Do over handicapping the Sweet 16 and beyond

By Steve Sell
March 26, 2014

Being a golfer, I’ve been known to take a mulligan or two off the first tee.

Now I’m going to carry that over to my NCAA bracket.

My bracket basically was riddled with holes once Duke lost its first game to Mercer. I did pick a couple of upsets (Harvard beating Cincinnati and North Dakota State getting by Oklahoma), but in no way did I ever challenge for that pot of gold that Warren Buffett offered.

So now it’s time for a do-over.

Here’s how I see the Sweet 16 and onward:

• EAST •

Easily the best game of the bracket pits No. 1 seed Virginia against Michigan State. The way these teams are playing this could be championship-game caliber. Michigan State, the No. 4 seed, is the trendy pick to win it all because of the Tom Izzo factor. However, this Virginia team has a style all its own. When push comes to shove, though, I have to go with Michigan State.

There’s going to be a surprise team in the Elite 8 because I didn’t have Iowa State or UConn getting there. Even without Georges Niang, Iowa State hasn’t lost a beat, while UConn has been the beneficiary of a soft bottom bracket. I’m going to stick with Iowa State since it plays a style that’s hard to defend.

Michigan State will then advance, but it should be an entertaining game when it plays Iowa State.

• MIDWEST •

I hate to say it because of my disdain for coach John Calipari, but Kentucky is going to make a deep run. If it plays the way it did against Wichita State, it can win it all. Louisville is the defending national champion, but this team is nothing like that one. Kentucky will squeak by in this Bluegrass State special.

Michigan and Tennessee is the other game and both teams have overachieved. Michigan gets my nod, but like Louisville, it doesn’t have near the weapons of the team that lost last year in the national championship game.

Kentucky is finding itself at just the right time and will move on to Dallas.

• SOUTH •

Let’s just pass Florida on through. The Gators will bounce UCLA, then outlast Dayton, which I believe will get past KU-conqueror Stanford. The Jayhawks have to be kicking themselves now for laying in egg against the Cardinal.

• WEST • 

Arizona was my pick to win the regional at the start and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind. It will struggle to get past San Diego State, because the way the Aztecs play defense they cause everybody to struggle. They just don’t have enough offense.

Baylor is on one of those Wichita State-VCU-George Mason-type of runs. It wasn’t that long ago the Bears were languishing at the bottom of the Big 12. As long as coach Scott Drew doesn’t try to do too much and let his team play, it will be fine. Baylor gets past Wisconsin in an upset.

• FINAL FOUR •

I do have Florida, Michigan State and Arizona all left in my original Final Four so it's not all bad. I’m sticking to my original guns in going with Florida in the finals to win it all. However, I'm picking Kentucky to be its opponent in what will be the fourth meeting between the teams this season.


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