This marks the first year in which I’ve really, really struggled filling out my bracket. Last year, I came within an inch of losing with Duke—the team I’ve picked to win for the past five years—in the final but got lucky and won (no cash prize). This year, I’m already stuck in a bunch of places, which means I don’t have intuition, which means I’m not going to win my bracket. Mark it.
Here’s where I’m stuck:
First round: No. 9 Old Dominion vs. No. 8 Butler
The ghost of Gordon Hayward haunts me. No matter how much I want to just trust Jay Bilas and Crazy Joe Lunardi, I can’t, in good conscience, pick Old Dominion to win this game. Doesn’t matter, I suppose, as neither team is getting by Pitt in the second round.
Second round: No. 11 USC vs. No. 3 Purdue
Firstly, I have USC winning its stupid play-in game and trouncing Georgetown. No idea why. I just like it. And for some reason, I keep flip-flopping on this game. I think I’m enamored with the fact that Lil’ Romeo used to play for the Trojans. If Purdue hadn’t lost Robbie Hummel, I think they’re a championship contender. I guess I’ll go with Purdue, who will give Notre Dame a fight before falling.
Sweet Sixteen: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 6 St. John’s
I really like both of these teams. Chandler Parsons is a shot-taker and a shotmaker. St. John’s is old in a good way—not Celtics or Spurs old. ESPN says Florida is one of the most vulnerable teams, whereas St. John's is the least vulnerable contender. I guess I’ll take the Red Storm—who’ve had some huge wins and terrible losses—and call it a night.
Elite Eight: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 3 Connecticut
My two favorite CBB players facing off. Kemba Walker vs. Kyrie Irving (I hope)—both top-three NBA picks. If Irving can come even close to playing as well as he was before his freak toe injury, Duke walks away with the game and the title. If he can’t, I like Kemba to dominate Nolan Smith and UConn to get to the Final Four.
I can’t believe this much is riding on a freshman’s big toe, but I’m taking Duke to win the game and then Charlie Sheen-ing tough games over Ohio State and Kansas to make it back-to-back and paving the way for Austin Rivers to give me too much hope next year.