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For me it was a tale of two rounds. After a few minor tweaks to my bracket since releasing my thoughts last Monday, I came out of the gate red hot, going 28-4 in the first round of games. That put me at the top of my friend group pool, and in the top 0.7% on the World Wide Leader’s bracket challenge. Your boy was feeling nice. Then the weekend came around, and my bracket started to spiral out of control. I’m still leading my personal bracket pool by a hair, but have dropped substantially just about everywhere else. I have one Final Four team out (Thanks, Duke), but am in decent shape to make some noise down the stretch. Let’s get down to the next two rounds.
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Like I would imagine is the same for most of you, my East region is absolutely fucked, with the top two seeds bowing out in the second round. We have matchups of Wisconsin/Florida and South Carolina/Baylor. Florida is currently favored by a point and a half, and the other game has yet to come out with an official line. Most of these point spreads will come to around 5 points one way or the other, and I personally hate taking points in the NCAA tournament. You get some really bad beats, and I don’t like to deal with that type of heart break. I’m so apathetic toward this region at this point, and I would love to see a 7 or 8 seed come out. I’ll take Wisconsin over Florida, South Carolina over Baylor, and Wisconsin to head to Glendale.
Final Four: Wisconsin Badgers
So far this tournament, I’ve missed one game in the West Region. That was one of my small tweaks, where I took Princeton to beat Notre Dame. Now I’m sitting here with my picks of Gonzaga taking on WVU, and Xavier taking on Arizona. I mentioned this in the comments section last week, but I am big on U of A this year. They have tremendous talent across the board and can play on both ends of the court. Sean Miller does a great job with his kids, and while the Pac-12 isn’t the best conference top to bottom, the upper-echelon teams like Oregon and UCLA have made them tournament ready. Arizona is a 7-point favorite, while Gonzaga is a 3-point favorite against the Mountaineers. Take Arizona (-350) and West Virginia (+135), with Arizona advancing to the Final Four right up the road from Tucson.
Final Four: Arizona Wildcats
The Midwest Region is infuriating to me. In the Round of 64, I took Oklahoma State to beat Michigan, in what I said would be one of the best games of the tournament. I was right from an entertainment perspective, but Michigan pulled it out. I was bearish on Michigan because I figured they would be that darling team that everyone would bet on, purely to choke and fail to advance anywhere. I was clearly wrong, as they beat Oklahoma State, then moved past the second seeded Louisville Cardinals. They will be taking on Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen where they are favored by a point and half. On the other side of the region, Kansas take on Purdue in a game that they are favored by four and a half points. I’ll stick with my initial picks of Kansas (-210) and Oregon (+110) to meet in the Elite 8, and the Jayhawks will move on to Glendale.
Final Four: Kansas Jayhawks
I still have three of the four teams left in the South Region, where I went out on a limb and took Wichita State to take out Kentucky. While disappointing, that sets up the bluest of blue blood matchups, with UCLA and Kentucky squaring off in the Sweet Sixteen. UNC and Butler will square off on the top half of the bracket. For total transparency, I don’t remember making this pick, nor do I really have reason for it, but I have Butler (+265) taking out UNC and facing UCLA (N/A) in the Elite 8. Butler beat the overall one seed Villanova twice this season, so they have showed they can play and beat elite competition. Either way, UCLA and Butler in the Elite 8, and UCLA advances. Part of me hopes it’s UNC vs UCLA so that we get LaVar Ball and Michael Jordan in the same arena.
Final Four: UCLA Bruins
Current Final Four Picks: Wisconsin, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA
Original Picks: Duke, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA.
Image via Twitter/@UWBadgers