So you haven't watched a hoops game all year but you want to participate in your office pool. Let me be of assistance. No, I'm not going to pick the games for you but I will give you some helpful hints and some trends from the past that you can use that may just leave your competitors in the dust.
Which criteria is the most important and what is the process of narrowing down 68 to 1 champion? Here's what I do.
First, identify teams that you think can win it all, and don't get crazy with darkhorses. They don't win the title. Bluebloods do.
#1 seeds have won the tournament in 8 of the last 11 years, 1-2-3 seed have won the title in 18 of the last 19 years!…the only exception was when Shabazz Napier went nuts in 2014 for UConn.
After watching this season, the only teams I think can win 6 in a row in the dance are (in this order) Villanova, Duke, Arizona, Virginia, Michigan St. Thats it. There is a second tier that while I don't think they will win 6, it wouldn't shock me if they did. That tier consists of Gonzaga, Michigan, Kansas, UNC, Purdue, Xavier, Wichita and Florida.
Second, find the elite preseason teams.
The #1 predictor for tournament success has been preseason expectations- Teams go thru ups and downs and try things out during the season because unlike college football, you can afford to lose games in college hoops. Your preseason top 10 was as follows, Duke, Michigan St, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova, Wichita, Florida, UNC, USC.
Where were the last decade of champions ranked in the preseason? Very high. Only UConn is the exception as you can see below.
2017- UNC- 6th
2016- Villanova- 9th
2015- Duke- 3rd
2014- UConn UR
2013- Louisville- 2nd
2012- Kentucky- 2nd
2011- UConn- UR
2010- Duke- 8th
2009- UNC- 1st
2008- Kansas- 4th
2007- Florida- 1st
So, your final four by preseason rankings would be Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas
Where is the elite talent? Yeah it would be nice to believe that the solid gritty teams that play together win the titles. In some cases that happens, in most cases though, give me the stud NBA guys any day.
So, where is the Elite NBA talent in this tourney? Here are the top guys according to NBAdraft.net and their schools they play for.
1. DeAndre Ayton- Arizona
2. Michael Porter- Missouri
3. Marvin Bagley- Duke
4. Jaron Jackson- MSU
5. Mo Bomba- Texas
6. Wendell Carter- Duke
7. Colin Sexton- Alabama
8. Trae Young- OU
9. Kevin Knox- Kentucky
10- Mikal Bridges- Villanova
11- Miles Bridges- MSU
2019 draft- Rue Hachimura and Killian Tillie- Gonzaga (both top 12 picks)
So the best teams in each region simply on NBA talent is...
Arizona- Ayton, Alkins, Trier
Duke- Carter, Trent, Allen
Missouri- both Porter brothers
Villanova- Bridges and Brunson
Fourth, KenPom matters!
Ken Pomeroy was made fun of for years being dismissed by the "basketball experts" because he just plugs numbers into a computer. Who is laughing now? Ken's rankings are now a major contributor to the NCAA selection process and there is a good reason why. They are accurate and predictive.
Do you know how many teams have won the National Title in the last 15 years that haven't been in the top 20 in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency? 2, both of those UConn outliers. Other than that, they have all been strong and balanced. There are only 3 teams that fit that description this season. Duke, Michigan State and Gonzaga.
Some other Interesting notes-
1. Virginia not ranked to start the season- they have a brutal bracket with Arizona, Kentucky, Cincinnati. Until I see it done by Bennetts underwhelming talent, I’m not going to buy in.
2. Xavier 17th to start the season, Are they really going to get thru a bracket with Missouri, Ohio ST, Gonzaga, Michigan and UNC?
3. Villanova should cruise- could have problems with Wichita or Purdue or Florida but I have them going.
4. Duke/MSU in same bracket were preseason 1-2. (MSU with only 2 wins against teams in the field)
5. Arizona and Kentucky preseason 3rd and 5th face each other in the 2nd round!
6. Tennessee and Auburn a 3 and a 4 seed were picked 9th and 11th in the SEC!
7. Gonzaga once again doesn’t have to leave the west coast to get to the final four as they visit Boise and then LA…they packed San Jose last year and it was a major factor in them making their first final four.
Bottom line- My final four…Villanova, Duke, Gonzaga and Arizona with Nova beating Duke in what should be the national title game and Arizona beating Gonzaga. Villanova and Duke should be the national title game but they are both on the same side so I have the Cats over the Cats in the championship game with Villanova beating Arizona in a fun wild one 78-74.
13 thru 16 seeds are 55-473 all time in the tourney for a .116 winning percentage, thats 1 win every 2 seasons. How are you going to pick the right one? Don’t try.
Upsets I like
11 Loyola/Chicago over 6 Miami- Loyola 42 in KenPom, Miami 36, Canes also missing future NBA first round pick Bruce Brown with a foot injury. They are only 7-4 with him out.
12 NMSU over 5 Clemson- Tigers have lost 5 of 8 and haven’t beaten a team as good as NMSU since January- which is when Donte Grantham was lost for the season…the tip of the scale was seeing the game was in SD at 10pm ET tipoff. And in the "what the hell" pick of my bracket, I think they beat Auburn too, the Tigers are maybe is the most overseeded team in the dance. They have played 1 top 25 team all year, no wonder they are 25-7. Which also means they have lost 7 games to unranked teams. Give me NMSU in the sweet 16.
One team that played in the first four in Dayton have advanced to the round of 32 every year since its inception in 2011 and in 3 season out of 7 a team made the sweet 16. That means the odds are on either the Bonnies, Sun Devils or the Cuse make it to the round of 32.
Enjoy the Dance!