Midwest Region:
So much for Kansas being the #1 overall seed. It’s pretty clear they got a brutal road to the final four as Ohio State was thought to be a possibility for a 1 and Georgetown could easily have been a two. I’m not quite sure the math that led to Ohio State being the last number 2 seed, though I guess the Hoyas are probably the strongest 3(Sorry, Pitt).

I don’t see much reason to break with the chalk in this bracket in the long run. Kansas, tOSU, G-town, Maryland and Michigan State are all easy picks. Tennessee as only 3 point favorites is a tough one and depends on the size of your pool, but in a larger pool(~200) I’m taking the shot that an 11 seed winning is more beneficial to me against the field than losing one point with the six seed. With a strong G-town team lurking, neither of those teams are much of a bet to get past the second round so I think it’s +EV to take the TECS, who somehow slipped from the 4th number one discussion to 11.

The 8/9 and 7/10 games are both pretty close with small spreads, no real reason but I’m taking UNLV and Georgia Tech.

For the second round it get’s easy, Maryland, Georgetown, Kansas and tOSU are a step above the other winners and easy sweet 16 picks.

Kansas is clearly the number one team in the field, but at this point you have 4 of the top 11 teams in KenPom. I think at this point, size of your pool matters. If its a small pool play the odds and take Kansas(-128 at pinny). In a larger pool, G-town and tOSU might be options. If you’re going for the ESPN contest, or some huge pool, I think the best option is Maryland. Sure, they’ll have a tough road and are from favorites, but they are a strong team and to win a big pool you’re looking to hit the somewhat crazy bracket for a high score, not necessarily the best average score.

For me, I’ll take KU over tOSU, who has a slightly better team and a slightly easier path than G-Town, in the regional final. Rock Chalk.

West Region:

Syracuse has drawn a tough first round opponent and won’t have Onuaku, but let’s not get crazy. Kansas St. is strong as well, and are an obvious first round pick. Pittsburgh on the 3 line is hilariously bad, but Oakland is also an easy 14 draw, so I’m not going against a 10 point spread there. I’ll fade the name of Gonzaga in round 1, because Florida State is better(-1.5). BYU may have been the easiest pick in that bracket.

The rest of this bracket is nuts. 4/13, 5/12 and 6/11 are all very close games, and both of those teams are capable of winning multiple games. Minnesota is favored over Xavier and it’s possible, although not likely, they could be favored over Pitt. I hate Pitt, but neither Xavier and Minnesota are comfortable sweet 16 options. In the end, I’ll take Minnesota and hope what I could gain from their sweet 16 run is +EV against my pool.

I’ll take Butler and Vanderbilt both as -2.5 point favorites in the 4/5 game. After that, I’ll side with KenPom and Butler in what shouldn’t be too important as neither is a great option against ‘Cuse.

Minnesota and Butler can be justified into the sweet 16, but after that, Cuse and Kansas are much stronger and easy picks to meet in the regional final. At that point, I’m taking Kansas St., mainly because I think the Orange will be pretty popular picks to win the bracket, and Onuaku’s injury could make the first weekend tougher than expected, though K-State meeting BYU will be no walk in the park. If you’re looking for crazy but could happen, BYU could be a decent final four option, as they will almost certainly be favored in the sweet 16(in Salt Lake!) . Still, getting past K-State and ‘Cuse is no easy task and that’s why they sit at 10-1 to win the West.

As soon as this region was out, I knew my winner: Duke. They are very good, and due to a history, both with Villanova and “choking” in general(West Va, Maynor!) they are going to be far less popular to win this region that they should be.

Alright, that leaves the rest. I think Baylor has emerged as the “sexy” final four pick this year as Villanova is the weakest two, and everyone hates Duke. I’ll keep that in mind for later, but it’s easy to advance the Bears as double-digit favorites. Let’s throw Villanova in as well as a quick decision to put them onto round 2.

Purdue is an easy choice, as well, even though they are only favored by 4. Siena’s recent tournament history and Purdue’s sluggish play A.H.I is enough to make Siena arguably the most attractive underdog pick of the tournament.

I heard @chadmillman tell me early this week that sharps love Texas A&M’s coaching, so give the Texas A&M major points for that. This one is another tough one to pick because given Purdue A.H.I. it’s likely that the winner of this could be favored to go to the sweet 16. I think it’s worth going outside the box, although not all that much less likely and putting Utah St into the sweet 16. Hopefully 2010 Heisman winner Diondre Borel shows up to cheer on the boys.

Old Dominion, again, I think is close enough to an overrated and overseeded Notre Dame team to warrant the upset. I don’t, however, think they are a good option to take down Baylor. Richmond is favored by 2 over St. Mary’s so I’m taking them in round 1. Cal coming out of the underrated Pac-10(at least compared to the BigEast) is a good choice as a PK against Louisville, but I’m only looking for the round 1 points there as Duke is penciled into the final four already.

That makes Duke easy winners over the improbable(although, less so than the public thinks) Utah State run, and Baylor easily over Old Dominion, because they are a lot more likely to get out of the first round. Villanova will be a favorite over the 7/10 winner and since they should have an easier path to the sweet 16, I think that gives them the nod over Baylor in what should be a close game. Obviously, both of those teams are losing to the Blue Devils.

I hope everyone else was laughing at Kentucky’s draw as much as I was. Texas is an easy pick over Wake as 5 point favorites in round one. That leaves an interesting situation, where Kentucky will be really short favorites in round 2 against Texas and Wisconsin lurks as a really strong 4 seed in the sweet 16 match-up. I think this is a great chance to go outside the box, considering how egregiously overrated people have Kentucky. Texas for sure into the sweet 16 from that pod, and ETSU in the first round over Kentucky. Taking ETSU is crazy and mostly influenced by my hatred for Wall, Cousins and Calipari, but having Kentucky eliminated early makes sense, considering they aren’t that much more likely than Wisconsin to advance to the region final, current odds be damned.

Sorry Jay Bilas, but I’m taking Temple(-3.5) in round one over Cornell. Wofford could be tough for a 13, but Wisconsin is a double digit favorite and an easy pick. The Marquette/Washington/New Mexico/Montana presents no really good options. Marquette is way less likely to advance out of round 1, but would be favored over New Mexico should they meet in the second round. Tough call, and I would hear a case for New Mexico, Washington or Marquette advancing to the sweet 16, but I’m taking Marquette over New Mexico. West Virginia over Clemson follows the odds.

At this point, I think there are widely divergent paths you could take. I’m going with Wisconsin over West Virginia in the regional final, since Wisconsin is probably just as likely as Kentucky or West Virginia to win this region and figures to be far less popular. If you’re going for the home run bracket, why not Texas or even back track and take Clemson. They aren’t likely, but stand a reasonable chance of happening for those looking to be the center of attention at the water cooler. I’m taking Wisconsin, but the overwhelming theme of this bracket is NOT Kentucky.

Final Four:
Kansas is the best team in the country, Duke has the easiest path. It’s as simple as that for me. Kansas over K-State and Duke over Wisconsin to get to the title. Obviously, Duke would be the underdog in this scenario, but the odds of that actually being the match-up are slim enough that I think Duke’s easier road is a much safer bet.

Add in that Duke is by far the least popular number 1 seed to win, and I think that makes them the smart choice to win it all. 71-69, in fact.


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