The 2016 NCAA Tournament is a good year to go with favorite colors, uniforms, mascots or just let your cat do the picking. The field is that muddled. The reason for that is this year is just not the typical NCAA year. Usually there are a few powerhouse teams one can point to and assume they’ll be around for the final 4. No such team this year. There also isn’t one truly great player in the tournament. The likely top draftee, Ben Simmons, will be sitting the tournament out as LSU fell short.
But we prognosticate this thing every year, always with mixed success, so here we go again:
First Round winners: Kansas, Connecticut, Maryland, California, Wichita State, Miami, Iowa and Villanova.
Second round winners: Kansas, California, Wichita State and Villanova
Regional: Kansas and Villanova
I’m going almost all chalk here. Wichita State is the only exception. They look like a team ready for a nice run with all their seniors and tournament experience. The other scary sleeper is 14-seed Buffalo, because youth can be a wild card, but they’re weak defensively and that will probably doom them against Miami. In the end I like Villanova to advance to the final 4 because they play the best defense and I just don’t have much confidence in Bill Self as a tournament coach.
First Round winners: Oregon, Cincinnati, Baylor, NC-Wilmington, Texas, Texas A&M, VCU, Oklahoma.
Second Round Winners: Cincinnati, Baylor, Texas, VCU
Regional: Baylor and Texas
This looks like the chaos region. Nothing that happens in this region would surprise me. The top seeds are weak and the lower seeds are strong. NC-Wilmington is a good upset bet over Duke. This Blue Devil team resembles the recent first round flops more than last year’s champs. Weak defense will doom them early. There’s also an in-state rivalry angle at work in this game. Why Texas as champ? For one they’re probably better than a 6th seed. They’re getting Cameron Ridley, a solid big, back for the tournament. Shaka Smart has a history as a good tournament coach. The team has a lot of experience, but hasn’t always performed as well as expected come tournament time in the recent past under Rich Barnes. They look like a team ready for a run and the region stacks up nicely for such a run.
First Round Winners: North Carolina, Providence, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Stephen F. Austin, Pittsburgh, Xavier.
Second Round Winners: North Carolina, Indiana, Stephen F Austin, Xavier.
Regional: Indiana and Xavier
Why the Hoosiers? I think they might be the best team in the region. North Carolina has me all meh, to the point I can’t even pick them as a default champ. Ditto for Xavier. Kentucky and West Virginia are inexperienced and have coaches who have had tournament flops in the past. The Hoosiers simply look like the best bet to come out on top to me.
First Round Winners: Virginia, Butler, Little Rock, Iowa State, Gonzaga, Fresno State, Dayton, Michigan State.
Second Round Winners: Virginia, Iowa State, Gonzaga, Michigan State.
Regional: Virginia and Michigan State
Champion: Michigan State
If you’re entering a pool with millions of entries, I would highly recommend choosing Hampton to upset Virginia. It probably won’t happen, but the chances are better than in your typical 1 vs. 16 matchup. Virginia is the weakest #1 seed in a year of weak top seeds. Hampton is a tough team as 16 seeds go. They start 4 seniors who are playing in their 2nd tournament and are less likely to be just happy to be here. I picked Little Rock to satisfy the 12 over 5 requirement. I picked Fresno State based on nothing more than a gut feeling and this year that’s good enough for me. As for the Spartans, they’re the best team in the region and they have a coach who wins regions in such situations.
Final Four: Villanova and Michigan State
Champion: Michigan State
Michigan State may or may not be the best team. That one is very difficult to gauge this year. I do know that there is a case for them as the top team. I do believe that the team/coach combo favors Michigan State over the other top teams by quite a bit and I feel that makes them an easy pick in an otherwise difficult bracket.