Bracket Picks: From Round of 64 to Title Game

Are more nets coming down for the Cyclones? We have them making a run at the Final Four, where they'd face a familiar opponent. Inside are picks at every game, backed up by explanations

There's a lot of cyber ink spilled here and for that reason I'll spare you of a lengthy introduction and get right to the picks, with a brief explanation. Sometimes, though, it's the gut — and you've got to respect the gut.

All Nos. 1 and 2 seeds advance to Round of 32.

SOUTH REGION (Memphis)

  • No. 1 Florida will beat Albany.

  • No. 2 Kansas will beat Eastern Kentucky.

  • 8-Colorado

  • 9-Pittsburgh

    Kenpom Says: Pitt, 68-63

    My pick: Pitt

    My take: Buffaloes are offensively inept, Pitt has No. 18 adjusted offensive and No. 37 D, along with do-it-all wing Lamar Patterson.

  • 5-VCU

  • 12-SF Austin

    Kenpom Says: VCU, 70-65.

    My pick: SF Austin

    My take: Gut, based on two schools of thought: Lumberjacks are hot, having won 28 in a row, and VCU is without Melvin Johnson, who takes 26.6 percent of team's shots, second-most for the Rams.

  • 4-UCLA

  • 13-Tulsa

    Kenpom says: UCLA, 78-71.

    My pick: UCLA

    My take: Tulsa is really turning things around, having beat a good Louisiana Tech team in the Conference USA tournament. The Golden Hurricane is good defensively but struggles to score, while UCLA behind Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and a fleet of bench players is efficient all over the court.

  • 6-Ohio State

  • 11-Dayton

    Kenpom says: Ohio State, 67-63.

    My pick: Ohio State

    My take: Not sure what to think of the Buckeyes, who lost twice to Penn State this year, but they're coming off a good win over Nebraska and a close, close loss to Michigan. They're stout defensively and LaQuinton Ross is still filling it up despite struggling from deep.

  • 3-Syracuse

  • 14-Western Michigan

    Kenpom says: Syracuse, 69-59.

    My pick: Syracuse

    My take: You're not the ones, Western Michigan. The Orange has been horrible lately, save for a 74-48 thumping of Florida State on March 9. It doesn't look capable of a deep tourney run, not with that offense, but it has enough to beat WMU.

  • 7-New Mexico

  • 10-Stanford

    Kenpom says: New Mexico, 71-69.

    My pick: New Mexico

    My take: Two wins in the Pac-12 tourney, including 79-58 over Arizona State, got the Cardinal into the tournament. New Mexico was a sleeper pick last season before being bounced by Harvard in its first game. It does better this time, riding high from a win over San Diego State in the MWC tourney and  thanks to the shooting touch of Kendall Williams.

    Round of 32

  • 1-Florida

  • 9-Pittsburgh

    My pick: Florida

    My take: No great analysis here. Could be close, thanks to Patterson, but Florida is red-hot.

  • 12-SF Austin

  • 4-UCLA

    My pick: UCLA

    My take: Former five-star Kyle Anderson has been sensational in his sophomore campaign, dropping lines of 11-8-6, 13-8-7 and 21-15-5 line in the Pac-12 tournament. The 6-foot-9 guard, whose 2013-14 year kenpom compares to Greg Monroe, Royce White and Evan Turner, in one stroke, keeps it going all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.

     

  • 6-Ohio State

  • 3-Syracuse

    My pick: Ohio State

    My take: Can Syracuse score? Can Ohio State shoot its way out of the zone? Total gut feel.

  • 7-New Mexico

  • 2-Kansas

    My pick: Kansas

    My take: Not feeling great about this, especially if Joel Embiid's status remains doubtful. The Lobos' Cameron Bairstow, a 6-foot-9 load who cleans up on the offensive glass, and Alex Kirk, a 7-footer who blocks nine percent of shots attempted, will be a problem. Andrew Wiggins picks up the slack for one more game, knowing Embiid returns the next week.

