The championship game is finally here. Nobody’s gotten their whole bracket right, but take a look at how our experts have done with their NCAA Tournament picks up until now.
It’s not an exact science, but our experts did their homework to make their picks -- hey, you win some and you lose some.
Check out these brackets to see what they think.
Stephen Oh’s Upset Bracket
Last year SportsLine expert Stephen Oh correctly predicted eight out of nine NCAA Tournament upsets, including six out of seven double-digit seed upsets, with his computer algorithm. This year he has plenty of upsets again, like No. 6 SMU going all the way to the Elite Eight.
The Bruins have a nice mixture of youth and experience. They have pros at multiple positions. They have a difference-maker at point guard. And a historically great offense to go with an improving defense. Simply put, UCLA’s best is better than anybody else’s best, I think. So I’m picking Steve Alford’s team to cut nets in Phoenix. And Lonzo Ball will be the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
I had Kansas in October. I had Kansas midway through the season. I have Kansas now. The TCU loss (Josh Jackson didn’t play in the game) doesn’t scare me. The Jayhawks have the best backcourt in the country in Frank Mason (big-shot maker) and Devonte’ Graham. Jackson’s ready for the NBA right now. Bill Self will win a second national title, it’s just a matter of time. It doesn’t seem like this should be Kansas’ year. The team’s had off-the-court drama throughout. Injuries have shortened the bench. It’s only 10th at KenPom. But I will not bail on the team I picked from the start, which rightfully has a 1 seed.
As for my other picks, you’ll notice some ridiculousness. Just fade me as fast as you possibly would like. I’m hellbent on going for Wichita State into the second weekend because the Shockers were jobbed in their seeding and will play as angry as they ever have. Rhode Island in the Elite Eight? Hey, why not have a little bit of fun? You seeing what I’m doing with Oklahoma State and SMU too? Probably regrettable, but oh well. Hey, as long as the tournament’s fun, that’s all that matters.
After toppling North Carolina, I’m picking Kansas to finish off its championship run by upending a Duke team that’s playing its best basketball of the season right now. The Jayhawks’ early bounce from the Big 12 tournament leaves even more time for this group, currently in the middle of concerning investigations from a few off-court incidents, to get its business in order before the time and stress demands of the NCAA Tournament. If Josh Jackson’s suspension continues, they’ll be a Final Four team. If he’s on the court, they’re winning the whole dang thing. Frank Mason III can carry this team to the edge of greatness but its the overwhelming impact of Jackson’s athleticism and versatility that can get them past a Louisville, UNC, Kentucky, UCLA or Duke.
Elsewhere in the bracket, I’m all in for Arizona getting to the Final Four for the first time since 2001 and first time with Sean Miller and think Villanova won’t get a shot at becoming the first team since 2007 Florida to repeat as champion. The Wildcats can manage the first weekend -- but beware of Virginia Tech and Buzz Williams -- but I don’t think they make it out of New York.
Duke started the season as the No. 1 team in the polls because they have the best talent and the best coach. However, there were a lot of road bumps along the way. Injuries to nearly every key player at one time or another -- and even an injury to coach Mike Krzyzewski -- stunted the development of this team.
I always thought if they could come around and start playing as we were expecting, the Blue Devils could still win the national championship. What we have seen in March is that they have indeed come around. Duke looks like the team we expected to see way back in November. Better late than never.
For me, the biggest upsets are Princeton over Notre Dame (the Fighting Irish don’t have the size to overwhelm the tactically superior Ivy champions), UNC Wilmington over Virginia (the Seahawks feature the third-best Offensive Rating in the country and will have learned from their near-upset of Duke last March) and Florida Gulf-Coast over Florida State (Dunk City lives on, the Seminoles struggle away from home) and Miami over Kansas in the second round. My final four is Villanova, Arizona, Louisville and UNC with Arizona winning it all, giving Sean Miller that national championship we’ve all seen coming for years.
The Pac-12 has image problems. It’s games are on too late. There are more confirmed UFO sightings than folks who watch the Pac-12 Network. But after an at-times turbulent season the Wildcats are fully loaded for a deep tournament. They have just about everything you need to be complete.
Post Lauri Markkanen is a lottery pick. The backcourt is veteran with Kadeem Allen and leading scorer Allonzo Trier. Sean Miller and the Wildcats have a lot to make up for after a first-round loss to Wichita State. The previous three years Arizona at least reached the Sweet 16.
This is a national program with an elite coach, Sean Miller. There’s nothing wrong with going with the hot team. The Wildcats tied for the Pac-12 title and won the conference tournament. And you probably weren’t able to stay up late enough to watch much of it.
North Carolina has advanced to at least the Elite 8 each time it has earned a No. 1 seed under Roy Williams. And with three juniors and two seniors leading the way, I don’t think that trend changes this year.
The Tar Heels have a veteran point guard in Joel Berry and a myriad of big men who will give teams fits trying to match up on them. I think UNC is in line to land its 20th Final Four appearance and beyond with a team hungry to redeem itself from a heart-breaking title loss last season.