2015 NCAA Tournament: Predictions and Commentary

There is nothing in the world as difficult as picking a perfect NCAA tournament bracket. Even all the brilliant analysis and inside information in the world won’t save a bracket if a few shots don’t bounce your way. The problem is the vast majority of games are played by teams that are very evenly matched and it is difficult to guess which players are going to show up ready to perform.

I still love analyzing and the games and doing a bracket every year. When I have a good year, like last year, I tell myself that I finally have this thing figured out. If (when) things fall apart, I blame bad luck.

I pick games based on 4 questions asked in this order:

  1. Which team is better?
  2. Which team has more quality size?
  3. Which team has more tournament experience as a unit?
  4. Are there any intangibles or matchups that could affect the outcome?

The first question is by far the most important, but the others matter as well.

Below I break down each region by round, with comments and thoughts.


First Round Winners

Villanova, LSU, Northern Iowa, Louisville, Boise State/Dayton, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Virginia

The Boise State/Dayton game happens tonight and I feel the winner will beat Providence. Other than that I don’t see a lot of upsets here. Before last year when they didn’t make the tournament, I picked Belmont as a first round upset winner for 3 consecutive tournaments. The Bruins burned me each time. Now that I’ve given up on that, it would be just like them to beat 2-seed Virginia. Another scary underdog is UC-Irvine, now that Mamadou N’diaye is back and healthy. I just don’t like picking against Louisville in round 1.

Second Round Winners

Villanova, Louisville, Oklahoma, Virginia

I have the top 4 advancing. Louisville has had struggles and could get knocked off early, but I have too much respect for their history of at least playing up to their seeding to go against them. The Michigan State-Virginia rematch should be a good one. The Spartans are a tough 7-seed who upset the 1-seed Cavaliers last year. I’m going with the revenge factor in picking Virginia to prevail this year.

Sweet 16 Winners

Villanova and Virginia

Region Champ


I’m going total chalk in this region. The reason is I feel both Villanova and Virginia are solid teams who look ready to roll. The only team in the region that looks appealing as a sleeper pick is Michigan State. Don’t worry, it gets better.


First Round Winners

Duke, San Diego State, Utah, Georgetown, SMU, Iowa State, Iowa, Gonzaga

I expect this to be the wacky region where anything can happen and by the time we get to the Elite 8 most will be saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming”. I count 9 teams that I could see either winning the region or being gone by round 2. The top 2 seeds, Duke and Gonzaga, both have had more tournament struggles than any national power in recent years. Utah and SMU are 2 very good teams with no tournament experience. Stephen F Austin is one of those scary good 12-seeds, ditto for Davidson as a 10-seed. Iowa and UCLA are talented teams coming off disappointing seasons. Iowa State has to be pissed about getting a 3-seed after winning the toughest conference tournament in the nation. This region should be where most of the chaos happens.

Second Round Winners

San Diego State, Utah, Iowa State, Gonzaga

I’m picking San Diego State to upset Duke. Duke looks like the #1 seed most likely to fall early. They’re a freshman-dominated lineup that doesn’t go very deep. They have a coach with a recent history of underachieving in the tournament. San Diego State is a team that has shown they’re a load come tournament time. The Aztecs are a long, deep team that should wear down the young Blue Devils enough to pull off the upset.

Sweet 16 Winners

Utah and Gonzaga

This is a “when in doubt, just go with the best team” pick. I don’t have a lot of confidence in either team. Utah’s lack of tournament experience scares me, as does Gonzaga’s history of early exits. Both are very good teams though and are the 2 teams I feel have the best chance to be still standing once the dust settles.

Region Champ


These aren’t your older brother’s Zags. This is the best Bulldog team ever. They have size, talent, experience and are very efficient on both ends of the court. I know they have been to 16 consecutive tournaments with only 1 Elite 8 banner to show for their efforts. I know they have always disappointed as a high seed in the past. That history gives me a lot of pause when picking them to reach their first ever Final 4. If Mark Few can’t get to the Final 4 with a team this talented, big and experienced, I doubt he can ever get there. I think this is his year to break through.


First Round Winners

Kentucky, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Valparaiso, Texas, Notre Dame, Wichita State, Kansas

Tempted to just save time and effort here and crown Kentucky without further comment. I don’t see a team in this region that should even scare them. Buffalo and Valpo are both strong underdogs playing vulnerable higher seeds. Both look like a good bet to pull off the upset.

Second Round Winners

Kentucky, Buffalo, Notre Dame, Wichita State

I have Buffalo beating Valpo in the game that will determine the official Cinderella of the Sweet 16. Wichita is good enough and Kansas is struggling enough that, adding in the in-state rivalry factor, I’m not even sure I’d call this an upset.

Sweet 16 Winners

Kentucky and Wichita State

Region Champ


I expect a lot of rematches of 2014 tournament games and this will be one. Kentucky upset top-seed Wichita State last year in a thriller. I doubt their victory this year will be that close.


First Round Winners

Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Wofford, North Carolina, Xavier, Baylor, Ohio State, Arizona

The East is the chalk region. The South is the wacky, anything-might-happen region. The Midwest is the Kentucky region. The West is the Region of Doom. There are a lot of good teams here and whichever one is still standing once this plays out will be a formidable opponent for Kentucky simply because they came out of this region. Arizona should have been a top seed. North Carolina is the 4-seed that’s better than most 3 seeds. Ohio State might be the best 10-seed ever. Heck, even 16-seed Coastal Carolina is good enough that the Badgers better bring their A-game or they’ll get a scare in the opener. The only first round upset I’m picking is Wofford over Arkansas. Nothing against a very good Razorbacks team, but they are tournament newbies. Also 12-seeds have a great history and not acknowledging as much is a fool’s errand for anyone who wants a competitive bracket.

Second Round Winners

Wisconsin, North Carolina, Baylor, Arizona

Ohio State would be tempting as an upset pick against any other 2-seed. They’ll give Arizona a tough run, but the Wildcats are too good. Everything else will go according to seed.

Sweet 16 Winners

Wisconsin and Arizona

A rematch of 2014’s best tournament game will happen.

Regional Champ


The Wildcats will win the big rematch and advance to the Final 4. This is a talented team that’s playing very well and the only team out there good enough to give Kentucky a run.

Semi- final Winners

Kentucky and Gonzaga

The real championship will be Saturday night when Kentucky plays Arizona. This one should be a classic. Kentucky is too good and has shown very few signs of weakness. I feel they’ll escape in a close, hard-fought game. With Gonzaga-Villanova, I’m going with the better team. Hey, the 2015 Zags are a very good team that has the look of a team primed for a deep tournament run. The draw works out very well in their favor. If ever there was a situation ripe for Gonzaga to wipe out 15 years of disappointing tournaments, 2015 is it.



Duh. As tempted as I am to be contrarian and go with Arizona, I just don’t see it happening. Kentucky is not only the most talented team playing better ball than anyone else, they seem focused on making history by finishing off an undefeated season. This was apparent when they refused to cut down the nets after winning the SEC tournament. This was the team that printed up “40-0” T-shirts before last season, in an experiment in hubris that didn’t go as planned. That stunt tells me that 40-0 is something that has always been on their minds though. They regrouped last year and made to the championship game. This year most of the team came back. While we didn’t hear a peep about 40-0, you know it’s been a goal for the team. They’ll get there and make history as the first undefeated champ in 39 years.


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