In light of the enduring popularity of last year’s bracket, Mistopia is ready to once again dive into March Madness. 68 teams are entering the dance, but at the end of the day, only one will walk (or hobble) away with a pair of high-quality nets from New Orleans.
The first four games continue to baffle me. Each of these teams has oozed blood, sweat, and tears for this moment: a shot at being the knocked out in the next round by a team that actually deserves to be in the tournament. VCU did prove me wrong last year, but I’m confident the 2012 crop won’t repeat the feat.
Miss Valley State over Western Kentucky — the Hilltoppers’ freshmen are no match for Miss Valley State’s experience.
Iona over BYU — Scott Machado can carry the Gaels at least this far.
Lamar over Vermont — Bobby Knight’s son won’t go home just yet.
South Florida over California — Cal choked vs Colorado and USF went down to Notre Dame. Edge: The defensive might of the Bulls.
We’ve got some of the weaker basketball games out of the way, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Onwards toward glory! (Or soul-crushing disappointment, depending).
Kentucky over Miss Valley State — this one’s no contest, and a great example of why the previous round should be considered “cruel and unusual punishment.”
UConn over Iowa State — the Huskies have enough gas in the tank for one good game.
VCU over Wichita State — I’ll avoid jinxing myself by knocking VCU out on their first game this time around.
New Mexico State over Indiana — the Hoosiers suffered some unfortunate injuries, and the Aggies are a tougher team than they look on paper.
UNLV over Colorado — the Buffaloes haven’t seen the NCAA from anywhere but their living rooms since 2003. The Rebels will advance.
Baylor over South Dakota — the Bears have beaten Kansas. They can handle a few Jackrabbits.
Notre Dame over Xavier — the luck o’ the Irish will keep them from falling flat just yet.
Duke over Lehigh — much as I detest the Blue Devils, Lehigh won’t be able to knock ’em out of the Dance.
Michigan State over LIU Brooklyn — the Spartans will march all over the Blackbirds, no matter how impressive their alley-oops have been in the past.
Memphis over St. Louis — the Billikens haven’t been to the tourney for more than a decade, which make’s ’em Tiger food.
New Mexico over Long Beach State — Long Beach won both championships in the Big West, but the Lobos boast a deep bench that’ll give them that extra edge.
Louisville over Davidson — The Cardinals have a strong enough defense to blunt Davidson’s assault, and put consistent (if hardly impressive) numbers on the board to advance.
Murray State over Colorado State — Murry State’s mostly made up of juniors, and that experience has helped them become the only single-loss team in the tourney. They’ll advance.
Marquette over Iona — The Golden Eagles can really put up the points, so long as they avoid a much larger team that can beat them on the boards. Iona can’t outpace them and will end up short.
Florida over Virginia — With VA’s Brogdon and Sene out, Scott can only carry his team so far. The Gators’ strong perimeter style will prevail.
Missouri over Norfolk — The Tigers have a lot more offensive power than Norfolk knows how to handle.
Syracuse over UNC-Asheville — The Bulldogs owned the Big South and deserve their spot here, but they’re no match for Syracuse.
Southern Miss over Kansas State — The Golden Eagles upset the Wildcats with consistent, unselfish play and by abusing Kansas State’s poor performance at the charity stripe.
Vanderbilt over Harvard — Vanderbilt has at least two (and maybe three) players going pro next year; the Crimson is a respectable team, but they lack that kind of raw talent. Plus, Vander just beat Kentucky. They’ll move on.
Wisconsin over Montana — The Badgers will put up a tenacious defense that Montana just can’t match.
Cincinnatiover Texas— The Longhorns have J’Covan Brown, but the injury sidelining Wangmene points to a Bearcats victory.
FSU over St. Bonaventure — Florida State has six seniors, and that kind of experience will pay off for at least one more round.
WVU over Gonzaga — As long as Jones and Bryant stay out of foul trouble, the Mountaineers have the edge here.
Ohio State over Loyola — There have been times when 15 seeds upset 2 seeds, but this is not one of them.
UNC over Lamar — Lamar’s a solid team with a good coach, but Roy and the Tarheels are in a league of their own.
Creighton over Alabama — the Tide’s lack of discipline will be their downfall here as foul trouble and panicked plays nudge Creighton onward.
Temple over South Florida — The Owls manage to hold on, but it’ll be more of a struggle than it should be.
Michigan over Ohio — Ohio’s a good team, but they can’t match Michigan’s backcourt talent.
NC State over San Diego State — The Wolfpack has proven they can hang with the likes of Duke and UNC; they’ll inch forward here looking for another shot at a powerful team.
Georgetown over Belmont — The Hoyas have a balanced squad, and Belmont will simply be outplayed here despite their deep bench.
Purdue over St. Mary’s — Robbie Hummel deserves to advance here, and will work harder to do so than the Gaels can handle.
