After a weekend of conference tournament chaos and an hour of selections on Sunday night, March Madness is finally here. All over America on Monday morning, college hoops fans are filling out brackets, reading up on a year's worth of college hoops news, flipping a coin between teams like VCU and Wichita State, and trying to remember their passwords to CBS Sports.
It's an annual tradition.
And since chaos is part of the charm, let's do this all at once. We're going to pick every game this year, along with some half-baked analysis along the way, and then we'll see what happens. I'm not a college basketball "expert," but I've watched a decent amount this year, and I'm at least willing to make myself look stupid for the sake of everyone else. Maybe you'll find this useful in general, or maybe you'll find it useful in a, "whoa, not doing what THAT GUY says" kinda way.
We'll start with the Final Four.
South -- Kentucky
West -- Mizzou
East -- Ohio St.
Midwest -- North Carolina
People (read: me) usually make the most mistakes with March Madness by poring over first and second-round matchups. Sometimes I'll pick a team to pull of a few upsets, and as I'm writing them into each new round, it'll be like, N.C. State and Kansas, and after writing N.C. State into the Sweet 16, I'll find myself thinking, "Ehhh... Why not?" This is pretty stupid. You're better off picking the four best teams in each region and working backwards.
Kentucky advances because John Calipari is #Illuminati and Anthony Davis is an alien. Mizzou advances because Michigan State really isn't that great (right?) and neither is anyone else in the West. Ohio State advances because they've been favored the past two years and failed, now everyone's writing them off and ... It just feels right. And Carolina advances because I'm a Carolina fan. And also because they've got the best point guard in the field, the most talent of anyone this side of Kentucky, and John Henson is due to turn himself into a top five pick this month.
Important Reminder: I'm not a college basketball expert, and at least 50 percent of this logic will look completely ridiculous just five days from now. Now then: Let's take this region-by-region.
RELATED: Printable NCAA Tournament Bracket | More Predictions
Round Of 64 Winners: Syracuse, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Montana, Texas, Florida State, West Virginia and Ohio State. Analysis: We're taking K-State over Southern Miss because Frank Martin is Frank Martin, and Frank Martin is the best. Vandy beats Harvard because a.) Tommy Amaker went to Duke, and b.) the Linsanity bubble exploded two weeks ago. We're taking Montana because a friend of mine played basketball there. I don't have any friends who played basketball at Wisconsin, but if I did, I'd ask them, "why must Bo Ryan make me hate basketball every year?" We're taking Texas because the Big East is overrated. FSU because Leonard Hamilton IS Bunny Colvin, and that's somebody everyone can root for. And West Virginia because Gonzaga got totally screwed.
Round of 32 Winners: Syracuse, Vandy, FSU and Ohio State. Analysis: Syracuse has been overrated all year and is totally due for an upset, but they'll be good enough to get past K State. Vandy beats Montana because FESTUS F***ING EZELI. FSU beats Texas because Rick Barnes is who you thought he was. And Ohio State beats West Virginia because even Bob Huggins (or Kevin Jones) is no match for Jared Sullinger's ass.
Sweet 16 Winners: Vandy, Ohio State. Analysis: DOWN GOES SYRACUSE DOWN GOES SYRACUSE. If you look at Syracuse's tournament history, they've been pretty underwhelming since Melo carried them to a national title. Fab Melo had seven points and six rebounds in Syracuse's win over UConn last week. Fab Melo is not Melo. Meanwhile, Festus Ezeli once told Andy Katz, "My first name is Ifeanyi, and that means 'nothing is impossible with God.' That sets the tone for my journey while I'm alive." Does
Curtis Kris Joseph's first name mean "nothing is impossible?"
On the other side, Ohio State can beat up FSU down low, and barring the insane three-point shooting they put on North Carolina this Sunday, the 'Noles don't have enough to counter on offense.
Elite 8 Winner: Ohio State. Analysis: I really want to pick Vandy here, but Kevin Stallings is Kevin from The Office, and for all the herculean ridiculousness of Festus Ezeli, he won't be enough to neutralize Deshaun Thomas AND Jared Sullinger. Now, moving on...
Round of 64 Winners: UNC, Alabama, Temple, Michigan, NC State, Georgetown, St. Mary's and Kansas. Analysis: Alabama advances because Nick Saban is #Illuminati. Temple advances because Fran Dunphy is Phil's brother, and the ghost of John Chaney is not to be f***ed with. Michigan moves on because Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are two of the most enjoyable players in college hoops. N.C. State beats San Diego State because you can't not root for the team in this video. St. Mary's wins because they're the new Gonzaga, the team that always shows up in March and leaves people scratching their heads. And finally, Georgetown wins because I'm too scared to pick Belmont, even though I want to.