    Sweet Sixteen — March 27

  • 1-Florida

  • 4-UCLA

    My pick: Florida

    My take: Rematch of 2006 national title game again goes Florida's way. Gators struggle with free throws (66.2), which hurt them in two losses to Wisconsin and UConn. UCLA's losses, eight on the year, are either blowouts (80-63 to Duke, 73-55 to Wazzu) or nail-biters (79-75 Arizona, 87-83 Oregon). If UCLA keeps it close, and Florida again struggles at the stripe, the outcome might flip.

  • 6-Ohio State

  • 2-Kansas

    My pick: Kansas

    My take: If Embiid returns to full strength and the Jayhawks click, the Buckeyes have little chance.

    Elite Eight — March 29

  • 1-Florida

  • 2-Kansas

    My pick: Kansas

    My take: The Jayhawks a month ago were a No. 1 seed until Embiid's back issues flared up in a loss to Oklahoma State. If Kansas reaches this point— having dispatched New Mexico and Ohio State — then Embiid is A-OK. And if he is, he plays better than he did in a December loss at Florida (six points, six rebounds).

    EAST REGION (New York City)

  • No. 1 Virginia will beat Coastal Carolina

  • No. 2 Villanova will beat Milwaukee

  • 8-Memphis

  • 9-George Washington

    Kenpom says: Memphis, 73-72.

    My pick: Memphis

    My take: Will probably be a sloppy game, each team turning the ball over at a frequent rate. Memphis has the easy advantage in tournament experience, beating Saint Mary's last season and going to the Big Dance every year since Joe Jackson's freshman season. Jackson's had a bad senior campaign, his three-point percentage dipping from 44.7 to 27.6, along with a bad turnover rate, the norm for him in Memphis. We're banking on a big game from him.

  • 5-Cincinnati

  • 12-Harvard

    Kenpom says: Cincinnati, 62-60.

    My pick: Cincy

    My take: Defensive struggle. Sean Kilpatrick's good for 15-25 points and Cincy's elite in enough areas — offensive rebounding, defensive efficiency, forcing turnovers, blocking shots — to win, provided Harvard doesn't do too much damage from the perimeter.

  • 4-Michigan State

  • 13-Delaware

    Kenpom says: Michigan State, 84-73.

    My pick: Michigan State

    My take: All Delaware does really well is not turn the ball over and that's not enough to upset Sparty.

  • 6-UNC

  • 11-Providence

    Kenpom says: North Carolina, 75-71.

    My pick: Providence

    My take: Tar Heels won 12 straight before losing last two, whereas Providence won six of its last seven en route to winning Big East tournament. Taking a flyer on prolific guard Bryce Cotton, who scored 23 points in a win over Creighton on Saturday.

  • 3-Iowa State

  • 14-North Carolina Central

    Kenpom says: Iowa State, 76-70.

    My pick: Iowa State

    My take: Tough 14 seed in NC Central and the Eagles, behind guard Jeremy Ingram, will keep it close for at least the first half. Eagles are stout defensively — fifth nationally in opposing effective field goal percentage and turnovers — but haven't seen this level of talent since late December, when it lost to Wichita State and Maryland. Iowa State's Georges Niang will get to work in the post.

  • 7-UConn

  • 10-Saint Joe's

    Kenpom says: UConn, 66-63

    My pick: UConn

    My take: In Shabazz Napier we trust.

    Round of 32

  • 1-Virginia

  • 8-Memphis

    My pick: Virginia

    My take: Don't think it'll be close.

  • 5-Cincinnati

  • 4-Michigan State

    My pick: Michigan State

    My take: Bearcats grind it down, which suits Michigan State just fine (No. 214 in adjusted tempo). Kilpatrick will need help to keep up with MSU's Gary Harris and Adreian Payne … and Keith Appling … and Denzel Valentine … and Branden Dawson.

