March Madness 2014 Bracket: Printable Sheet with Surefire Final Four Picks

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March Madness 2014 Bracket: Printable Sheet with Surefire Final Four Picks
Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

Every year, the NCAA tournament brings a combination of excitement and pain. The thrill of making the picks, expecting to finally win your office pool, is matched by the exhaustion of trying to figure out which upsets are going to happen. 

Instead of putting yourself through the ringer over and over and over again, why not let someone else do the heavy lifting for you?

The tone is established in the first weekend, but the real work is done in the Final Four. We are going to tell you the best teams, one in each region, that are going to play at AT&T Stadium in two weeks. 

Before we dive into that, you need a bracket to fill out. Here is everything you need to get started filling out brackets. 

 

All Your Bracket Essentials:

Bleacher Report

 

Top Final Four Picks

South Region: No. 1 Seed Florida Gators 

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We aren't taking any chances out of the gate, nor is there any reason to. In a year with no all-time great teams, the Florida Gators are the closest thing to be a complete team. 

Billy Donovan's crew has won 26 consecutive games, going undefeated in the SEC during the regular season and giving up a total of 158 points in three conference tournament games. 

The one Achilles' heel for the Gators, as ESPN's Andy Katz noted during the SEC title game, is free throws. 

Florida made just seven of 17 free throws against the Wildcats, allowing Kentucky to get back in the game. 

Even with that flaw, look at the other teams in the region. Kansas is the No. 2 seed, and no one has any idea what will happen with Joel Embiid's back. The prognosis is the center could return for the second weekend of the tournament, but that assumes the Jayhawks get that far. 

Syracuse is the No. 3 seed, having lost five of its last seven games to end the regular season after a 25-0 start. UCLA, No. 4, did make a great run through the Pac-12 tournament and ranks in the top 12 in points, assists and field-goal percentage. 

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they are all flash and no substance. They are 80th in scoring defense and 121st in opponent field-goal percentage, according to TeamRankings.com

There's just not a good, or deep, pool of teams to challenge the ferocious intensity of Florida's defense in this region. The Gators are an easy pick for the Final Four. 

 

West Region: No. 2 Seed Wisconsin Badgers

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Unlike Florida, which can beat anyone in the country, the West lines up nicely for Wisconsin because of individual matchups.

ESPN's Jay Bilas projected the Badgers to win this region for the same reason. Here's what he said after picking them to beat San Diego State in the Elite Eight: "Bo Ryan has been labeled as an underrated coach for far too long, so much so that his 'underratedness' is overrated. This year, Bo's Badgers break through to the Final Four."

With the exception of top-seeded Arizona, we see another bracket that's light at the top. Creighton is an overrated No. 3 seed, getting that spot based largely on two dominant wins against an overrated Villanova team and making it to the finals of the Big East tournament. It doesn't have a win over another team currently ranked in the AP Top 25. 

No. 4 San Diego State presents a lot of problems because of its ability to stop teams on defense. The Aztecs ranked second in points allowed per game and 17th in opponent field-goal percentage, according to TeamRankings.com

Of course, Wisconsin also plays stout defense, allowing just 64.6 points per game, and plays better offense than any team Bo Ryan has had. 

Oklahoma State has gotten some love as a sleeper in the region because of the raw talent, but the Cowboys have been so inconsistent all year that you can't depend on them to put together four straight wins under the bright lights. 

 

East Region: No. 4 Seed Michigan State Spartans

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This is the one pick that should make you nervous because everyone is predicting it. That may be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. 

For instance, CBS Sports has 10 analysts who filled out a bracket. Eight of them picked Michigan State to make the Final Four, more than any other team in any other region. 

Which projected Final Four team will lose first?

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Despite all of the love for the Spartans, how do you bet against them right now? Tom Izzo's crew is healthy for the first time in months, steamrolling Wisconsin and Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. 

Keith Appling is still working his way back to full strength but did look good with 10 points and six assists against Wisconsin. 

This is a good region at the top, with Virginia as the No. 1 seed and Iowa State as the No. 3, so the Spartans will be tested. But the strengths for Virginia and Iowa State (defense, point guard, rebounding, size) are all things Michigan State does just as well, if not a little better. 

Sometimes the key to winning a championship is peaking at the right time. The Spartans have the feel of a team ready to play its best basketball. 

 

Midwest Region: No. 2 Seed Michigan Wolverines 

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville is the trendy pick in this region, but don't forget about the team the Cardinals beat in last year's national championship game.

The Wolverines have overcome as much as any team in the country, basically turning over their entire roster from last year and losing star forward Mitch McGary in December, to turn in another outstanding year. 

Nik Stauskas is a great player who can beat you with his ability to drive the basket or shoot from deep. They don't pummel you into submission with a fast-paced offense but can score with anyone because they shoot so well (21st in field-goal percentage). 

Michigan has beaten another projected Final Four team, Michigan State, twice before the Spartans got the best of the Wolverines for the Big Ten title. 

Wichita State is no longer a Cinderella, going undefeated in the regular season and earning a No. 1 seed, but the Shockers haven't beaten a ranked team and were put in a bracket with Michigan, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky and Saint Louis. 

If they want to get back to the Final Four, the Shockers are going to earn it the hard way. Without the kinds of elite athletes like Duke, Michigan and Louisville get, the bottom will drop eventually. 

Duke doesn't play enough consistent defense or rebound well enough to stick with teams like Louisville or Michigan. 

Louisville might have all the hype, but whom have the Cardinals beaten? There was shock over Rick Pitino's team being a No. 4 seed, though it's actually a good fit considering it ranked 19th in RPI, and its best win by RPI was against Cincinnati. 

Michigan is a battle-tested team that has gone through one of the best conferences in the country and has hit its stride at the right time. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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