NCAA Tournament: Picking the bracket


NCAA Tournament: Picking the bracket

By now you've heard the 2016 NCAA Tournament is the most wide open in years. The hype is real. No dominant teams. Legit parity in the 7-11 range. Sleepers galore among the 12-14 seeds. During the regular season, teams in the AP top 25 poll lost 74 times, the most since the poll began, and a healthy chunk came against unranked opponents. There are some intriguing draft prospects, but overall the 2016 class lacks some of the usual wow factor and the projected top pick, LSU's Ben Simmons, isn't part of March Madness. 

This doesn't mean throwing darts at your bracket is the prognostication tool of choice (though I've heard worse and I'd also be down for this method if a local pub is offering). It doesn't mean final picks won't look rather chalky. It just means almost any picks and justification works, within reason, of course. As I went on the bracket picking journey, I considered the following:

* Only eight teams rated by top 30 in both offensive and defensive rating (points scored/allowed per 100 possessions): Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Purdue, Villanova, Virginia, West Virginia.

* The crux of KenPom's offensive, defensive and overall ratings comes from the "Four Factors": Effective field goal%, Turnover%, Offensive rebounding % and Free Throw rate (click here for definitions). Of the 68 teams, eight rank top 30 in at least three of the eight "Four Factors" categories: Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Michigan State (4), Oklahoma, Purdue (4), Weber State, Wichita State, West Virginia, Utah. Purdue actually was very close to a fifth. Same for Arizona (2), which just missed the group as did. Saint Joseph's, 31st in defensive offensive rebounding. Before you go picking Weber State as a first round upset, note the Wildcats are outside the top 275 in three categories. While we're here, Michigan State is 275 or worse in two of the eight.

* In a year without great teams, NBA talent could run the table so I gave extra weight to teams with projected lottery picks/ or multiple players among Draft Express's top 40: California, Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Providence, Utah, Vanderbilt. While the Terps have Diamond Stone and Melo Trimble, Cal's Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb both rank ahead of Maryland's duo.

* Always a fan of veteran teams come March. Pr, KenPom, 24 teams in the field have 2.0 or greater years of experience: Of the teams with sincere Sweet 16 hopes, Iowa State, Miami, Oklahoma,  Arizona and Utah made the list as did Cinderella types Arkansas-Little Rock, Iona, Stephen F. Austin, Stony Brook, Yale.

East (I'm not showing every game, but if you have your bracket handy and basic deductive reasoning you'll get it)

Round of 32: 1. North Carolina over 8. Providence, 4. Kentucky over 5. Indiana, 3. West Virginia over 6. Notre Dame, 2. Xavier over 7. Wisconsin

Regional final: 1. North Carolina over 2. Xavier

Factors: Possibly getting Kentucky-Indiana in the round of 32 with North Carolina likely deck warms the heart of any old school college hoops fans. No disrespect to Xavier and West Virginia, but one of those three bluebloods emerges from the East. Overall, this bracket is loaded. If the Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil can carry the otherwise ordinary Friars, I wouldn't be shocked with seven of the top eight seeds (Sorry, Wisconsin) advancing to Houston. UNC and Kentucky have the third and sixth best national championship odds respectively.


Round of 32: 1. Virginia over 9. Butler, 5. Purdue over 4. Iowa State, 6. Gonzaga over 3. Utah, 2. Michigan State over 7. Dayton

Regional final: 2. Michigan State over 5. Purdue

Factors: Seton Hall was the second best team in the Big East over the last six weeks of the regular season and the Pirates beat the best team (Villanova) for the Tournament title, but I'm following the KenPom numbers from above that back Gonzaga. Those numbers also have me going with the Boilermakers, a great alt bracket Final 4 pick, over top-seeded Virginia. As for Michigan State, picking the Izzo's for the Final Four is a safe and often correct pick. Triple-double threat Denzel Valentine and big man Deyonta Davis are pros. 


Round of 32: 1. Kansas over 9. UConn, 4. California over 5. Maryland, 6 Arizona over 3 Miami, 2. Villanova over 7. Iowa

Regional final: 4. California over 6. Arizona

Factors: The committee did the Jayhawks, the overall number one seed, no favors starting with the potential round of 32 matchup against Kevin Ollie-coached Connecticut. Whether it's Cal or Maryland in the Sweet 16, Kansas will be on the short-end of NBA talent. If that talented opponent hit shots, look out. Cal, which doesn't have an easy first round matchup with Hawaii, surged over its final 11 games while Maryland looked lost at times. On the other side, the KenPom numbers love Arizona while I don't love Villanova if center Daniel Ochefu's ankle issues remain, though Josh Hart is a legit leader for the Cats. The safe pool entry pick in this region is Kansas. The standout calls are California or Arizona.

[THURSDAY AM UPDATE: Whoa, Cal's Tyrone Wallace might have a busted hand? That changes this region for me since he's the experienced standout leading the two star kids. Working in the dark, but I'll put Maryland into the Sweet 16 over Cal, but Kansas into the Elite Eight and then...the easy call would be the Jayhawks over the Wildcats, who could easily lose to Wichita State. If I started from scratch I'd probably get Miami deeper since I don't see Kansas, but since time is running out...The heck with boring. Arizona. Yikes.


