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Bracket First Draft

We’re beyond Selection Sunday, let the bracketology begin!

While I reserve the right to change any of my picks, here are my initial thoughts and early picks on the Big Dance.

Credit, Joe Bianchino

South: If Florida gets past Pitt, who’s capable of giving the number one an unexpected test, I think they’ll make it to the Final Four – thanks in no small part to the region’s biggest question mark, Kansas.  Is Joel Embiid healthy?  Will he ever be?  Can Kansas make any noise without him?  Could they even beat New Mexico without him?  It’s hard to say.  Currently, I think they’ll have enough to get through the first weekend without Embiid, but after that, it’s hard to bet on the Jayhawks.

Other notes: Stephen F. Austin’s tenacious defense helps them pull the upset, and the struggling Syracuse Orange advance to the Sweet-16 by default.

West: I hate this region.  I hate it.  Arizona is a deserving one seed, but I fear an Oklahoma State upset in the round of 32, which has me leaning Wisconsin’s way, and killing myself for it.  I have no confidence in Bo Ryan’s team, but I like their draw and fear Marcus Smart downing the 1-seed.

Other notes: Baylor-Creighton’s round of 32 matchup could go either way.  I’m leaning Creighton’s way, though, because Dougie Buckets is Dougie Buckets.

Midwest: How you feeling, Wichita State, fans?  That bad, eh?  I can’t blame you.  Michigan, Duke, and Louisville in your region?  Oh, and Kentucky in the round of 32?  That’s about as bad as it can get.  And it’s why I’m not taking the Wheat Shockers.  I like their experience and age to get them past Kentucky, but they won’t escape Louisville, who I like to win the region.

Other notes: Iowa is struggling, but I love Fran McCaffery’s tournament pedigree.  They’ll win the play-in game and upset UMASS.

East: I have limited faith in Virginia, and absolutely no faith in Villanova.  Neither, I think, will make the Elite Eight. Particularly Virginia, who will run into the now healthy buzz-saw that is Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team – the team who will represent the East region in the Final Four.

Other notes: Plenty will jump on Harvard to upset Cincinnati, but I don’t see it.  Mick Cronin’s team has real talent on the perimeter and in the post.  If they weren’t drawing Michigan State in the round of 32, I’d have them making a deep run.

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