Let’s just dispense with one thing: other than the first game, who cares who’s in what bracket? It always drives us crazy when people say a bracket is loaded. At most, you can only play four of them and if you’re going to win, you’re going to have to play the best teams sometime. It’s just a bad way of thinking about it. No one guarantees anyone a “fair” path to the Final Four. You just have to win.
So for the West to have Gonzaga, Duke, Texas Tech and Arkansas - big deal. It’s not like it’s four #1 seeds.
And for Duke to see Michigan State again? Well it’s odd, but not as odd as Michigan State having to face Davidson with Foster Loyer who is going to be the best scout Bob McKillop ever had.
And if Duke and Davidson both advance, then Duke has that with Bates Jones.
We don’t know much about Duke’s opening opponent, Cal State Fullerton, so we’ll come back to them. This is going to basically be a general overview. We’ll change our minds on some stuff before things start up.
Let’s start with the West.
Gonzaga is obviously the favorite. Who has Gonzaga lost to this year? Duke, Alabama and Saint Mary’s.
There’s no way Gonzaga is losing its opener to Georgia State. But Memphis in the second round, if Memphis wins? UConn or Arkansas the following weekend?
We could see it. We wouldn't bet it on it, but we could see it. We get the feeling that Gonzaga doesn’t enjoy pressure from athletic teams and they don’t really see it that often, certainly not late in the season.
By the way, the Rutgers-Notre Dame game could be really interesting. That’s one to keep an eye on.
UNC’s going to have a tough time. If they get past Marquette, no sure thing, then they run smack into Baylor, which is a sign of how much things have changed: a few years ago, no one would have given Baylor a chance against UNC.
We wouldn't want to play the St. Mary’s team we saw beat Gonzaga. At their finest, the Gaels can play with anyone. Indiana might be in for a tough game.
We don’t know enough about Akron yet to really talk about the Zips vs. UCLA. But the nickname is endlessly cool.
Virginia Tech and Texas is one of the most interesting games we are likely to see. The Hokies were brilliant in the ACC Tournament but Chris Beard is a pretty talented coach. It probably won’t be easy for the Hokies.
We’d be pretty shocked if Yale beat Purdue but Texas or Virginia Tech? That we could see.
There are always teams that are very, very good and stay very, very good under different coaches.
This year those include St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Richmond, Davidson, South Dakota State and Murray State.
Murray State should still be trying to figure out how to be good without Ja Morant, who has developed into a likely Hall of Fame player in the NBA.
Murray State is 30-2.
The knock on the Racers will be that they haven’t played anyone and other than beating Memphis and losing to Auburn, that’s true. But this is a program that institutionally knows how to win and is confident. So don’t underestimate them.
St.Peter’s has almost no chance against Kentucky.
Turning to the other side of the bracket, we can’t see Arizona losing to Wright State, who should beat Bryant, but that’s another school that understands basketball. So we’d give them a very, very slight chance at catching the Wildcats napping.
Seton Hall over TCU and Houston over UAB.
Chattanooga is another one of those programs that you probably don’t want to see. We’d still take Illinois, but that’s one you want to watch. Kofi Cockburn would probably have to get into foul trouble though.
We don’t know enough yet about Colorado State other than coach Niko Medved, who we’ve been keeping an eye on, so we can’t really say for sure, but he’s a really good coach and you can’t discount good coaching.
We can’t imagine Longwood beating Tennessee.
We could really see Loyola upsetting Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been erratic and Loyola is a solid defensive team. We’ll have to read more before committing.
Delaware beating Villanova would be shocking. Also not happening.
Kansas should advance to the Sweet Sixteen without too much trouble. We like Creighton over San Diego State but neither is likely to be KU.
Iowa vs. Richmond...wow. Most likely Iowa but we’ll have to know more first.
Providence should be uneasy about seeing South Dakota State. Not a team we’d like to see in the opener.
LSU could either come in completely dispirited after Will Wade got fired or, well, fired up. Who knows? That’s a though one. Iowa State has had an amazing year though.
Wisconsin should get past either of them assuming it does beat Colgate (we think that will happen).
Miami is playing very well but USC has size that could be a major problem.
Finally, we just can’t see Auburn losing to Jackson State but if they don’t pull together in a hurry, they will have problems soon.