Round of 32: 8. Saint Joseph's over 1. Oregon, 4. Duke over 12. Yale, 3. Texas A&M over 6. Texas, 2. Oklahoma over 10. VCU

Regional final: 2. Oklahoma over 8. Saint Joseph's

Factors: The weakest bracket of the four. Go Yolo on Yale based on KenPom numbers. Tempted to have UNC Wilmington knock of Duke, but one stat is a doozy considering the opponent. As for picking the Hawks for an Elite Eight run, that's dicey based 1) seed and 2) Cincinnati in the first round. Maybe it's because St. Joe's tore up GW at Foggy Bottom in perhaps the most impressive game I watched live. Perhaps there's some recency bias with the A-10 Tournament title. Maybe it's because the DeAndre Bembry-Isaiah Miles tandem is nasty, but I dig St. Joe's. For the purposes of a pool entry only, having them lose to Buddy Hield and the Sooners is the prudent move. 

Final Four: Michigan State over North Carolina, Oklahoma over Arizona

National champion: Tom Izzo reached the Final Four seven previous times, cutting down the nets in 2000. Yes, he's overdue. With Valentine showing why he was the nation's best player this season, Izzo gets number two. 

[RELATED: Tony Bennett on how his Cavs will prepare for the NCAA Tourney]

Not only did UMBC own Virginia on the court, they owned the Twitter world

USA Today Sports Images

Not only did UMBC own Virginia on the court, they owned the Twitter world

They said it could not be done, no No. 16 seed would ever beat a No. 1 seed. The odds would be too great and the obstacle too steep.

As we all know, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), just proved that all wrong.


All season the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers dominated their opponents. They dictated pace, held opponents to less than 55 points, and smothered teams by forcing turnovers.

The roles filled on Friday evening and with an up-tempo 74-54 victory, UMBC proved the impossible.

The hardwood is not the only place that UMBC owned last night, they grabbed headlines, attention, and thousands of fans (literally) on Twitter.

Someone grabbed a hold of the UMBC Athletics Twitter account and took the upset by storm.

It all started when Seth Davis poked the bear:

and they were relentless.

Oh yeah, I forgot Seth Davis:

Then they started get snarky and owning everyone:

As someone who graduated from a commuter school, I can relate:

More Seth Davis:

Back to Twitter:

I guess that application wave actually was a thing or people wanted to know what ‘UMBC’ stood for:

Game. Set. History.

Now here come the shots against other schools:

Yeah, don’t jump on this bandwagon Terps fans. Stay in College Park:

I did not take long for other social media icons to start reaching out:

Oh and Seth Davis eventually did apologize:

Started the night at 5,588 and jumped up to 51.7 K. No one cares what you think Steven:

If you liked what you saw thank Zach Seidel, not an intern, not a student athlete who provided those tweets last night.

Zach, you just earned yourself a raise and we’ll see you in the Second Round.

NCAA Tournament 2018: UMBC vs. Kansas State Second Round, time, TV channel, how to watch

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NCAA Tournament 2018: UMBC vs. Kansas State Second Round, time, TV channel, how to watch

After shocking the world and doing what no other team has done before, the UMBC Retrievers are not done yet.

Yes, UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed. And against a Virginia team that was the only dominant squad in all of college basketball, no one expected it (except Troy Machir).

Remember the Retrievers barely made it to the NCAA tournament with a buzzer-beater from Jairus Lyles.  

Lyles scored a game-high 28 points in their historic upset as the team went 50 percent from behind the arc with 12 three-pointers.

Up next they play No. 9 Kansas State who looked shaky in their First Round win over Creighton. Can the Cinderella run for the Retrievers continue? Either way anything they do would be a first for a No. 16 seed going forward.

Virginia and UNC UMBC will match up on Sunday in Charlotte, NC. 

Here is the NCAA Tournament information:


UMBC vs. Kansas State How to Watch

What: 2018 NCAA Tournament Second Round, South Region

Who: No. 16 UMBC (25-10, 12-4 America East) vs. No. 9 Kansas State (23-11, 10-8 Big 12)

When: 7:45 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 18.

Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina

TV Channel: TruTV

Online Stream:  March Madness Live on

TV Announcers: TBA Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Grant Hill (analyst), Bill Raftery (analyst), Tracy Wolfson (reporter)

Twitter: @UVAMensHoops, @KStateMBB


UMBC vs. Kansas State Bracket Analysis

How They Got Here: UMBC (Auto-bid, America East Champions), Kansas State (at-large)

Previous Meeting: First Meeting

Next Round: Winner of No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Buffalo

South Region Bracket:

No. 16 UMBC vs. No. 9 Kansas State
No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Buffalo

No. 11 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 3 Tennessee
No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 2 Cincinnati

UMBC vs. Kansas State Betting Spread, Lines & Odds

Favorites: N/A
Over/Under: N/A
Money Line: N/A
Against The Spread: UMBC is 4-1 ATS this season, Kansas State is 15-16 ATS.

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