Joe Bianchino’s Bracket
The picks are in! After hours and days of research and analysis, of flip-flopping, and flip-flip-flopping, the bracket is locked.
It's chalk-heavy, as my brackets tends to be, but it's not without gambles. Take a look, let me know what you think, share your picks on our Facebook page, and check out some reasoning behind why I made the selections I did.
South: I like Florida, but I don't love them. I think they'll be tested by Pitt in the round of 32, but the rest of their road is manageable. Once they put the panthers to bed, they'll cruise to the Elite Eight. The trouble of this region lies in its bottom half. Will Syracuse figure it out? Can Kansas survive until Embiid returns? Will he return? To all three, I think yes. Syracuse, playing in Buffalo, will find their game and walk into the Sweet-16. Kansas, out of perhaps the best conference in college basketball, will do just enough to beat New Mexico without Embiid, and end the Orange's revival when the seven-footer returns for the second weekend.
Kansas could easily lose to New Mexico, though. So based on probability as much as anything else, I'm taking Florida to get out of the region.
East: No real surprises here, aside, perhaps, from UCONN's run to the Sweet-16. I struggled with this pick, but I don't trust Villanova at all. Shabazz Napier? UCONN's dynamic scorer? He I trust, and he was the deciding factor. Overall, though, I'm drinking the healthy Michigan State Kool-Aid in the East. In fact, I'm binging on it. I'm swimming in it. Tom Izzo and his finally healthy, deep roster? They'll win the region, and they'll do it with ease.
West: I hate myself. Wisconsin? Really? I can't stand that I've picked Bo Ryan's team to make it to Dallas, but I just don't trust Arizona. They lost their big man in February, and have drawn a lose-able round of 32 match up with Oklahoma State. Wisconsin does nothing to stoke my fire, but the have one of the easier roads in the tournament, so I guess I'll roll with the Badgers.
Midwest: I love Wichita State, but I don't love them that much. I think they'll get past Kentucky - on experience and grit alone - but I can't see them beating a hot Louisville team. Jabari Parker helps Duke down Michigan to make the Elite Eight, but no one's beating Pitino's team. They get to Dallas.
Final Four: I don't love them, as I said, but Florida is deep, they're athletic, and they're old. And though I'm drinking the Michigan State Kool-Aid and buying into their health, I'm not buying into how long they've played together. Against a veteran team like Florida, I think their inexperience will show itself. Florida advances to play Louisville - who beat the Wisconsin team I loathe to have selected - and I think they do enough, and are the safest bet, to win it all. Florida cuts down the nets.