Kansas over Detroit — The Jayhawks may not be the talk of the town, but they’ve got enough talent to take down Detroit.
We’re left with a collection of likely and unlikely teams that are all still nursing high hopes. Some harsh lessons will be learned this round, and while most will involve knowing your place, a few will teach the value of humility.
Kentucky over UCON — The buck stops here for the Huskies; Kentucky’s just too strong.
VCU over New Mexico State — The magic of last year’s run is still alive and well. For now.
Baylor over UNLV — Baylor’s a very athletic team, and will wear down UNLV for the win.
Duke over Notre Dame — Again, I want to send the Blue Devils home, but I just don’t think the Irish have enough fight in ’em to do the trick.
Michigan State over Memphis — Despite the Tiger’s NBA-caliber talent, Michigan State works better as a team.
Louisville over New Mexico — It was all the Lobos could do to get here; the Cardinals will put ’em down for the count.
Marquette over Murray State — Buzz Williams’ offbeat style will win the day over the Racer’s predictable pacing.
Missouri over Florida — The Gators are good, but they’re not THAT good.
Syracuse over Southern Miss — There’s no way the Orange will let themselves be sent home this early.
Vanderbilt over Wisconsin — The Badgers boast a powerful defense, but eventually you have to outscore your opponent.
Cincinnati over FSU — Florida State has beaten some of the best teams in the country and took home the ACC tourney to prove it, but Cincinnati’s tough. After a close match, the Seminoles march home.
Ohio State over WVU — The darlings of Morgantown will come up short against Sullinger and company as long as they refrain from taking pot shots from the arc.
UNC over Creighton — Creighton puts up a lot of points, but not more than Carolina can handle.
Michigan over Temple — The Owls had a hard time getting here; Michigan will gently show them back to the bleachers.
NC State over Georgetown — It’s an upset, sure, but the Wolfpack is used to that this year. Expect a fast-paced, brutal game.
Kansas over Purdue — It’s a close match, but Purdue’s 2-7 vs Top 25 teams. Plus, and Kansas is better at the boards.
There aren’t many surprises this year in the Sweet Sixteen — these programs know what they’re doing, are hungry to advance, and have the talent to do it.
Kentucky over VCU — The fairy tale ends here for the Rams; no matter how many times you steal the ball, sometimes you have to put it in the hoop afterward. Go with the sure thing here.
Baylor over Duke — The Blue Devils have been inconsistent all year, and Baylor has the staying power to shut them down hard.
Michigan State over Louisville — Michigan State is a little undisciplined, but should be able to pull off this win.
Missouri over Marquette — Missouri has a power-packed team, and Marquette won’t be able to exploit their merely adequate defenses for the upset.
Vanderbilt over Syracuse — Melo is out and Vanderbilt has defeated top-ranked teams before when they were at full power.
Cincinnatiover Ohio State — Early foul trouble for Sullinger swings the ball to a somewhat surprising contender.
UNC over Michigan — The Wolverines struggle against talented big men, and Zeller may be more than they can handle.
Kansas over NC State — NC State has a history, and it involves getting tired after a few games. Edge to Kansas for this one.
Welcome to the Elite Eight: a trio of 1 seeds, a pair of 2s, a 3 seed, a 5th seed, and a 6th seed. That seems like a good mix of luck and skill to me.
Kentucky over Baylor — Much as I would like to see Baylor pull this one off, their 1-4 record vs Top 25 teams shows a glaring weakness I just can’t ignore.
Missouri over Michigan State — The Spartans lack the poise to stay focused, opening the door for a minor upset.
Vanderbilt over Cincinnati — It was a good run for Cinci, but Vanderbilt’s got more raw talent.
UNC over Kansas — Kansas isn’t a bad team and matches up well with UNC. Provided the Tarheels are healthy, their experience gives them an advantage here.
The Final Four. The field has narrowed significantly now, and the players are starting to feel real fatigue. It’ll all be worth it if they can just pull it together for two more games, but that’s easier said than done.
Kentucky over Missouri — Missouri’s powerful players finally go down to Calipari’s Wildcats.
UNC over Vanderbilt — UNC’s experienced roster knows how to handle the high-octane energy of the tournament better. Vanderbilt will run out of steam after a long, surprising run.
Two will enter. They’re both number one seeds, which makes me nervous, and only one will be leaving with heads held high. SPOILER ALERT: They’ll be wearing blue.
UNC over Kentucky — As long as the Tarheels have their full roster, they’ll be able to outmaneuver an opposing team where four of the top seven players have never been to the NCAA before.
And there you have it, a completely unbiased approach to the 2012 NCAA. Best of luck with your own brackets, and feel free to send me a portion of the sweet, sweet loot you collect from your friends and family after putting this valuable advice to good use.