NCAA Tournament 2014 Bracket: Odds, Full Picks and Players to Watch

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 13:  Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks drives upcourt as Marcus Smart #33 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys defends during the Big 12 Basketball Tournament quarterfinal game at Sprint Center on March 13, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Many of us spend hours breaking down matchups, playing the odds, studying everything from to FiveThirtyEight Sports and, ultimately, throwing our hands up in the air and just hoping we're right.

But for all of the research, the tournament still comes down to one thing—players. It's players who decide these games, not some divine spreadsheet in the sky, and it's individual players who have the ability to decide any given game.

With that in mind, I've decided to focus on a few players from each region I think could have the biggest impact. Yes, you'll find odds and my full picks below, but I'd also like to put the focus for a moment on the individuals that have the ability to shake up the entire bracket.


All Your Bracket Essentials


Bleacher Report



NCAA Tournament Odds
Michigan State 11/2
Louisville 8/1
Kansas 10/1
Wichita State 15/1
Duke 18/1
Creighton 35/1
Iowa State 40/1
UCLA 45/1
North Carolina 50/1
Kentucky 50/1
Oklahoma State 60/1
San Diego State65/1
Ohio State 65/1
Oklahoma 75/1
UConn 80/1
Tennessee 115/1
New Mexico 115/1
UMass 125/1
Memphis 125/1
Gonzaga 125/1
Texas 125/1
Saint Louis 125/1
Kansas State300/1
St Joseph's 350/1
Dayton 500/1
Arizona State 500/1
George Washington500/1
N.C. State900/1
Harvard 1000/1
North Dakota State1000/1
Field (Any Other Team)100/1


Play-in Games

Texas Southern over Cal Poly

Tennessee over Iowa


East Region

Round of 64

No. 1 Virginia over No. 16 Coastal Carolina

No. 8 Memphis over No. 9 George Washington

No. 5 Cincinnati over No. 12 Harvard

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 13 Delaware

No. 6 North Carolina over No. 11 Providence

No. 3 Iowa State over No. 14 North Carolina Central

No. 10 St. Joe's over No. 7 UConn

No. 2 Villanova over No. 15 Milwaukee


Round of 32

No. 1 Virginia over No. 8 Memphis

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 5 Cincy

No. 3 Iowa State over No. 6 North Carolina

No. 2 Villanova over No. 10 St. Joe's


Sweet 16

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 1 Virginia

No. 3 Iowa State over No. 2 Villanova 


Elite Eight

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 3 Iowa State


Players to Watch

HARTFORD, CT - DECEMBER 18: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts following a non-call in the second half against the Stanford Cardinal during the game at XL Center on December 18, 2013 in Hartford, Connecticut.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/G
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Perhaps no player has the chance to go all Kemba Walker on this region more than UConn's Shabazz Napier. The star guard led the Huskies in points (17.4), rebounds (5.9), assists (4.9) and steals (1.7) per game, making him arguably the most valuable player to his team in the entire tournament.

As you can see, I have St. Joe's beating UConn—I think the gritty Hawks will beat them up on the boards—but I could just as easily see Napier taking this team all the way to the Final Four. Yes, he's that good.

For Cincinnati, if Sean Kilpatrick isn't scoring, chances are the Bearcats aren't scoring. While Cincy is a big, physical, defensively sound team, scoring the rock isn't exactly their forte. To say they win ugly is an understatement.

Kilpatrick easily paced Cincy with 20.7 points per game (he also led them with 2.6 assists per contest). If he goes cold at any point, the Bearcats are in serious trouble.

And then there's Marcus Paige, North Carolina's solid point guard who led the team with 17.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. The Tar Heels are another team that could make a deep run in this region, but only if their star point guard leads the way.


South Region

Round of 64

No. 1 Florida over No. 16 Albany

No. 9 Pittsburgh over No. 8 Colorado

No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 VCU

No. 4 UCLA over No. 13 Tulsa

No. 11 Dayton over No. 6 Ohio State

No. 3 Syracuse over No. 14 Western Michigan 

No. 7 New Mexico over No. 10 Stanford

No. 2 Kansas over No. 15 Eastern Kentucky


Round of 32

No. 1 Florida over No. 9 Pittsburgh

No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 4 UCLA

No. 3 Syracuse over No. 11 Dayton

No. 2 Kansas over No. 7 New Mexico


Sweet 16

No. 1 Florida over No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

No. 2 Kansas over No. 3 Syracuse


Elite Eight

No. 1 Florida over No. 2 Kansas


Players to Watch

Andrew Wiggins is certainly the most athletically gifted player in all of college basketball, but with Joel Embiid out of the lineup, he may also be the most important. 

