The madness of the NCAA Tournament eventually comes for nearly everyone who fills out a bracket before the first round games. In fact, most brackets begin to show blemishes by the mid-afternoon on Thursday of the tournament's first week because, frankly, it just takes luck to string together more than a couple correct predictions about the outcomes of an unpredictable event.
Even our panel of nine college basketball writers and analysts are dealing with some busted brackets. Three of our nine featured experts have already seen their title picks eliminated from the field, and none of the other six still have all four of their projected Final Four teams hanging around. Early exits from the likes of Kansas, Purdue and Marquette tripped up a lot of people.
While the NCAA Tournament is technically a single-elimination event, that doesn't have to apply to us. With 16 teams just remaining, it's time for a second chance. As Sweet 16 action approaches, our panel of experts are resetting their brackets and predicting how they see the Big Dance playing out from here.
Here's the look at how our experts see the Regional action unfolding, as well as a lookahead to next week's Final Four in Houston.
Gary Parrish, college basketball insider
I, like many others, lost Purdue as a Final Four pick in the first round. But the other three schools I had advancing to Houston -- namely Houston, Alabama and UConn -- remain in the bracket, and I'm going to continue to ride with them. My new projected winner of the East Regional is Kansas State, which is the highest remaining seed in the East (even if Tennessee is the favorite in the betting markets).
And my projected title game -- Alabama vs. Houston -- is still the same with Kelvin Sampson's Cougars cutting nets on the first Monday night in April. Led by Marcus Sasser, Jarace Walker and Jamal Shead, Houston is the only team that currently ranks in the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. The Cougars have everything history tells us is usually required to win the NCAA Tournament, and I suspect they'll do it 12 days from now.
Matt Norlander, college basketball senior writer
My self-loathing isn't the levels I normally hit by the end of the first weekend of the tournament. Three out of four Final Four teams I had on Selection Sunday are still in the bracket, and I only had to change two of my Elite Eight picks for this exercise (FAU, Kansas State). So I'm not doing too much pivoting here. I still have Creighton over Alabama because of Creighton's balance, defense, shooting, size and coaching. I still have Houston over Xavier, primarily because asking Xavier (which doesn't have a deep lineup) to recover two days after playing grown-man Texas and beat Houston is a huge task.
I still have Gonzaga over UConn because Gonzaga has the No. 1 offense in the country and has been rated as the most efficient team in college basketball the past seven weeks. In the East, I'm going with the 33-win team that's ranked top-30 in metrics much of the season and has the deepest bench and most collective experience playing together as a team: FAU. Let's go. We've seen teams from non-power leagues reach the Final Four semi-regularly over the past decade-plus. This would be no stunner. As for my champion, it's still Houston. It's always been Houston. Kelvin Sampson might be the best coach without a national title, and for reasons already described by Parrish above, UH is the logical choice.
Kyle Boone, college basketball writer
Half my Final Four picks from before the NCAA Tournament -- No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 1 seed Houston -- are still alive. But only half of that bunch I will be sticking with in my reset bracket for the Sweet 16. I'm too enamored with what I've seen from Creighton to write it off as a legitimate Final Four pick. Ryan Nembhard was tremendous in the second round, Ryan Kalkbrenner was a star in the first round, Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman are stars ... always. There's so much talent on this team to like. I think the Bluejays will surprise some folks not just in taking out Princeton -- which is expected -- but advancing into the Elite Eight and wiping out No. 1 overall seed Alabama en route to a Final Four berth as well. I like them to get out of the left side of the bracket, only to fall to eventual champion Houston, my pre-tourney title pick, in the postseason finale.
David Cobb, college basketball writer
In my "expert" bracket filled out hastily for CBS Sports the night of Selection Sunday, my Final Four consisted of Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Marquette. Only two of those are still around. My national title pick, the Crimson Tide, are thankfully among them and looking strong with a relatively simple path to the Final Four. But in my "other bracket" (sorry for being that guy) that I filled out after some time looking at the matchups, all of my Final Four remain: Alabama, Houston, Kansas State and UConn. That one also has the Crimson Tide emerging as the national title winner. I'm all in on that quartet as the Sweet 16 approaches. UConn has a favorable draw as it gets No. 8 seed Arkansas in the Sweet 16, and the same goes for Kansas State, which gets a No. 7 seed in Michigan State.
