Let’s get this out of the way at the start: I suck at picking NCAA tournament games. I think there was a time in my youth when I would occasionally do alright in bracket pools, but it was so long ago that I can’t really remember. All I know for sure is that I have struggled to stay out of last place the past three years in a pool with friends.
Okay, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, here are my picks for the 2014 NCAA Tournament:
The 2014 National Champion will be … the Arizona Wildcats.
Or so I hope.
My method for this madness is to do a little bit of research and then combine it with a theme or feeling – which is almost certainly the part the screws up my bracket.
This year, my theme is that the Pac-12 is pretty good. Thus I have Arizona winning it all, UCLA making the Final Four, and Oregon upsetting Wisconsin in the second round. I was tempted to pick Stanford over New Mexico and may end up regretting not doing it, but I wanted to limit the number of upsets I picked because I’m in a small pool. As for Arizona State, well, they’ve lost five of their last seven games since defeating Arizona in double overtime. I just don’t see them advancing.
I picked UCLA to the Final Four based on the momentum factor. I believe they are a good team and they are most definitely hot. I’ve got them upsetting Florida because, while I think the Gators are a very good team, I think the SEC is overrated and the relative lack of competition will come back to haunt the #1 team in the country. (Yeah, I know, their 26-game win streak fits the “good and hot” profile.)
My Michigan State pick follows the same logic as the UCLA pick – I think they’re good and they are on a roll. I like Virginia a lot, but I just don’t think they are quite ready for the biggest stage. This could be another pick that I regret making. Hell, let’s be honest – there will likely be all kinds of picks that I’ll regret having made.
I’ve got Wichita State in the Final Four because I remember how well they played last year. They are a very physical team and all indications (a 34-0 record, for starters) are that they are better than last year. That said, Louisville is one of my teams – they always have done well for me in the tournament – and I may just regret not picking them and their latest hot streak.
The region that I think may completely blow up is the West region. A lot of shaky teams there, in my opinion, which is another reason for picking Arizona to win it all. I think they have the easiest route to the Final Four.
One more item of note: I think this may be the first year in a decade that I haven’t picked Gonzaga to win at least one game. I hope they prove me wrong, though I don’t want them to take out my champion pick of Arizona … unless they go on to win the whole thing; then it’d be worth it.