For much of this season Wiggins has been buried under his own hype, but in a day and age of me-first superstars, his unselfishness and calm demeanor is refreshing. Even his coach, Bill Self, initially thought he needed more intensity, but he quickly learned it would be unwise to change his young superstar.

From Eric Prisbell of USA Today:

At times Self has tried to motivate him by trying to push the right buttons to make Wiggins a little angry in practice or games. But Wiggins could never stay angry. It's not his demeanor.

Self said he initially thought that the staff needed to change Wiggins. Coaches wanted him more "outwardly, visibly more energetic and passionate because he is a stone face on the court," Self said.

"That would have been the worst thing we could have ever done," Self said before the Big 12 tournament. "His demeanor has allowed him not to have highs and not to have lows. He has had a few highs, but his lows have not been low. His consistency, to me, has been most remarkable."

Oh, and he also averaged 17.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He's learned how to dominate later in the year, but he also knows how to play team basketball and allow the game to come to him. The hype may have initially been too high, but Wiggins has proven why it existed in the first place.

Kyle Anderson doesn't have the hype of Wiggins, but the sophomore is one of the most well-rounded players in college basketball, averaging 14.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Few players have the ability to dominate every facet of a game quite like Anderson.

And then there's Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, who averages 12.7 points, 5.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game. The Orange limped down the stretch and aren't getting a ton of respect in many brackets, but behind Ennis they are certainly capable of making a run. 


Midwest Region

Round of 64

No. 1 Wichita State over No. 16 Texas Southern

No. 8 Kentucky over No. 9 Kansas State

No. 12 NC State over No. 5 Saint Louis

No. 4 Louisville over No. 13 Manhattan

No. 11 Tennessee over No. 6 UMass

No. 3 Duke over No. 14 Mercer

No. 7 Texas over No. 10 Arizona State

No. 2 Michigan over No. 15 Wofford


Round of 32

No. 8 Kentucky over No. 1 Wichita State

No. 4 Louisville over No. 12 Xavier

No. 3 Duke over No. 11 Tennessee

No. 2 Michigan over No. 7 Texas


Sweet 16

No. 4 Louisville over No. 8 Kentucky

No. 2 Michigan over No. 3 Duke


Elite Eight

No. 4 Louisville over No. 2 Michigan


Players to Watch

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during their game against the Virginia Cavaliers in the finals of the 2014 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This region is loaded with talented players, so let's just give a quick resume on the top guys below:

  • Julius Randle: Led Kentucky with 15.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Likely top-five pick in this year's draft.
  • T.J. Warren: Averaging a whopping 25.0 points per game for NC State, also snags 5.0 rebounds per contest. Justifiably named the ACC Player of the year.
  • Russ Smith: One of the most explosive scorers in the country, averaging 18.3 points per game. Looking to make it back-to-back championships with Louisville.
  • Jabari Parker: Likely a top-three pick in this year's draft if he goes pro. Led Duke with 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
  • Nik Stauskas: Big Ten Player of the Year. Averaging 17.5 points per game, but makes his money on the perimeter, shooting 44.9 percent from beyond the arc.


West Region


Round of 64

No. 1 Arizona over No. 16 Weber State

No. 9 Oklahoma State over No. 8 Gonzaga

No. 5 Oklahoma over No. 12 North Dakota State

No. 4 San Diego State over No. 13 New Mexico State

No. 6 Baylor over No. 11 Nebraska

No. 3 Creighton over No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette 

No. 7 Oregon over No. 10 BYU

No. 2 Wisconsin over No. 15 American


Round of 32

No. 1 Arizona over No. 9 Oklahoma State

No. 4 San Diego State over No. 5 Oklahoma

No. 3 Creighton over No. 6 Baylor

No. 2 Wisconsin over No. 7 Oregon


Sweet 16

No. 1 Arizona over No. 4 San Diego State

No. 2 Wisconsin over No. 3 Creighton


Elite Eight

No. 1 Arizona over No. 2 Wisconsin


Players to Watch

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14:  Doug McDermott #3 of the Creighton Bluejays looks on in the second half against the Xavier Musketeers during the Semifinals of the 2014 Men's Big East Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2014 in New York C
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Doug McDermott is the guy to watch here. All he did this year was average 26.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He's pretty unbelievable, folks. Consider the following, from ESPN Stats and Information:

He's a sniper, make no mistake about it.

Aaron Gordon has been excellent for Arizona this season, averaging 12.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. The certain top-10 pick in this year's draft has the ability to lead the Wildcats all the way to the Final Four.

But he may have to contend with Marcus Smart to get there. Smart is the key man for Oklahoma State and is as well-rounded as they come, averaging 17.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The Cowboys underachieved this year, but Smart has the goods to lead them on a deep tourney run.


Final Four and Title Game Predictions

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 1 Florida

No. 4 Louisville over No. 1. Arizona

No. 4 Louisville over No. 4 Michigan State