There are no definites when it comes to March Madness. With two talented teams and just one game to determine which school advances, hours of analysis can fall by the wayside because one team was on the right end of a couple of lucky breaks.
For this reason, I choose to go for a two-way approach to my extracurricular tournament activities. Of course, this starts with filling out a bracket. To that end, picking the championship game and working backward has served me well.
Below, I'll highlight my prediction for the championship game.
I'll also highlight a long shot worth placing a little wager on to win the championship. These kinds of bets are nearly impossible to hit, but they offer a fun low-risk/high-reward option. I'll also share my long shot below.
First, have a look at the bracket and odds.
|San Diego State||65/1|
|North Dakota State||1000/1|
|Field (Any Other Team)||100/1|
Source: Vegas Insider
All odds current as of March 17 at 7 p.m. ET.
Long Shot Worth Betting on
The Cincinnati Bearcats are the fifth seed in the East, which frankly, is too low.
Head coach Mick Cronin thinks the low seeding is a symptom of the AAC not getting enough respect as a whole.
Bill Koch passed along this quote on Cincinnati.com from Cronin: "I thought the American Athletic Conference as a whole, I think it would be very obvious to say didn't get a lot of respect from top to bottom."
Teams in the tournament better not take Cincinnati too lightly, or they'll quickly be picking up a loss.
The Bearcats are athletic and physical. They've used these traits to form one of the best defenses in the nation. They have allowed an average of just 58.7 points per game this season.
Expect these traits to be amplified in the tournament, as the Bearcats now have a giant chip on their shoulder due to the low seeding.
"It's Cincinnati against the world," Koch quoted senior forward Justin Jackson as saying. "That's how we look at it."
Cincinnati doesn't have an easy road in the East, but the Bearcats have the defense to navigate all challenges. At 90-1, that is a fantastic value.
Championship Game: Florida vs. Louisville
This is likely to prove a popular prediction for the championship game, and that's for good reason. There is a lot to like about these two teams.
Let's start with the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals. Louisville won the AAC tournament and regular-season titles, lost just five games all season and is ranked No. 2 in Pomeroy rankings.
Still, none of this was good enough for the Cardinals to get a higher ranking than a fourth seed. By many accounts, this was the most egregious seeding of the tournament. For the Win helps highlight this:
Louisville's surprisingly low 4 seed is the 'absolute shock' of the NCAA Tournament bracket http://t.co/l5TGj7c0ar— For The Win (@forthewin) March 17, 2014
Louisville will bring its brand of ferocious defense, athleticism and experience to this tournament and ride it all the way to the championship game. That is where their title defense will fall short, however.
This is Florida's year. The Gators don't feature the most dynamic players in this tournament, but their players form one dynamic team.
The Gators have four starting seniors. That experience will help Florida survive any scares in this tournament. Their defense will handle the rest.
The Gators' press is going to keep the opposition off balance and scrambling.
Offensively, this team doesn't have a go-to scorer, but that is to their benefit. The Gators have learned to play in their offensive system, which allows multiple players to excel.
Florida features four players who averaged double digits in scoring this year and seven who averaged at least 4.9 points per game. This complete team is going to win it all.