastern Kentucky Kansas
Round of 32
Matchup Winner
Florida vs. Pittsburgh Florida
UCLA vs. VCU UCLA
Syracuse vs. Ohio State Syracuse
Kansas vs. New Mexico Kansas
Sweet 16
Matchup Winner
Florida vs. UCLA Florida
Kansas vs. Syracuse Kansas
Elite Eight
Matchup Winner
Kansas vs. Florida Kansas

ESPN

There are not too many surprises here from Bilas to start things off, although there are some missed opportunities for likely upsets.

Dayton taking down in-state big fish Ohio State at a neutral site is certainly a tantalizing option, especially with the Buckeyes showing a vulnerability to losing when a team gets hot behind the arc—as Michigan did by shooting better than 50 percent from long range in a 72-69 victory in the Big Ten tournament.

It's also plausible that Pittsburgh gives Florida a bigger run for its money than most expect thanks to the impressive streak Talib Zanna has been on of late, but it makes sense that the Gators would advance to the Elite Eight to meet Kansas.

There, Bilas is confident in the Jayhawks' ability to move past the Gators as long as Joel Embiid is healthy—which he should be, according to coach Bill Self (via Kansas Basketball on Twitter):

Should Embiid return to the court and remain healthy, Kansas will be a tough out for any team.

 

West Region

Jay Bilas' West Region Predictions
Round of 64
Matchup Winner
Arizona vs. Weber State Arizona
Oklahoma State vs. Gonzaga Oklahoma State
North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma North Dakota State
San Diego State vs. New Mexico State San Diego State
Nebraska vs. Baylor Nebraska
Creighton vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Creighton
Oregon vs. BYU Oregon
Wisconsin vs. American Wisconsin
Round of 32
Matchup Winner
Arizona vs. Oklahoma State Arizona
San Diego State vs. North Dakota State San Diego State
Creighton vs. Nebraska Creighton
Wisconsin vs. Oregon Wisconsin
Sweet 16
Matchup Winner
San Diego State vs. Arizona San Diego State
Wisconsin vs. Creighton Wisconsin
Elite Eight
Matchup Winner
Wisconsin vs. San Diego State Wisconsin

ESPN

This is a pretty simple region overall.

Arizona is a dominant force and has the easiest path a No. 1 could possibly ask for to the Final Four.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

That said, teams like Oregon, Nebraska and especially Oklahoma State are strong underdogs to monitor.

Or, according to Bilas, watch out for San Diego State. If Marcus Smart and the Cowboys don't take down the Wildcats, the nation is now aware of the under-the-radar fact that the Aztecs are a serious threat to do so in the Sweet 16.

Bilas cites the elite defense San Diego State touts and the absence of injured Wildcats star Brandon Ashley as the major reasons for the shocking upset, and it's hard to argue. The Aztecs only lost by nine to a healthy Wildcats squad back in November, so anything is possible on a neutral court.

 

Midwest Region

Jay Bilas' Midwest Region Predictions
Round of 64
Matchup Winner
Wichita State vs. Texas Southern Wichita State
Kentucky vs. Kansas State Kentucky
NC State vs. Saint Louis N.C. State
Louisville vs. Manhattan Louisville
Iowa vs. UMass Iowa
Duke vs. Mercer Duke
Texas vs. Arizona State Texas
Michigan vs. Wofford Michigan
Round of 32
Matchup Winner
Wichita State vs. Kentucky Wichita State
Louisville vs. NC State Louisville
Duke vs. Iowa Duke
Michigan vs. Texas Michigan
Sweet 16
Matchup Winner
Louisville vs. Wichita State Louisville
Duke vs. Michigan Duke
Elite Eight
Matchup Winner
Louisville vs. Duke Louisville

ESPN

As crazy as this Midwest region truly is due to the presence of numerous elite teams, Bilas' bracket beautifully navigates the iffy waters with precision that makes sense.

