NCAA bracket predictions 2014: Our bracketologist takes a shot

Kevin C. Cox

The day of the year has arrived when our resident bracketologist attempts to translate his success in selecting and seeding the field into a winning bracket. It's an activity that's met with mixed results in recent seasons.

Get your full printable bracket here. All of our March Madness predictions are here

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

A warning about my 2014 bracket picks: I'm due for a down year.

It's true. Last season, I somehow won every pool I entered despite only getting one of the Final Four right. Of course, it helped that national champion Louisville was the team I picked correctly. My 39-24 record in picking non-First Four games last season was five games worse than my 2012 mark of 44-19. During that season, I picked three of the Final Four, including champion Kentucky, correctly. That was a marked improvement upon both 2010 and 2011, when I went a combined 77-53 from the Round of 64 on, missing all eight Final Four teams during those seasons.

In other words, when I say "past results are not indicative of future performance," I truly mean it. Use my picks at your own peril.

South

First Four

No. 16 Albany over No. 16 Mount St. Mary's
This game in Dayton will feature contrasting styles. The Great Danes love to slow things down, while the Mountaineers are one of the faster teams in the country. I think deliberateness will win the day, especially since the Mount isn't the greatest defensive team in America.

Round of 64

No. 1 Florida over No. 16 Albany
The Gators won't be fazed by the Great Danes' slowdown tactics.

No. 8 Colorado over No. 9 Pittsburgh
This one will also be close because of one team's deliberate play -- the Panthers in this case -- but I suspect the Buffaloes put enough points on the board in the end.

No. 5 VCU over No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
While the Lumberjacks' adjusted offensive efficiency ranks in KenPom's top 50, they haven't seen a defense quite like the Rams' this season.

No. 4 UCLA over No. 13 Tulsa
There will be no miracle upset for Danny Manning's Golden Hurricane, not with this game being played in the Bruins' backyard.

No. 6 Ohio State over No. 11 Dayton
The Flyers will keep it close against their in-state rivals, but the Buckeyes' defense will get a few stops at the end to advance.

No. 3 Syracuse over No. 14 Western Michigan
The Orange win, but all bets are off if their offense continues to sputter. The Broncos got some practice against the 2-3 zone in a pair of games against Eastern Michigan, a season split.

No. 7 New Mexico over No. 10 Stanford
I contemplated taking the Cardinal here, but I think the Lobos' superior defense will be a difference-maker in a game between two teams that are very similar offensively.

No. 2 Kansas over No. 15 Eastern Kentucky
You can bet the Colonels will let the threes fly against the Jayhawks, but it likely won't be enough for them to pull the upset, even with no Joel Embiid in the lineup for KU.

Round of 32

No. 1 Florida over No. 8 Colorado
This game would be more of a toss-up if Spencer Dinwiddie was able to play for the Buffaloes.

No. 4 UCLA over No. 5 VCU
Looking at the way the Bruins defeated Arizona in the Pac-12 final, I'm sure they'll find a way to put just enough points up on HAVOC.

No. 6 Ohio State over No. 3 Syracuse
This will finally be where the Orange's late struggles catch up with them. Hopefully, this contest won't be as poorly officiated as the pair's 2012 regional final.

No. 7 New Mexico over No. 2 Kansas
The Lobos lost to the Jayhawks by 17 in Kansas City back in December. This time, they take advantage of more game film and Embiid's absence to shock Kansas and move on to the Sweet 16.

Sweet 16

No. 1 Florida over No. 4 UCLA
The Bruins would love to finally grab an NCAA win over the Gators, and they'll come close, but UF finds a way to win at the end.

No. 6 Ohio State over No. 7 New Mexico
The Buckeyes' defense stifles the Lobos, who by this point are due for an extended field goal drought like the one they experienced at San Diego State to close the regular season.

Elite Eight

No. 1 Florida over No. 6 Ohio State
The Gators win another close one against a squad that's right next to it in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

East

Round of 64

No. 1 Virginia over No. 16 Coastal Carolina
The best mascot in the entire tournament, Chauncey the Chanticleer, only makes a cameo.

No. 9 George Washington over No. 8 Memphis
While the Tigers have the talent, the Colonials have the coaching necessary to pull the minor upset.

