Printable NCAA Bracket 2017: Downloadable Sheet with Surefire Final Four Picks

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 14, 2017

Has there ever been a year when it's seemed more beneficial to be a No. 2 seed than a No. 1 seed?

That seems to be the case this year, as the No. 2 seeds in the East, West and Midwest have easier paths to the Final Four on paper than the No. 1 seeds in their regionals.

Here's a look at those paths in each region, followed by some Final Four picks.

First, you can find a printable bracket here and another bracket below.

 

March Madness Bracket

 

 

East: Duke

Everyone seems to be jumping on the Blue Devils' bandwagon right now, but it's for a good reason: Freshman forward Jayson Tatum cannot be stopped right now.

Tyler Greenawalt of Yahoo Sports made the case that Tatum is the best first-year player in the country:

He’s Duke’s most dynamic playmaker, with the ability score from virtually everywhere on the court at any time of the game. Tatum can drive to the basket with ease, hit the midrange and outside jump shot and even take the ball the length of the court by himself.

Not only that, Tatum has that clutch factor that few in college basketball possess. In Duke’s 75-69 title win over Notre Dame, Tatum scored eight of Duke’s final 12 points, and had the crucial assist to Jones late in the game. In the Blue Devils’ comeback win over North Carolina in the semifinals, Tatum kept Duke in the game with 18 points in the first half.

Tatum averaged 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds over four ACC tournament games. He can also achieve feats like this effortlessly:

Sophomore guard Luke Kennard, who arguably should have won the ACC Player of the Year award, is averaging 20.1 points per game and making just under half of his field goal attempts (49.9 percent). He also shoots 44.3 percent from three-point range.

Villanova is clearly Duke's No. 1 threat to heading back to the Final Four, but like Gonzaga and Kansas (more on them below), their path to the Final Four is riddled with potential traps. Here's Rodger Sherman of The Ringer with more commentary:

[Villanova is] deserving of that top overall seed, as it went 31–3 and won the Big East’s regular-season and conference titles. But it has been given what appears to be the most difficult region to emerge from, the thing that top overall seeding was hypothetically supposed to prevent.

Villanova could face No. 8 seed Wisconsin, the Big Ten runner-up that was under-seeded by two or three spots, in the second round. The Wildcats could also face No. 4 seed Florida or No. 5 seed Virginia in the Sweet 16, two teams who are fantastic on defense. UVA already played the Wildcats in the regular season, losing 61-59 on a buzzer-beater in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. And then No. 2 seed Duke could be waiting in the wings.

Take Duke to win the East because of Tatum, Kennard and Villanova's lousy draw.

 

West: Arizona

Oftentimes we see coaches provide milquetoast remarks to the press (see every one of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's press conferences as evidence), but Arizona head coach Sean Miller was honest in his assessment of Arizona's draw.

“The seed we have, the location we have; we’re excited to have that as our path,” Miller told the media after the bracket was revealed.

On paper, he looks to be right. In the West, it's better to be a No. 2 seed than a No. 1 seed (you could say that for the East and Midwest this year). Here's Neil Payne, Kyle Wagner and Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight with more on Gonzaga's half of the West Regional:

The West contains five of the top 25 teams in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy’s power ratings, two of which (Notre Dame and West Virginia) are packed into the Zags’ half of the bracket. West Virginia seems particularly dangerous if it can overcome a case of criminal underseeding; WVU is seeded fourth in this region despite ranking fifth in the entire nation by Pomeroy’s stats.

Arizona doesn't have to travel too far in the first two rounds (Salt Lake City) or the regional semifinals and finals (San Jose) either.

The Wildcats, who finished 30-4 this season, are hot at the right time after beating UCLA and Oregon to cap a 9-1 stretch and win the Pac-12 title. Look for them to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2001.

 

Midwest: Louisville

The Cardinals are a good team with one possibly fatal flaw: They are bad at shooting free throws. That cost the Cardinals their ACC tournament quarterfinal game against Duke, as they shot just 15-of-26 from the line in an 81-77 loss.

Jeff Greer of The Courier-Journal reported this comment from Louisville's leading scorer, sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell, after the game:

That being said, Louisville's half of the Midwest Regional is manageable, considering that its primary contender for an Elite Eight spot, No. 3 seed Oregon, just lost sophomore forward Chris Boucher (11.8 points and 2.5 blocks per game) for the season with a torn ACL. 

On the other half of the bracket, No. 1 seed Kansas could be picked off by No. 4 seed Purdue (whose big man Caleb Swanigan would give KU problems) and No. 5 seed Iowa State (who beat Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse this year) in the Sweet 16.

If Louisville can start making free throws (admittedly, that's a big if), it can beat any team in the country. If not, the Cardinals can still make the Final Four via their stingy defense (No. 6 in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy).

Expect the Cardinals defense to take them to Phoenix.

 

South: North Carolina

The Tar Heels rebound better than any other team in the country, and it's not even close. UNC pulls down 43.5 boards per contest and outrebounds its opponents by 12.7 a game. Both figures are No. 1 in the nation.

UNC is battle-tested after winning the regular-season title of the tough ACC, which sent nine teams to this year's NCAA tournament. North Carolina also played tourney teams Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and Kentucky out of conference.

The Tar Heels have a reasonable path to the tournament, as they would match up well with any team in their half of the East Regional. Most notably, no team in their half ranks in the top 25 of the Sagarin ratings.

Meanwhile, the two best teams other than UNC in the East, No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 3 UCLA, seem destined for a Sweet 16 showdown in the other half.

UNC has a much easier path to the Final Four than UK or UCLA on paper, so the call is to travel on the path of least resistance and pick the Tar Heels to make it to the Final Four.

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