This includes Wichita State taking down Kentucky in the Round of 32. As great as the Wildcats have looked in closing out the season, the inexperienced squad may fold under the pressure against a well-rounded veteran group.

Louisville and Duke taking care of business en route to a showdown in the Elite Eight makes a lot of sense, especially with the former being robbed of a higher seed, as Bilas recently stated on air, via Jeff Greer of The Courier-Journal:

A replay of last year's Elite Eight bout seems likely, as Mike Krzyzewski's squad will once again be unable to muster enough offense to move past the Cardinals.

 

East Region

Jay Bilas' East Region Predictions
Round of 64
Matchup Winner
Virginia vs. Coastal Carolina Virginia
Memphis vs. George Washington Memphis
Harvard vs. Cincinnati: Harvard
Michigan State vs. Delaware Michigan State
North Carolina vs. Providence North Carolina
Iowa State vs. NC Central Iowa State
Saint Joseph's vs. UConn Saint Joseph's
Villanova vs. Milwaukee Villanova
Round of 32
Matchup Winner
Virginia vs. Memphis Virginia
Michigan State vs. Harvard Michigan State
Iowa State vs. North Carolina Iowa State
Villanova vs. Saint Joseph's Villanova
Sweet 16
Matchup Winner
Michigan State vs. Virginia Michigan State
Iowa State vs. Villanova Iowa State
Elite Eight
Matchup Winner
Michigan State vs. Iowa State Michigan State

ESPN

Bilas projects a bit of a head-scratching upset pick here with Harvard over Cincinnati, considering fans would be hard-pressed to name a better pure scorer in the tournament than Sean Kilpatrick—not to mention a more frightening defense than the Bearcats.

Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

But Bilas balances this out with an upset pick in the form of Saint Joseph's taking down Connecticut in the Round of 64. The Huskies, after a disappointing season, are ripe for an upset, and the Hawks' Langston Galloway also just so happens to be one of the best scorers the bracket has to offer.

Still, the fact that the Michigan State Spartans are projected to move through this region like a buzzsaw is no revelation. Tom Izzo's squad is finally healthy, and when Branden Dawson is in the lineup, the Spartans are nearly unstoppable (literally—they're 21-3 this season with the junior in the lineup).

 

Final Four

Jay Bilas' Final Four Predictions
Matchup Winner
Michigan State (East) vs. Kansas (South) Michigan State
Louisville (Midwest) vs. Wisconsin (West) Louisville

ESPN

It's hard to hate Bilas' safe picks here.

Louisville moving past Wisconsin isn't hard to fathom, especially with Rick Pitino's squad having the experience of two straight Final Four appearances.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Badgers are a sound squad, but making it to this point is a feat in itself. Once there, Louisville frankly has too much firepower for Wisconsin to match, but UW can certainly use the run as a building block for future tournaments.

For Izzo's team, it's a simple matter of riding the momentum created by a healthy unit that just stole the Big Ten title. As Izzo told the media after the title win, his 2013-14 roster might be the best he has coached, via Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press:

"I still think this is one of the best teams I've ever coached here," Izzo said. "And what that could mean? I don't know. It could mean out in the first round, it could mean win a national championship."

If Embiid is healthy for the matchup, the Spartans can still bang down low thanks to Dawson. If he's not, this one may get ugly. 

 

National Championship

Jay Bilas' 2014 National Championship Prediction
Matchup National Champion
Michigan State vs. Louisville Michigan State

ESPN

As Bilas understands better than most, experience is key for a team to make it through the Big Dance to the final.

Which team wins Bilas' final?

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Once there, efficiency and exploitation of mismatches wins the day.

While a showdown between Louisville and Michigan State is extremely safe, it is also the most logical option based on the status of both teams. As mentioned, the Spartans are healthy and dangerous, while the Cardinals will have a chip on their shoulder after being disrespected on Selection Sunday.

With Dawson a force beneath the rim on both ends of the court, it is easy to see Bilas' logic in picking the Spartans over the Cardinals. By that point, the Cardinals would have little left in the tank after making it through such a brutal region.

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