As the Louisville Cardinals celebrate their national championship, fans can finally throw their marked and crumpled-up brackets away. So with another year of wrong predictions in the books and bracket-busting upsets, what have we learned?
1. Talent and leadership in the backcourt wins games
Look no further than the two finalists Monday night. Junior Russ Smith and senior Peyton Siva anchored the Louisville backcourt and led the Cardinals to a national championship behind consistent play all tournament long. Smith had at least 21 points in each of Louisville's first five tournament games, while Siva poured on 18 points, five assists, four steals and six rebounds in the title game.
For Michigan, it was Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Burke's most memorable performance came in the Wolverines' Sweet 16 win against Kansas, where he scored 23 points, dished out 10 assists and hit the game-tying three at the end of regulation to complete a remarkable comeback. While Hardaway's numbers weren't quite as gaudy, he did shoot 38 percent from three and turned the ball over just seven times in the tournament.
2. Beware the high-seeded mid-major
Gonzaga, New Mexico and Saint Louis were all "protected seeds," and won a combined two games in the tournament. They also all lost to teams seeded at least eight slots below them. Now to be fair, Gonzaga lost to fellow mid-major Wichita State, while elsewhere in the bracket, La Salle, San Diego State and others knocked off BCS schools. So while it might not always be safe to pick against them, their records and seeds could be misleading. After all, how much can you really tell about a team that won 32 games, but only two against top-five seeds?
3. A few games in March could do wonders for your draft stock
Sure, at most you have only six games in the NCAA Tournament. But those six games are under the brightest lights, in front of the most people (and scouts) and under the most pressure. Just look at Mitch McGary. Before the tournament started, he was coming off the bench and putting up woefully inconsistent numbers. Now, after leading the Wolverines to a spot in the championship game, he is likely to be a first-round pick if he decides to enter the draft. Burke, who had been slated toward the bottom of the first round in draft projections, will now probably go lottery.
4. Play it safe and don't pick Georgetown
Ever. You'd think we would have learned this years ago. In the six seasons since the Hoyas' 2007 Final Four run, they have won 21 or more games five times. They have not made a single Sweet 16 in that span. Even worse, Georgetown has lost to a team seeded 10 or lower in each of their five NCAA Tournament trips since 2007. This years debacle against Florida Gulf Coast in the second round was just the latest in the Hoyas' run of postseason futility, and it came with player of the year candidate Otto Porter leading the way. Some things in March are hard to explain and this is one of them, but play it safe and avoid the Hoyas.
5. Sometimes you just need some luck
There's no way around it. Marquette shouldn't have beaten Davidson in the second round this year. It took a frantic comeback in the final minutes and a couple fortuitous bounces for the Golden Eagles to move on, and what happened after that? They made it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Syracuse. Then there's Michigan, which won its Sweet 16 game only because of the aforementioned shot from Burke. That game could have just as easily gone the other way, but instead it was the Wolverines who made it to Monday night and held a halftime lead in the National Championship game.