No. 12 Harvard over No. 5 Cincinnati
The Bearcats will obviously slow this game down, but that won't bother the Crimson in the slightest. The only question is whether Harvard can stop Sean Kilpatrick at the end.

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 13 Delaware
If the Fighting Blue Hens were playing any other four seed, I'd have contemplated calling for the upset. But against Sparty right now? Forget it.

No. 6 North Carolina over No. 11 Providence
The Big East Tournament champs, and their star, Bryce Cotton, deserved a better draw than a game against a Tar Heel team that's among the hottest in the country.

No. 3 Iowa State over No. 14 N.C. Central
In 2001, the second-seeded Cyclones were stunned by a MEAC foe, Hampton. Don't expect it to happen again, even if the Eagles have the talent to win a game in this year's tournament.

No. 7 Connecticut over No. 10 St. Joseph's
This one should be close. I'll give the edge to the Huskies at the end because of their superior foul shooting.

No. 2 Villanova over No. 15 Milwaukee
The Wildcats, who had a case to be on the top line, knock the Horizon champs out fairly easily.

Round of 32

No. 1 Virginia over No. 9 George Washington
The Cavaliers struggle against a local rival, but clamp down on the Colonials at the end.

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 12 Harvard
Tommy Amaker didn't have a lot of success against the Spartans when he was at Michigan. That pattern will continue with the Crimson.

No. 3 Iowa State over No. 6 North Carolina
The Cyclones make a few more baskets in what would be a tremendously entertaining game.

No. 2 Villanova over No. 7 Connecticut
The Wildcats escape a close one against their longtime Big East rival.

Sweet 16

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 1 Virginia
The Spartans send the Cavaliers packing after a hard-nosed defensive struggle.

No. 2 Villanova over No. 3 Iowa State
The Wildcats' superior defense makes the difference in a matchup of two top-20 ranked KenPom offenses.

Elite Eight

No. 4 Michigan State over No. 2 Villanova
Had their season not been plagued by injuries, the Spartans would likely be a No. 1 or 2 seed. With a win over the Wildcats, MSU can again show that it's the path the bracket puts before you that matters more than the number in front of your name.

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Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

West

Round of 64

No. 1 Arizona over No. 16 Weber State
Wilbur prevails over Waldo quite handily in the Battle of the Wildcats.

No. 9 Oklahoma State over No. 8 Gonzaga
I'm not sure the Bulldogs are tough enough to gut out a win against the talented Cowboys.

No. 12 North Dakota State over No. 5 Oklahoma
The veteran Bison stun the Sooners to end the dream of a Bedlam regional semifinal in Anaheim.

No. 4 San Diego State over No. 13 New Mexico State
Sim Bhullar and the Aggies will keep it close against the Aztecs, but SDSU will manage to get enough points -- and, more crucially, stops -- before the buzzer.

No. 6 Baylor over No. 11 Nebraska
Much like Memphis-GW, this is a matchup of talent vs. coaching. But this time, I think the Bears have too many good players to fall at the first hurdle.

No. 3 Creighton over No. 14 UL-Lafayette
This matchup features the Bluejays' Doug McDermott, the likely national player of the year, and the Cajuns' Shawn Long, one of America's most versatile players (18.7 points per game, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 42.7 percent from beyond the arc). McDermott has more help, though.

No. 7 Oregon over No. 10 BYU
The Ducks took out the Cougars by four in overtime back on Dec. 21, and that was with Kyle Collinsworth in the lineup for BYU.

No. 2 Wisconsin over No. 15 American
The Badgers, who can turn it on offensively when necessary, should have little trouble with the Eagles.

Round of 32

No. 1 Arizona over No. 9 Oklahoma State
This one won't be easy for the Wildcats. The Cowboys are the most dangerous nine seed in the field by far.

No. 12 North Dakota State over No. 4 San Diego State
The Aztecs won't be able to score enough to eliminate the Bison.

No. 3 Creighton over No. 6 Baylor
As someone who favors offense, you bet I'll be following this matchup closely, if it happens.

No. 2 Wisconsin over No. 7 Oregon
The Ducks will undoubtedly struggle against the Badgers' pace and defense.

Sweet 16

No. 1 Arizona over No. 12 North Dakota State
Bison Fever ends in Anaheim at the hands of the Wildcats' defensive juggernaut.