  • 11-Providence

  • 3-Iowa State

    My pick: Iowa State

    My take: Danger lurks in Providence's Bryce Cotton, but is he tired yet, after playing 40.2 minutes per game the last five and a likely 40-minute romp in the opener against Carolina? Cyclones should have enough to get to Sweet Sixteen for first time since 2000 tournament.

  • 7-UConn

  • 2-Villanova

    My pick: Villanova

    My take: We know what Shabazz Napier will give the Huskies, but how do DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright shoot? That could swing it. Villanova doesn't have any stars but is extremely well-rounded, as well as efficient on the offensive (No. 17) and defensive end (No. 16).

    Sweet Sixteen — March 28

  • 1-Virginia

  • 4-Michigan State

    My pick: Virginia

    My take: ACC regular season and conference tournament championships hasn't bought Virginia much respect, most pundits picking the Spartans in this matchup. Not sure the Spartans can get stops when needed — although it's entirely possible Virginia's got another offensive egg in it (38 points in a loss to Wisconsin on Dec. 4). Gut. 

  • 3-Iowa State

  • 2-Villanova

    My pick: Iowa State

    My take: At this point, the Cyclones will have been winners of six straight. Few are playing better. The Wildcats will start four guys 6-foot-4 or taller. If ISU's Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim can pull defenders (and I do mean 6-foot-11 center Daniel Ochefu) away from the basket with outside shots, Cyclones have a great chance at moving on.

    Elite Eight — March 30

  • 1-Virginia

  • 3-Iowa State

    My pick: Iowa State

    My take: The Cavaliers have no flaws. Iowa State does (offensive rebounds, rim defense, doesn't force turnovers). And yet … If all parts of the Cyclones' Big Three shows up in full force, ISU wins. If not, well, they don't. Gut.

     

    WEST REGION (Anaheim)

  • No. 1 Arizona will beat Weber State

  • No. 2 Wisconsin will beat American

  • 8-Gonzaga

  • 9-Oklahoma State

    Kenpom says: Oklahoma State, 71-70.

    My pick: Oklahoma State

    My take: The Cowboys were a trendy pick to win the Big 12 conference tourney but were done in by Kansas in overtime. Gonzaga is very good defensively, but shouldn't Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash be enough to win at least one game? Wasn't last year, when a chic pick to reach the Final Four was bounced by Oregon in the first game. Let's try again.

  • 5-Oklahoma

  • 12-North Dakota State

    Kenpom says: Oklahoma, 80-76.

    My pick: Oklahoma

    My take: Sooners, No. 2 in Big 12, were disappointing in Kansas City, falling behind early to Baylor before rallying back and losing by five. Cameron Clark's the quietest go-to guy in the nation, but there's enough balance in Buddy Hield, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins for OU to top a hot Bison team.

  • 4-San Diego State

  • 13-New Mexico State

    Kenpom says: SDSU, 68-63.

    My pick: SDSU

    My take: A big, lengthy defensive team, San Diego State is primed for a Sweet Sixteen run provided its offense shows up in Spokane.

  • 6-Baylor

  • 11-Nebraska

    Kenpom says: Baylor, 68-66.

    My pick: Baylor

    My take: Love what I saw from Baylor in Kansas City, Isaiah Austin assuming the role as defensive anchor, blocking 18 shots in four games. Nebraska can't shoot itself out of Baylor's zone.

  • 3-Creighton

  • 14-Lousiana-Lafayette

    Kenpom says: Creighton, 87-74.

    My pick: Creighton

    My take: Creighton. Doug McDermott, the best player in the country, is good for at least one tourney win.

  • 7-Oregon

  • 10-BYU

    Kenpom says: Oregon, 85-82.

    My pick: Oregon

    My take: Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino are awesome, but loss of Kyle Collinsworth (third on team in possessions) dooms Cougars against a strong offensive team in Oregon.

