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NCAA Tournament Bracket Predictions

Can’t figure out what you want to do with your bracket? Itching for some help?  Well if you’re looking for the advice of a guy who kind of knows what he’s talking about, look no further.  @JoeBianchino

It’s finally here.  The 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  And oh yeah, Brackets!  The epic build up of championship week and the days spent parsing every permutation of your bracket – I think I have some kind of obsessive disorder – climaxes Thursday with the round of 64.  If you’re having trouble putting together your bracket, you can check out mine.  Below you’ll find my bracket and a breakdown of each region.

Joe Bianchino

South: I’m not seeing many surprises in this corner of the bracket.  In fact, I think the road is largely clear for John Calipari’s Kentucky team to rule the region.  If they have to play UCONN in the round of 32 – which I expect – they could be challenged by the team whose ability to play below their talent harkens me back to the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, but I’d expect the Wildcats to advance.  The bottom half of the region, I believe, will ultimately belong to Baylor.  I don’t expect the Bears to be tested until a Sweet 16 tie up with Duke, but even then, they should be able to blow past a team who is simply not that good. They’ll meet Kentucky in the Elite 8 for what might be the best game of the tournament.  In the end, the freakish collection of talent that Calipari has been hoarding in Lexington wins out over Baylor’s freakish athleticism.  Wildcats advance.

Potential Cinderella: I don’t really see one.  In another region, perhaps Wichita State, but they won’t get past Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Upset Pick: None.  Chalk City baby.

West: To me, this is the most interesting region, by far.  There’s not a wealth of talent at the top of the bracket – Michigan State could get tested by Memphis but you’d expect Sparty to breeze to the Elite 8 – but the bottom of the bracket is a who’s who of athletic, up and down squads.  I’m particularly excited for a possible matchup between Murray State and Marquette.  These two teams play at breakneck speed and they do it as well as anyone in the nation.  First one to 100 wins, and though Marquette is the better team, something just says go with Murray State here.  Florida and Missouri will likely play that kind of game as well, but I expect Missouri’s athleticism to carry them to a matchup with Michigan State.  In the end, Tom Izzo’s squad is just too big. Missouri fell twice to Kansas State, a team whose size resembles that of State.  The Spartans go to New Orleans.

Possible Cinderella: Murray State is 30-1.  I don’t care if you’re playing the class C ball in some Podunk town in Pennsylvania.  That’s impressive.

Upset Pick: If Larry Anderson is healthy, I’m taking Long Beach State over New Mexico.  They’re a squad of hungry, elder statesmen with a dynamic talent in Casper Ware.  Classic 12-5.

Jamie Squire, Getty Images

East: The murky scenario that was the East region was thrown into greater flux with Tuesday’s announcement that Syracuse center Fab Melo has been deemed ineligible for the entire tournament.  As a result, I now have a team whom I thought a prime championship contender getting bounced in the second (third) round by Kansas State.  If the terrifying scowl of K-State coach Frank Martin isn’t enough to break Syracuse’s will, the Wildcats’ dominance on the boards – an advantage that made the game hard to call even before the loss of the Orangeman’s 7-foot center – will do the job.  Florida State, Vanderbilt, and Ohio State will likely be the teams left to pick up the pieces.  In a tough battle of size and strength, I expect Sullinger and Ohio State to escape the Seminoles and advance to play one of the NCAA’s hottest teams in Vanderbilt.  Ultimately, the Buckeyes’ dominance on the inside will net them the Final Four birth.

Potential Cinderella: Kansas State’s ability inside will spell havoc for whomever they play. I don’t expect them to advance past the Sweet 16, but they are well – in not intimidatingly – coached.  It’s possible.

Upset Pick: I’m not calling for Montana to beat Wisconsin, but I could see it happen. The Grizzlies play an interesting style and if Bo Ryan’s team doesn’t make it rain, they could be in trouble.  And let’s hope they are.  No ill will toward our friends of Wisconsin, but I’d like to avoid Wisconsin’s neck-deep in quick sand style of play as much as possible.

Midwest: Much like the South, I’m not seeing many possibilities here.  Clearly North Carolina is the best team in the region and, even though they could be playing a potential Elite 8 game against Kansas in St. Louis, I’d expect them to be earning the birth to the Final Four.  In fact, I’m so unimpressed with this bracket, I really only see those two as possible champions of the region.  North Carolina is just too talented, expect them to breeze on to the final weekend of the tournament.

Possible Cinderella: N.C. State looked fantastic in the ACC tournament, including a game against North Carolina that they should have won.  I’m picking them to go to the Sweet 16, Georgetown just hasn’t impressed me.

Upset Pick: Michigan lives by the three and dies by the three.  Ohio is one of the best teams in the nation at defending the tre-ball.  It’s a long shot, but I’m taking Ohio over the Wolverines.

FINAL FOUR: Kentucky-Michigan State and North Carolina-Ohio State would be great games if we got them.  If we do, I think that Kentucky and North Carolina can match the Big Ten squad’s size and are just better teams across the board.  I like those two to advance, with Kentucky’s wealth of talent ultimately getting the best of UNC in an absolute toss up game.  They just do too much well.

Well that’s it for me folks, good luck in your bracket selections, everybody. Happy March Madness!

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