No. 2 Wisconsin over No. 3 Creighton
While the Bluejays have the offense to win, the Badgers are good enough on both sides of the ball -- when they want to be -- to claim the victory.

Elite Eight

No. 1 Arizona over No. 2  Wisconsin
Expect a physical, low-scoring defensive struggle should the Wildcats and Badgers both get this far, with Arizona getting the edge because of how firmly it has locked down the majority of its opponents this season.

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Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Midwest

First Four

No. 16 Texas Southern over No. 16 Cal Poly
The Tigers' Aaric Murray will taste NCAA victory after a well-traveled college career.

No. 12 N.C. State over No. 12 Xavier
Because the Wolfpack ALWAYS win at least one game after I leave them out of my final projection. Sorry Musketeers, that's the rule.

No. 11 Tennessee over No. 11 Iowa
This is a terrible matchup for a Hawkeye team that looked like a top-four seed just a few weeks ago. The Volunteers have too much talent to drop this one. Of course, if Tennessee had used that talent effectively all season it would be somewhere other than Dayton on Wednesday night.

Round of 64

No. 1 Wichita State over No. 16 Texas Southern
The Shockers start their run to North Texas with an easy win over the Tigers.

No. 8 Kentucky over No. 9 Kansas State
I still think UK should have been seeded two lines higher. K-State will pay for the Committee's oversight.

No. 12 N.C. State over No. 5 Saint Louis
T.J. Warren powers the Wolfpack over Jordair Jett and the Billikens, a team that hasn't looked all that sharp over the last three weeks or so.

No. 4 Louisville over No. 13 Manhattan
Much like Delaware, the Jaspers would have had a shot against another four seed, but not against the blazing-hot Cardinals.

No. 11 Tennessee over No. 6 UMass
Even Chaz Williams may not be able to bail the Minutemen out against the Volunteers.

No. 3 Duke over No. 14 Mercer
To defeat the Blue Devils, the Bears will have to win a three-point shootout, which is unlikely.

No. 7 Texas over No. 10 Arizona State
The Longhorns win a matchup of teams whose coaches were certainly in danger of losing their jobs before the season started.

No. 2 Michigan over No. 15 Wofford
The last time the Terriers played a Big Ten team in the Tournament, they nearly upset Wisconsin in 2010. The Wolverines' firepower will prevent such a scare this time around.

Round of 32

No. 1 Wichita State over No. 8 Kentucky
The Shockers' experience makes the difference in what will surely be one of the best games of this round.

No. 4 Louisville over No. 12 N.C. State
The Cardinals continue to roll, keeping the Wolfpack from their second trip to the second weekend in as many NCAA appearances.

No. 3 Duke over No. 11 Tennessee
The Volunteers should have enough defense to hold off the Blue Devils, but having watched them throughout the SEC season, I don't trust them to win three in a row.

No. 2 Michigan over No. 7 Texas
The Wolverines have too much talent and too much of a coaching advantage to fall to the Longhorns.

Sweet 16

No. 4 Louisville over No. 1 Wichita State
A Final Four reunion in Indianapolis begins with the Cardinals again knocking the Shockers out of the field.

No. 2 Michigan over No. 3 Duke
While a Louisville-Wichita State game will be defensively intense, a Wolverine-Blue Devil showdown will feature lots of points. This might end up being one of the most even games of 2014 if it happens.

Elite Eight

No. 4 Louisville over No. 2 Michigan
The Cardinals follow their path in Atlanta to book a place in North Texas. The Wolverines simply won't be able to get enough stops to beat Louisville in this one.

Final Four

National Semifinals

South No. 1 Florida over East No. 4 Michigan State
The Gators haven't had much success against Tom Izzo's teams historically, but the current group's balance and intensity make all the difference.

West No. 1 Arizona over Midwest No. 4 Louisville
The Wildcats find a way to shut down Russ Smith and prevail in a game that might set a record for most missed free throws at a Final Four.

National Championship

If Brandon Ashley was healthy, I'd probably go in their direction

South No. 1 Florida over West No. 1 Arizona
Here's where my bias kicks in. I'm taking the Gators in what should be a classic simply because I want to leave Dallas-Fort Worth happy the next day.

Seriously though, if Brandon Ashley was healthy, I'd probably go in their direction.

That concludes my picks column for 2014. Now, I'm going to put these aside, as you should, to enjoy the wild ride that is the madness of March and early April.

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