The NCAA tournament is officially underway. And after four games having already taken place, the field of 64 is set.
For fans that haven't already filled out their brackets, only a few hours remain before the first set of games tip off on CBS, truTV, TBS and TNT—with every game being broadcast throughout the tournament on one of the four stations.
With a few teams being popular picks for upsets like No. 12 seeds Harvard and N.C. State, quite a few of the favorites are also likely locked in on brackets for a Final Four visit. Whether it's No. 1 seeds like Florida or Arizona or trendy No. 4 seeds Michigan and Louisville, everyone has an opinion about where the top teams will land.
For those looking to make some serious money for their bracket, a perfect one could result in winning $1 billion from Warren Buffett. The billionaire spoke about the perfect bracket challenge with ESPN's Rick Reilly:
I don't really care if somebody wins or not. All I'm concerned with is charging the right price. This has been my life. I knew as a young man that if I kept writing one deal after another deal, and charged the right price, in the end, I was going to make money.
Before Day 1 of the second round—which is actually the first round, who are we kidding—gets underway, here is a look at the odds for each team and some advice when picking the bracket for the field of 64.
|San Diego State||65-1|
|North Dakota State||1000-1|
|Field (Any Other Team)||100-1|
*Odds provided by Vegas Insider.
Don't Go Off the Deep End
By the "deep end," we're referring to picking a No. 1 seed to fall in the first round.
While a matchup like Albany vs. Florida might look enticing and you hope to eventually brag about it at the water cooler, don't ruin the entire bracket by eliminating a team that could eventually win it all.
You know, like Pablo Torre of ESPN's Around the Horn did—live, on air:
The facts are simple: No No. 16 seed has ever dropped a No. 1 seed, and it's not happening this year. While Coastal Carolina has put together a great season and Albany has some absurdly distracting shorts, both will get boat raced by Florida and Virginia, respectively, in the second round.
After the first round, though, filling out the bracket gets slightly more dicey for college basketball fans. In the last few seasons, more No. 1 seeds have been bounced during the second weekend than usual, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:
Being a No. 1 seed isn't what it used to be. Since '09, more No. 1 seeds have lost in Sweet 16 (6) than have made the Final Four (5).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 5, 2014
After Wichita State made it to the Final Four last season, they join a region where 2013 national champion Louisville and traditional powers like Duke and Kentucky also reside.
As for Florida, a matchup with No. 4-seeded UCLA, the Pac-12 tournament champions, could cut its trip to the Final Four short. While a No. 1 seed like Louisville won it all last season, be wary of the later matchups for the top teams.
Look For No. 12 Seeds With Promise
Oh, the mythical No. 12 seed. Nearly every year it seems a No. 5 seed meets its demise in the opener against a team that is apparently inferior to them.
In fact, at least half of the No. 12 seeds have advanced past the opener eight out of the last 13 seasons, as CBS Sports points out:
This year's crop includes Harvard, Stephen F. Austin, North Dakota State and the now popular pick in N.C. State after winning the First Four matchup with Xavier on Tuesday night.
Following the initial announcement of the bracket, Sporting News gave their thoughts on an upset pick:
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 @NDSU. This has upset pick written all over it.— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 16, 2014
But with N.C. State pulling off an improbable journey to the tourney, it could make the ride that much sweeter with a victory over a struggling Saint Louis team that comes in with three straight losses. With an elite scorer like T.J. Warren, the ACC Player of the Year, the Wolfpack look like a strong contender to get to the round of 32.
Here's a look at Warren's shot chart, courtesy of Shot Analytics:
With one win already behind them, the Pack could continue rolling into the next round over the Billikens.
But when looking for a team that might have a shot at making the Sweet 16, the No. 4 seeds in this year's tournament are all stacked, as Michigan State, Louisville and UCLA all come in after winning their conference tournaments.
Search For Stunners Over No. 2 or 3 Seeds
Can a No. 4 or No. 15 seed pull off an upset?
Do the names Lehigh or Florida Gulf Coast ring a bell? Yes, that's because they were two notable teams that pulled off huge upsets over No. 2 seeds in recent years.
Villanova recently got ousted in the Big East tournament by Seton Hall, a program that finished 17-17 overall (6-12 Big East). While they weren't up to the task against the Pirates, they probably won't let lightning strike twice against a No. 15 seed in the tournament.
This season, Duke is a No. 3 seed along with fellow ACC school Syracuse. Both teams have gone through lulls this season and could be prime candidates for upsets.
Seth Davis of CBS Sports notes that Duke going against Mercer is an upset special that he nearly put on his own bracket:
I came THISCLOSE to picking Mercer over Duke. That is very dangerous game for the Blue Devils. Bears have legit size for a midmajor.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 16, 2014
Random bracket thoughts...2 upsets I did not pick but you might want to: Mercer over Duke and OkState over Arizona.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 18, 2014
As for Syracuse, the Orange face off with a stout Western Michigan team that finished with a 23-9 record during the season.
With the Broncos featuring two outstanding scorers in guard David Brown (19.4 PPG, .329 3-P%) and 6'11" center Shayne Whittington (16.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG), they are another potential candidate to stun a No. 3 seed this season.
While a No. 1 seed falling would be monumental, predicting a No. 2 or No. 3 seed isn't out of the realm of possibilities. Choose wisely, and hope for the best. They don't call it March Madness for nothing.
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