NCAA bracket predictions by the NBA fan who doesn't follow college hoops

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

An NBA fan watches March Madness to try to figure out which prospects will be tomorrow's NBA stars. These picks reflect that bias.

I'm an NBA fan, so the main reason I watch college basketball is to see future NBA players. Basketball is basketball, of course, so I have no ill will toward the game itself. I just prefer the NBA and games that involves players that could one day play in the NBA.

Therefore, I'm not going to pretend to know about how all these teams match up, which Cinderella will emerge or what top seed got an easy draw. When picking my bracket, I relied on a simple reality: whichever team had more potential NBA players was the team I would pick.

Because this method needs some SCIENCE, I needed to figure out a way to measure which teams had the most NBA prospects. Using Draft Express' rankings, I came up with the following formula that has absolutely no holes and you cannot challenge because it is completely objective and is in fact the best scientific formula in sports history.

Players ranked among the top 100 freshmen: One point.

Players ranked among the top 100 sophomores: Two points.

Players ranked among the top 100 juniors: Three points.

Players ranked among the top 100 seniors: Four points.

Players ranked between 61-100 on the overall list: Five points.

Players ranked between 31-60 on the overall list: 10 points.

Players ranked between 15-30 on the overall list: 15 points.

Players ranked between 14-6 on the overall list: 25 points.

Players ranked between 5-1 on the overall list: 40 points.

Using this formula, here is my bracket.


Yes, that's Indiana over Oklahoma State for the title. Allow me to explain these picks, region-by-region.


Louisville is the best team in college basketball for good reason, but they are just 11th in the NBA Prospect rater, which isn't Final Four material. The Cardinals have seven players on one of Draft Express' list, but just two (Gorgui Deng, Russ Smith) in the top 60. They hold off a tough Missouri squad (16th in the Prospect Rater) before falling to top-five prospect Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State in an upset that probably nobody would ever pick. Duke cruises at the bottom of the bracket, with only Michigan State (14th in these rankings) giving them much of a game.

That sets up a high-ranking regional final between Oklahoma State and Duke. The Blue Devils have 10 players on one of the Draft Express lists, but they lack the star-power of the Cowboys. Smart (40) and LeBryan Nash (10) get very close on their own to matching Duke's point total, and junior Markel Brown (3) and sophomore Michael Cobbins (2) put Oklahoma State over the top. The Cowboys advance.

A note: St. Louis, despite apparently being an awesome college team, has zero NBA prospects. New Mexico State also has nobody, but I would rather roll with a team that has a 7'5'' guy, so I'm picking the upset.


A cupcake region that Gonzaga ends up advancing through to the Final Four, but not before surviving a couple tight games along the way. The Bulldogs face a tough matchup in the second/third round against a Pittsburgh team featuring potential first-round prospect Steven Adams. The Panthers have nine players on one of Draft Express' list, but Kelly Olynyk being ranked as a lottery pick allows the Bulldogs to prevail by one point. Later, Gonzaga is locked in a dead heat with Arizona in the regional final, but Olynyk being the highest-rated prospect among the two teams breaks the tie for me.

The bottom of the bracket stinks. New Mexico has just a single player on one of Draft Express' lists, so Arizona easily wins that second-round matchup. The Wildcats also get by Ohio State before barely falling to Gonzaga.


The region of death, according to this method. Four projected lottery picks and 19 Top 100 prospects reside in this section of the bracket.

There are a ton of delightful matchups early. South Dakota State would beat several top seeds thanks to Nate Wolters, but they get a bad matchup with Michigan, ranked seventh thanks to Trey Burke (25 points) and Glenn Robinson III (15 points). Two second-round matchups (Kansas-North Carolina and Florida-UCLA) feature teams ranked in the top 10 of these rankings.

All this sets up for a dazzling regional final between Kansas and UCLA, both carried by players ranked in the top five in Ben McLemore and Muhammad. Those two cancel each other out, leaving the following prospects left on these lists:

And there you have it. Kansas, barely, ends up having the edge. Even if Johnson, ranked near the bottom of the Top 100 list, would have only been on the seniors rankings, the Jayhawks would have won because I'm told by college hoops fans that Jordan Adams is injured.


Indiana has two top-10 prospects in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, so they're the obvious pick to win it all by these methods. But the Hoosiers do get an interesting second-round scare against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have five players ranked between 30 and 80 on the Top 100 list, and it all adds up to the sixth-highest score among tournament teams. Zeller and Oladipo alone are enough to win, but this looms as a fun matchup for NBA fans. The Hoosiers also get a Sweet 16 scare from Anthony Bennett (25 points) and UNLV in the Sweet 16.

The bottom of the bracket is pretty weak, allowing Miami's band of geezers to sneak through to the Elite 8. Marquette offers little resistance, barely getting by a Bucknell team that features potential first-round pick Mike Muscala. If Muscala had been ranked a little higher, he would have defeated Marquette by himself.


Indiana and Kansas play for the de-facto championship on one side. Having two potential top-10 picks is better than one, and therefore Indiana advances in a matchup between the top two ranked teams by draft prospects. Oklahoma State, ranked fourth, gets by 12th-ranked Gonzaga to set up an Hoosiers-Cowboys title game. In the end, Zeller and Oladipo is greater than Smart, and the Hoosiers cut down the nets.


The full rankings, in case you're curious:

  1. Indiana: 75
  2. Kansas: 60
  3. UCLA: 58
  4. Oklahoma State: 55
  5. Duke: 52
  6. N.C. State: 51
  7. Michigan: 47
  8. North Carolina: 43
  9. UNLV: 41.
  10. Florida: 38
  11. Louisville: 38
  12. Gonzaga: 37
  13. Arizona: 37
  14. Pittsburgh: 36
  15. Michigan State: 32
  16. Missouri: 32
  17. Georgetown: 31
  18. Syracuse: 31
  19. Miami: 26
  20. Ohio State: 24
  21. San Diego State: 18
  22. Memphis: 17
  23. Colorado: 17
  24. California: 16
  25. Marquette: 14
  26. Creighton: 14
  27. Oklahoma: 14
  28. Villanova: 12
  29. Minnesota: 12
  30. Illinois: 11
  31. Bucknell: 10
  32. Mississippi: 10
  33. Oregon: 9
  34. Kansas State: 8
  35. Notre Dame: 8
  36. Iowa State: 8
  37. South Dakota State: 8
  38. Wisconsin: 7
  39. Colorado State: 7
  40. Cincinnati: 7
  41. Butler: 5
  42. St. Mary's: 5
  43. Iona: 5
  44. Temple: 4
  45. Belmont: 4
  46. Akron: 4
  47. Valparaiso: 4
  48. LIU-Brooklyn: 4
  49. VCU: 3
  50. Wichita State: 3
  51. Southern: 3
  52. New Mexico: 2
  53. La Salle: 2
  54. Harvard: 1
  55. St. Louis: 0
  56. Middle Tennessee State: 0
  57. Montana: 0
  58. Boise State: 0
  59. New Mexico State: 0
  60. Northwestern State: 0
  61. Davidson: 0
  62. Pacific: 0
  63. Florida Gulf Coast: 0
  64. Albany: 0
  65. North Carolina A&T: 0
  66. Liberty: 0
  67. Western Kentucky: 0
  68. James Madison: 0


More in College Basketball:

Printable bracket for March Madness

Need help filling out your bracket? Check out our predictions

Full coverage of March Madness

Everything you need to know about the NCAA bracket

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