The Worst Bracket Breakdown on the Internet
64 teams remain. One foolhardy man forecasts the shining moments ahead
I’m a dope. I get far too excited for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament each and every year. I treat the opening weekend like bacchanalia and neglect all adult duties. I inevitably end up with basketball fatigue if *my team* is eliminated. Yet here I am again. Like a virgin on prom night (and thousands of nights after because I’m the type of guy who has a tendency to become obsessively enthralled with all measure of nerd-dom) full of a fervor that can only be described as hormonal.
What follows is my prediction of the NCAA tournament’s first round. I have carefully (no) considered each game (no) and applied scientific rigor (no) to every matchup. I also consider which mascot is scarier and which team seems “nicer.”
- Kansas is my team. Kansas refuses to win national championships, which is frustrating. However I choose them to win the title every year. If you don’t do that for “your” team I can’t respect you. You’ll wilt. Therefore Kansas wins without a description of the match-up in this or any other round. Hate on.
- Every 1 seed wins the first round game. It won’t happen. No. No. Stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. It won’t. Shut up.
In the words of Lin-Manuel Mirand as Alexander Hamilton, “Lets go.”
1 Villanova v. 16 Mout St. Mary’s
My daughter (8) asked if MSM were called “the Maries”. I wish they were. How tough would players be if they had to be known as the “Maries”? They aren’t unfortunately. The ancient rules of this bracket demand the 1 seed moves on.
8 Wisconsin v. 9 Virginia Tech
How long are we going to allow VT to get away with the worst color combo in sports? Brown — fine, whatever. White — okay, versatile. Purple — what a doggone minute. This game is going to be dumb because who cares who wins. Wisconsin seems fine. What a horrible description of a game. This is the Adam Sandler movie of NCAA tournament games.
5 Virginia v 12 UNC-Wilmington
In 2015 Virginia ruined basketball. They allowed 55 points per game and Coach Tony Bennett unleashed his “pack-line” defensive strategy on the world of college basketball. Men and women vomited while watching the games. Ten year olds deflated their basketballs muttering “well I won’t need that anymore”. I won’t forgive him.
4 Florida 13 East Tennessee State
6 SMU v 11 USC
SMU is everyone’s “shh don’t tell we’re so bad for choosing SMU! Oh my we are living dangerously!” choice this year. This is largely due to the presence of Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye. However SMU’s rotation is only six deep. What if there’s an injury?! What if there’s foul trouble?! It won’t matter. SMU is very good. There’s a reason every analyst talks about them as if they’re ordering a milkshake in a group.
3 Baylor v 14 New Mexico State University
Scott Drew is going to make you so damn mad. His zone “defense” is quite simply a long-armed amoeba. One year without a collection of 6'10"–7'1" front-court players and Scott Drew would go 12–20. The amoeba has held opponents to the 18th worst field goal percentage in the country. That is very good. New Mexico is not very good.
7 South Carolina v. 10 Marquette
The ol’ 7/10 split! Frank Martin loves to yell. I love Frank Martin yelling.
2 Duke v. 15 Troy
1 Gonzaga v 16 South Dakota State
By rule: GONZAGA*
*They will be upset soon after. Gonzaga exists to disappoint.
8 Northwestern v. 9 Vanderbilt
Good gracious this is a matchup of elite versus elite-er. Which do you prefer? Sports journalism elitism or I-named-myself-the-commodore elitism? Northwestern had never made the NCAA tournament before and during the selection show players cried. I am a sap so I cried as well. Northwestern will win this game because I cried for them. TEARS ARE POWER!
5 Notre Dame v. 12 Princeton
Has Princeton ever been good? I have grown up hearing about the “Princeton offense”, which is basically just a collection of back-cuts. Has it yielded anything? Their last win in the tournament came in 1998 against UNLV (because, of course it did). Apparently the vaunted Princeton O was also great in 1965, you know, before certain people played for many programs. Angry Leprechauns by 15.
4 West Virginia v. 13 Bucknell
Bob Huggins is a treasure.
Bucknell can go chew a battery cable.
6 Maryland v. 11 Xavier
Xavier was a room-temperature burrito for the middle third of the season. They’ve started to play better down the stretch but I’m still not convinced they’re a team that can be trusted. Maryland exists, so they have that going for them. Do you remember when Maryland guard Melo Trimble was supposed to be amazing. Simpler times friends. This one comes down to the mascot: turtle v. historic special forces members. Sorry turtles.
3 Florida State v. 14 Florida Golf Coast
Dunk City forever.
The Dunk City team was splendid because they did everything contrary to the prescribed narrative for an upset. They weren’t a bunch of “scrappers” who played “fundamental basketball”. To hell with that! They threw alley-oops and danced and talked their shit. They adjusted the formula for how a team pulls of an upset. Don’t pack the paint and pray. Swag out and put your nuts on the table.
7 Saint Mary’s College v 10 VCU
VCU can kiss a brick.