Dennis Dodd, senior writer
First of all, thank you for the mulligan. My bracket is now doubling as a breakfast placemat soaking up the spilled milk from my cereal. It's got a better chance of that than any predictive analysis. On to the redo: Michigan State isn't the biggest surprise of the Sweet 16 but now that the Izzos are here again, why stop now? The Spartans have the outside shooting and brawn inside with Tom Hauser (if officials back off on their unusual intrusion into the bracket this year. Let 'em play.) So Tom Izzo and Sparty became a sentimental favorite winning the East in New York but not THE favorite. More on that later.
Give Alabama credit in the South. In terms of basketball, the Crimson Tide are resilient. They have the talent to go all the way. There will be questions -- there SHOULD be questions -- every step of the way, but we're judging hoops. Princeton will meet its match against a meticulous Creighton that -- unlike Missouri -- will do its proper prep against what look like the outmanned Tigers in the regional final. The Midwest is begging for a Houston-Texas final. One is leaving the Big 12 early because it doesn't want to be with the other. It's fair to say UT looks down its nose at UH. In terms of hoops, Kelvin Sampson is solidifying a hall-of-fame career. With Marcus Sasser back, the Cougars will smother the Horns depth to get to the Final Four for the second time in three years. The West is wide open. Arkansas has been touched by a wand. It is probably not as disciplined as the other three teams but it is on a run. Eric Musselman is oiling up right now for another polo stripping. However, UConn is sneaky good (believe or not in the Big East). It will knock off the Gonzaga-UCLA winner in what promises to be one of the best games of the Sweet 16.
In the Final Four, take Alabama over Michigan State and Houston -- behind a big home crowd -- over UConn in the national semis. Alabama might be more talented and incredibly effective defensively but in a game that goes down to the final minute, Sampson and Cougs win a low-scoring classic. Rewind 40 years ago for reference. This time Houston wins. The only question is whether Brett Yormark will claim it as a third consecutive Big 12 title.
Chip Patterson, college basketball writer
What was already a favorable path for the No. 1 overall seed Alabama has gotten even more manageable through two rounds with the No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 seeds all knocked out before the second weekend. Compared to the gauntlet that faces the eventual winner of the other three regions, I think the Crimson Tide have the best chance of avoiding attrition en route to Houston.
As for those other three regions, Kansas State has been absolutely electric and I think the pace and energy the Wildcats play with will be a difference maker in MSG, Jaime Jaquez has been surgical in critical possessions and UCLA's raised its entire defensive effort to make up for the loss of Jaylen Clark and Texas over Houston comes down to depth for me, as the Longhorns' can lean on their bench a bit more than the Cougars if Kelvin Sampson's squad hits any more injury issues or foul trouble. From there I think Alabama, with a less tumultuous road, arrives in Houston and wins it all, claiming the programs first men's basketball national championship in its first Final Four appearance.
Jerry Palm, Bracketology expert
The only Final Four team I lost from my original pick was Purdue and I'm upset with myself for that because as a Purdue fan, I should have known better.
I'm not sure I would have gone with my new pick Kansas State either, but the Wildcats are not just the highest seed left, it's the best team. Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell have arguably been the best 1-2 punch in the tournament so far and certainly in this region. If they continue to play at the level they have, it will be really hard to eliminate the Wildcats.
In the other regions, I will stick with my original picks of Alabama, Texas and Gonzaga, although the latter two will certainly face strong challenges. Texas will have to get through Houston assuming it gets by Xavier. I liked Texas originally because of their form entering the tournament.
The same is true of Gonzaga, which is in the wide-open West. You can legitimately make a case for any of the four teams to get through, but I like the way the Zags are going. The semifinal is a battle for West Coast supremacy.
And my predicted champion Alabama looks every bit the part through two games, winning each by more than 20 points. I'm not sure how much tougher the competition will get now. San Diego State can be a problem if they can dictate style. Creighton is better than the 6 to the left of their name on the bracket. I just don't think either of those teams can hang with the Crimson Tide's athleticism.
In the final, it's still Alabama getting revenge over Gonzaga for the loss in Birmingham in the regular season. The Crimson Tide ends with its first ever NCAA men's basketball championship.