Every year at this time, people around the world sit down to fill out a bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament to get in on the madness that has become the month of March.
A number of different methods are used when picking winners and losers. These methods include, but are not limited to, picking schools with pleasant color schemes or nicknames, using a dartboard or using the input of college basketball analysts.
While no method has proven perfect, the analysts at ESPN study college basketball around the clock. Mark Schlabach picked a combination of four teams to play in the tournament’s final weekend that none of his colleagues chose.
Schlabach picked a mixture of two No. 2 seeds with two No. 1 seeds. Jay Bilas has selected all four top seeds to make it to New Orleans, but that does not make March Madness all that exciting.
Schlabach’s choices may not prove to be all correct, but they are good predictions to begin the month.
In the South region, Schlabach picks Kentucky. No surprises there, as Kentucky is the favorite to win the whole tournament, which Palm also predicts they will. They are the safe bet, but are far from a sure thing.
Kentucky may be playing Baylor for the regional championship if the No. 3 seeded Bears upset the No. 2 seeded Duke Blue Devils. Baylor is an athletic team that has the potential to knock off Duke.
In the region out West, Schlabach has Missouri coming out on top. It can be argued that Michigan State is easily the weakest No. 1 seed. Put on top of that they are in what is possibly the most difficult region with Marquette, Big East Tournament Champions Louisville, two quality teams in Memphis and St. Louis, Long Beach State who is perhaps the most dangerous 12 seed and Missouri, who easily could have been switched with the Spartans to be a top seed.
That being said, the West could have a champion who is not the No. 1 seed. But Tom Izzo and the Spartans have put last season’s huge disappointment behind them and are ready to make another run deep into March.
Schlabach instead goes with the Missouri Tigers who are very good team and are worthy of playing in the Final Four.
In the East region, Palmer has No. 1 seed Syracuse coming out. The Orange may be weary of the Ohio State Buckeyes, who they could meet in the Elite 8. The Buckeyes do not play very deep into their bench though and could potentially be knocked off earlier in the tournament.
The sixth seeded Bearcats from Cincinnati may make some noise in the bracket. If they play the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles in their second game, they could very well finish with an upset. Cincinnati may turn some heads in the postseason after they have beaten Syracuse, Marquette, Louisville, Georgetown, Connecticut and Notre Dame this season.
Finally, Schlabach picks Kansas to come out of the Midwest region. Like Missouri in the West, Kansas made a case to be a No. 1 seed. The West bracket has Georgetown as the third seed. The Hoyas are young and could be the weakest third seed in the tournament. If the Jayhawks play as well as well as they can, they could be in store for an Elite 8 showdown with North Carolina, a team they match up well with.
By the end of the weekend, Schlabach may not have a single Final Four team remaining. But that is what makes this tournament exciting. His picks make sense and on paper are four of the strongest teams still playing.