Round of 32 Winners: UNC, Michigan, NC State, Kansas. Analysis: UNC takes down 'Bama because this isn't football. Michigan takes down Temple because John Beilein teams are so terrifying in the tournament, even the ghost of John Chaney is no match. N.C. State beats Georgetown because John Thompson III Hoyas teams are the opposite of John Beilein teams in the tournament. Kansas wins because Thomas Robinson belongs in the Sweet 16.
Sweet 16 Winners: UNC, Kansas. Analysis: A KU-UNC Elite Eight game seems too good to be true, but KU is too good to lose to St. Marys, right? Or NCSU? Or even Georgetown? The biggest impediment is Michigan against Carolina, but here's to betting the Heels figure it out.
Elite 8 Winner: UNC. Analysis: Thomas Robinson is great, but I'm convinced that everyone who's ever praised Tyshawn Taylor has never actually watched him play basketball. Kendall Marshall is on a different level in the backcourt, Ghostface Zella will be enough to match anything Robinson does up front, and in a game this hyped, there's at least a 50 percent chance Harrison Barnes will show up and be Harrison Barnes for the entire time.
Round of 64 Winners: Michigan State, Memphis, Long Beach State, Louisville, Murray State, Marquette, Florida and Missouri. Analysis: Memphis because we should never forget that Josh Pastner is going to rule the world someday. Long Beach State because Clipper Darrell said so. Louisville because there's no way Pitino gets upset two years in a row, right? Murray State because I have no idea why they're seeded so high, but there's gotta be some reason, right? Marquette because ... I guess so? Florida because Bradley Beal and Kenny Boyton are both pretty fantastic.
Round of 32 Winners: Michigan State, Louisville, Murray State, Missouri. Analysis: Tom Izzo teams are terrifying in March, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt against Memphis. Peyton Siva belongs in the Sweet 16, so Louisville wins. Murray State wins because Marquette feels like just the sort of empty three-seed that could give us a Cinderella this year. And Mizzou beats Florida because they're quicker, tougher, and better. I think.
Sweet 16 Winners: Michigan State, Missouri. Analysis: I really wanted to pick Louisville, but the Cards really aren't that impressive beyond Peyton Siva, and again, Tom Izzo sold his soul about ten years ago and has been reaping inexplicable March rewards ever since. Meanwhile, Mizzou is the best team in this bracket, so they can handle Murray State.
Elite 8 Winner: Missouri. Analysis: They've been one of the best teams in the country all year. Kim English and Draymond Greene both feel like they've been in college for seven years, but English is the better player. Let's be honest though, this is all a gut feeling.
Round of 64 Winners: Kentucky, UConn, Witchita State, Indiana, Colorado, Baylor, Xavier and Duke. Analysis: Anytime everyone on a talented team appears to hate each other, anything is possible. UConn could lose by 20 against Iowa St, or maybe beat Kentucky. For now, we'll hedge and put them in the second round. Wichita State beats VCU because this is going to be everyone's upset pick. Indiana wins because Tom Crean married into the #Illuminati. Colorado wins because UNLV is just .500 since February 4th, and destined to faceplant this weekend. Meanwhile, Xavier advances because they're the perfect team to beat Duke in the next round.
Round of 32 Winners: Kentucky, Witchita St., Baylor, Xavier. Analysis: UConn is just good enough to threaten Kentucky, but in the battle of Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis, it feels like a game where Drummond spends 30 minutes of the game in foul trouble, and things get ugly down the stretch. Meanwhile, Wichita St. can take down Indiana because it's time for America to fall in love with the Shockers again. Baylor can get past Colorado because they're the best three seed in the field. And Xavier beats Duke because they're more athletic, Tu Holloway is tougher AND smarter than Austin Rivers, and most importantly, it's just fun to bet against Duke.
Sweet 16 Winners: Kentucky, Baylor. Analysis: Wichita State and Kentucky is billed as a fun battle of small-time vs. big-time, but then Kentucky destroys the Shockers and makes it uncomfortable for everyone. Meanwhile, Baylor just has too much talent for Xavier.
Elite Eight Winner: Kentucky. Analysis: Baylor is like an off-brand Kentucky. Not a poor-man's version, just ... Pretty much the exact same formula, but without the branding advantages and benefit of the doubt. This should be a great game, but I can't bet against Anthony Davis. Yet.
Picks: UNC over Ohio State, Kentucky over Mizzou, UNC over Kentucky. Against Ohio State, John Henson's length should give Jared Sullinger a nice preview of life in the NBA, and assuming everyone else stays healthy, the Heels win just about every other matchup on the court. On the other side, Kentucky's got too much size for Missouri, and they're also one of the only teams in America that can match Mizzou's athleticism all over the court.
As for the final, it'll be a close game that comes down to the final few minutes, and at that point it's a toss up. It's too bad these teams can't play a seven game series to decide this. North Carolina lost by one point to Kentucky on the road this year, and there's no team in the country with a better chance at matching Kentucky blow for blow down the stretch, every single game. But most importantly, I'm a shameless Carolina homer, so why not let it ride, ya know?