    Round of 32

  • 1-Arizona

  • 9-Oklahoma State

    My pick: Arizona

    My take: Shoot, Arizona can't be thrilled drawing a nine-seed Oklahoma State in the Round of 32. The top defense in the country can handle Smart, Brown and Forte. Can the Cowboys defend Aaron Gordon above the rim?

  • 5-Oklahoma

  • 4-San Diego State

    My pick: Oklahoma

    My take: Still not sold on the Sooners, so why am I picking them in the Sweet Sixteen? Won't be easy against the Aztecs' length. Gut says Ryan Spangler holds his own on the glass and Buddy Hield pours it up from outside.

  • 6-Baylor

  • 3-Creighton

    My pick: Creighton

    My take: The Bluejays lost to Providence's knee-jerk zone defense in the Big East tournament, a gutsy move for the Friars against Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge paying off. McDermott went 5-for-12 in that game, Wragge 1-for-7. Will have to be better against Baylor, which is equipped to pull off the upset thanks to the No. 7 most efficient offense (Creighton is No. 1). McDermott and Brady Heslip? Sign me up.

     

  • 7-Oregon

  • 2-Wisconsin

    My pick: Wisconsin

    My take: Oregon's No. 92 adjusted defense crumbles against Wisconsin, which doesn't play offense like it used to.

    Sweet Sixteen — March 27

  • 1-Arizona

  • 5-Oklahoma

    My pick: Arizona

    My take: Sooners get all the way to the Sweet Sixteen and get head-butted by Arizona.

     

  • 3-Creighton

  • 2-Wisconsin

    My pick: Wisconsin

    My take: Fresh legs from a few days off, McDermott reaches 40 — but Creighton's defense (No. 134) lets it down. On Wisconsin, to the Elite Eight, behind the sweet shooting of Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and others.

    Elite Eight — March 29

  • 1-Arizona

  • 2-Wisconsin

    My pick: Arizona

    My take: My gosh, this would be a good game. The nation's No. 1 defense in Arizona versus Wisconsin's No. 5 offense. Think the Wildcats' athleticism give them the edge, and who's stopping Nick Johnson?

    MIDWEST REGION (Indianapolis)

  • No. 1 Wichita State beats CalPoly/Texas Southern

  • No. 2 Michigan beats Wofford

  • 8-Kentucky

  • 9-Kansas State

    Kenpom says: Kentucky, 68-65

    My pick: Kansas State

    My take: Kentucky, criminal underachievers, finishes the regular season with three losses in four games then shellacks two mediocre teams (LSU, Georgia) and loses to Florida on the last possession in the SEC title game. And now they're a trendy pick to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Julius Randle is a beast on the boards, but I'll take Marcus Foster, Will Spradling and Shane Southwell over the Harrison twins and James Young, even if Kansas State is coming off three consecutive (close) losses.

  • 5-Saint Louis

  • 12-North Carolina State

    Kenpom says: Saint Louis, 69-67.

    My pick: NC State

    My take: Billikens are No. 8 in adjusted defensive efficiency, but they struggle to score. North Carolina State's T.J. Warren was superb in a play-in win over Xavier.

  • 4-Louisville

  • 13-Manhattan

    Kenpom says: Louisville, 78-66.

    My pick: Louisville

    My take: Cardinals lost five games — UNC, Kentucky, Memphis, Cincy, Memphis again — and are a four-seed. They'll be playing with something to prove.

  • 11-Iowa/Tennessee

  • 6-UMass

    Kenpom says: N/A

    My pick: Iowa/Tennessee

    My take: If the Hawkeyes win tonight, they'll have some nice momentum and confidence going for a second round game against UMass, which they'll win. Same goes for Tennessee, which had a really nice final quarter of the season. Vols are top-30 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

  • 3-Duke

  • 14-Mercer

    Kenpom says: Duke, 79-67.

