This was supposed to be the year picking a bracket would be easy. The blue bloods appeared to have the time-tested combination of star freshmen joining strong veteran casts. The teams at the top of the preseason polls seemed destined to slug it out in March.
Duke was the consensus No. 1 back in November, and it had the look of a potential superteam. The Blue Devils had the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class. They had the best returning player in the country in Grayson Allen. They had ideal senior role players like Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones. Mike Krzyzewski’s team looked like a safe bet.
If you didn’t want to pick Duke, you had other appealing options. Villanova was the defending national champ and it returned a team that was both talented and experienced, led by swingman Josh Hart. Kansas brought back most of its key pieces from last season’s No. 1 overall seed, and added elite recruit Josh Jackson. Kentucky reloaded again with De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk leading a new group of freshman stars.
Then something happened that we should have expected all along. Every team showed a vulnerability along the way.
Duke had to deal with the hysteria surrounding Allen, as well as a drop-off in his production as he adjusted to a new role as point guard. It also had to deal with injuries to the freshmen and Coach K’s unexpected back surgery. Kansas needed to rely on huge comebacks throughout conference season. Villanova lost twice to Butler and showed a weakness in the middle without departed center Daniel Ochefu. Kentucky’s defense and perimeter shooting were shaky.
Duke is playing its best ball of the season after running through the ACC tournament championship as the No. 5 seed. UCLA emerged as a title contender behind Lonzo Ball, but its defense is a major question mark. Arizona overcame a tidal wave of adversity to capture the Pac-12 tournament title. North Carolina looks great ... until it faces Duke.
Meanwhile, here’s Gonzaga, entering the tournament at 32-1. Is this the year Mark Few’s team finally breaks through to the Final Four?
March is wide open once again, as it always is at its best. Last season ended on a 30-foot buzzer-beater in the national title game. What will this tournament offer? We can’t wait to find out.
Follow along with our bracket app. If you need something to print out, we have you covered there, too. And head over into CBS All-Access to watch how your picks perform. March is here. Let’s celebrate.
- Villanova gets into the Sweet 16 by taking out Virginia Tech (which beats Wisconsin).
- Looking for a 12-5 upset? UNC-Wilmington is the pick to take out No. 5 Virginia. In fact, we’re moving UNC-Wilmington into the Sweet 16 after the Seahawks knock off Florida, too.
- Villanova into the Elite Eight, naturally.
- Duke knocks off Troy and South Carolina to reach the Sweet 16.
- SMU beats the winner of USC vs. Providence, then upsets third-seeded Baylor to reach the Sweet 16.
- Let’s go with SMU over Duke in the Sweet 16.
- Your Elite Eight matchup: Villanova vs. SMU. The pick is ‘Nova.
- Kansas moves on to the Sweet 16 after beating Michigan State in the round of 32.
- Nevada beats Iowa State and then Purdue to reach the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed.
- Kansas over Nevada to reach the Sweet 16.
- Louisville beats Michigan (which beats Oklahoma State in a tight one) to reach the Sweet 16.
- Oregon beats Iona, Rhode Island beats Creighton, and Rhode Island moves into the Sweet 16 after knocking out the Ducks.
- Louisville over Rhode Island to move into the Elite Eight and face Kansas. We’ll take the Jayhawks to go to the Final Four.
- North Carolina beats Seton Hall (which beats Arkansas in the round of 64) to reach the Sweet 16.
- Minnesota takes out Middle Tennessee, Winthrop beats Butler, and Minnesota moves onto the Sweet 16 over Winthrop.
- North Carolina over Minnesota to move into the Elite Eight.
- Kentucky advances out of the first round. Wichita State takes out Dayton. Wichita State beats Kentucky to move into the Sweet 16.
- UCLA beats Kent State, then takes out Cincinnati. UCLA beats Wichita State.
- UCLA vs. North Carolina for the right to go to the Final Four. What a matchup. We’ll take the Bruins.
- Gonzaga moves into the Sweet 16 after beating Northwestern (which takes down Vanderbilt).
- Notre Dame beats Princeton, Bucknell beats West Virginia, Notre Dame moves into the Sweet 16 with a win over Bucknell.
- Gonzaga over Notre Dame to move into the Elite Eight.
- Arizona moves into the Sweet 16 after beating VCU (which takes out St. Mary’s).
- Florida State beats FGCU (I don’t feel confident about this one), Maryland beats Xavier. Florida State beats Maryland.
- Arizona over FSU to move into the Elite Eight.
- Arizona over Gonzaga to move into the Final Four.
- Kansas over UCLA.
- Villanova over Arizona.
- We’ll take Kansas over Villanova to win the national championship.