2 Arizona v. 15 North Dakota
Arizona stole two seed in the West from Oregon late in the season. They are in a very enviable position considering Gonzaga occupies the one-line in this region and Gonzaga is a mirage. I told myself during the conference tournament week that I would pick North Dakota in their opening game. I’ve frosted my tips before, I know a bad decision when I see it.
1 Kansas v. 16 University of California-Davis
ROCK CHALK (I know, I hate me too)
8 Miami v. 9 Michigan State
This year’s incarnation of Michigan State is not one of Tom Izzo’s finest. I realize Izzo becomes Dumbledore in March but this simply isn’t his year. Miami was an above-middling team in the nation’s best conference. Michigan State was a middling team in the movies-for-a-dollar bin at Wal-Mart.
5 Iowa State v. 12 Nevada
Someone had to win the Mountain West. Their conference tournament was akin to deciding who would leave the party to take the friend home who’s started to drunk-cry. FINE! We’ll do it!
Iowa State is what Gonzaga would aspire to be if it found itself in a major conference. Iowa State beat Kansas on the road and turned the Sprint Center in Kansas City into Hilton south during the Big XII championship.
4 Purdue v. 13 Vermont
HOT TAKE: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue’s stud center, will be incredibly underwhelming during this tournament. His response to a tight final Big Ten tournament game against Michigan was to complain visibly to officials after every call and shoot 35%.
(He will now, undoubtedly, average 24 and 14 over 3 games)
6 Creighton v. 11 Rhode Island
University of No One
3 Oregon v. 14 Iona
These two teams will shoot all the shots and score all the points. This may be the most exciting game of the first round. It’s going to be a game of knockout. Ask Oregon’s Dillon Brooks how he feels about defense…
The loss of center Chris Boucher to season ending injury makes the Ducks vulnerable to a team that is willing to grind out a low-scoring, post-oriented game. Luckily the Gaels aren’t about that life.
7 Michigan v. 10 Oklahoma State
Forget what I said about Oregon/Iona. THIS is the best game of the first round. Oklahoma State plays defense the same way you brush your teeth — it happens but your heart’s not in it. MICHIGAN BEAT A PLANE WRECK to win the Big Ten tournament and enter wearing the Kimba Walker/Shabazz Napier “hottest team in the country” belt. You’re not working Friday at 11:15. Punch your boss in the face and watch this game.
2 Louisville v. 15 Jacksonville State
1 North Carolina v. 16 Texas Southern
8 Arkansas v. 9 Seaton Hall
On most brackets Seaton Hall is abbreviated as simply “HALL”. There is nothing more boring in the world than a hallway. Have you ever been compelled by a hallway? No. You simply have to get through it. Yet I just checked and Corliss Williamson has run out of eligibility for Arkansas. The boring corridor advances.
5 Minnesota v. 12 Middle Tennessee State
Would you feel better if MTSU was either “Middle Tennessee” or “Tennessee State”? I would. They’re hiding something with their fancy three names. WHERE ARE THE PEARLS MITT SUE!
MTSU is a double-digit seed darling for many analysts. This is a good time to remind you that Seth Davis is not a sharp man.
4 Butler v. 13 Winthrop
Winthrop features tea-cup size guard Keon Johnson who, while only 5'7", is an absolute dynamo. In Winthrop’s conference tournament run, Johnson went for 31, 31 and 26. Obviously Butler’s defense will be much better than the stalwarts of the Big South, but I’m irrationally attached to short basketball players. My favorite player as a kid was Mugsy Bogues. See. SHORT.
6 Cincinnati v. 11 Kansas State
Hey do you like ugly things?
This game will be disgusting. Bob Huggins will watch it in a Jacuzzi while pleasure moaning. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin went in on the NCAA before the tournament. Either the officiating will favor K-State or Cronin will catch a blow-dart from someone wearing an NCAA lapel pin at half-time.
3 UCLA v. Kent State
LaVarr Ball y’all. I need more LaVarr in my LaLife. He is the Donald Trump of sports dads. Every time he’s given an opportunity to walk back his statements he simply doubles down. LaVarr harassing the Kent State yell leaders to a fistfight is not out of the question at this point. Would you be shocked if he challenged every member of the Golden Flashes’ coaching staff to an arm wrestling match? You wouldn’t. Do you LaVarr. #MAGA
7 Dayton v. 10 Wichita State
Wichita State can go gargle tacks.
2 Kentucky v. 15 Northern Kentucky
A friend of mine from Kentucky (huge UK fan) living in Indiana has a chance to purchase tickets to this game. Should he? It will be a blow-out right? Then again, it is an NCAA tournament game and such bucket-list items should not be taken lightly. I say he should go, prices be damned. Oh, right, Kentucky will win. Do not get your hopes up for a Hoosiers moment. Malik Monk is ruthless.
There is a good chance by the time you read this I will have gotten several picks wrong. Crap.