    My pick: Duke

    My take: I guess Duke is prone to the early upset — VCU, Lehigh — but no sweat here.

  • 7-Texas

  • 10-Arizona State

    Kenpom says: Texas, 72-71.

    My pick: Texas

    My take: Jahii Carson gets his, but Demarcus Holland shuts down Jermaine Marshall. The Sun Devils have great size to offset a strong Texas frontcourt. Will it come down to Javan Felix's stroke?

    Round of 32

  • 1-Wichita State

  • 9-Kansas State

    My pick: Kansas State

    My take: Got to go out on a limb sometime, and might as well do it with the physical Wildcats, riding high from an upset win over Kentucky. Wichita State will have played one game since March 9, an easy win over a play-in opponent. And it'll have been Feb. 8 since a game against a top-100 kenpom opponent (Northern Iowa). Predicting — probably incorrectly — the Shockers will be caught off guard some.

  • 12-NC State

  • 4-Louisville

    My pick: Louisville

    My take: T.J. Warren is great, but need more than than against the Cardinals.

  • 11-Iowa/Tennessee

  • 3-Duke

    My pick: Duke

    My take: Tennessee is better cut out to fight Duke and its No. 3 offense than Iowa, which can't play defense. But don't think either can beat the Blue Devils.

  • 7-Texas

  • 2-Michigan

    My pick: Michigan

    My take: Longhorns have the size to give Michigan problems and Demarcus Holland could at least slow down Nik Stauskas. Could being the operative word. Michigan is too good. Texas' offense can't keep up.

    Sweet Sixteen — March 28

  • 9-Kansas State

  • 4-Louisville

    My pick: Louisville

    My take: A fun contrast in pace, and what about the Russ Smith-Marcus Foster duel? Still, KSU's run peters out against a Final Four-bound Cardinals team that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

  • 3-Duke

  • 2-Michigan

    My pick: Michigan

    My take: Where have we seen this game before? Ah, yes, Dec. 3, a 79-67 Duke win at Cameron Indoor. Nik Stauskas bizarrely took two shots from the floor that day, missing both, and finished with four points on four free throws. He'll be better this time, but so will Jabari Parker (15 points in the win). Duke also has found money in Rasheed Sulaimon, who didn't play against the Wolverines.

    Elite Eight — March 30

  • 4-Louisville

  • 3-Duke

    My pick: Louisville

    My take: This was the game in the NCAA tournament last season — a 85-63 Louisville win — that saw the Cardinals' Kevin Ware horrifically snap his leg. Anyway, on a happier note, it should be a better game this time around as Parker tries to carry the Blue Devils to the Final Four. Eh, still, feel good about the Cardinals.

     

    FINAL FOUR — ARLINGTON, TEXAS, APRIL 5

  • 2-Kansas

  • 3-Iowa State

    My pick: Kansas

    My take: Go easy on me, Cyclones fans. Iowa State shrugged the KU monkey off its back in beating the Jayhawks in the Big 12 semis, but the return of Embiid changes the outcome, unless ISU can again shoot 58 percent from three-point range.

  • 1-Arizona

  • 4-Louisville

    My pick: Arizona

    My take: The lone No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four, Arizona uses its smothering defense to halt Louisville's "eff-you" tourney run, in which the defending champs ran roughshod over opponents after being slighted with a No. 4 seed in the tourney. In a game between kenpom's two top teams, Russ Smith and Nick Johnson trade blows but the Wildcats are about six points better.

    TITLE GAME — APRIL 7

  • 2-Kansas

  • 1-Arizona

    My pick: Arizona

    My take: Sick dunks will be had, between Andrew Wiggins and Aaron Gordon, but the inconsistent Naadir Tharpe shows up, riddling the Jayhawks against a Wildcats team that thieves the opposition on 7.3 percent of possessions. Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell is the x-factor while Kaleb Tarczewski, a fierce rebounder and capable shot-blocker, limits Embiid's impact.


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