I’m a big sports fan, although I’m not into basketball as much as baseball.  Furthermore, I really haven’t had much of a chance to see many games this year, or follow much of the news.  This essentially means that your bracket is probably better than mine.  Nonetheless, I’ll thrust my bracket upon you.

South Region

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 08:  Head coach Fred H...

First round winners: Kentucky, Iowa State, VCU, Indiana, UNLV, Baylor, Notre Dame, and Duke.  This is all chalk, so no real explanations for my picks.  I’d love to see Western Kentucky –  a team with a losing record – be the first team to upend a #1 seed … but it’s not going to happen.

Second round winners: Iowa State, Indiana, Baylor, and Duke.  Iowa State is my alma mater, and this is a clear “homer” pick.  Having said that, the Cyclones beat Kansas and Baylor in the regular season, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they could beat Kentucky – although playing them in Louisville is a tough draw.

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 09:  Brady Heslip #5 o...

Third round winners: Indiana and Baylor.  I can’t completely torch my bracket by taking the Cyclones out any further, so I have the Hoosiers knock them off at this point.  It feels dirty picking a Big 10 team to beat Iowa State.  Baylor over coach K?  I like Baylor, mostly because of how they have rebuilt the program after Dave Bliss burned it to the ground.  If you don’t remember the Bliss era at Baylor, look it up sometime when you’re feeling too happy.  It will definitely take your mood down a notch or three.

Regional champ: Baylor.  The Bears finished the Big 12 conference season with a 12-6 record – but four of those losses were to Kansas and Missouri.  Those teams seem to have Baylor’s number – but I’m betting the bears will fare better against outside competition.

West Region

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 22:  Head coach Steve ...

First round winners: Michigan State, Saint Louis, New Mexico, Davidson, Murray State, Marquette, Virginia, Missouri.  There we go – some first round upsets sneak into my bracket.  I remember when Davidson make their run a few years back with Steph Curry.  What stuck out on my mind was that the college did laundry for the students, so that they could focus on their studies (granted, this means they’d unleash a group of 22 year olds that can’t do laundry …)  That’s quirky, and I like quirky.  I always pick some 9-8 and 10-7 upsets, so Saint Louis and Virginia shouldn’t be shockers.  Saint Louis in particular is an apt pick, because the Billiken is a strange little creature.

Second round winners: Michigan State, Davidson, Murray State, Missouri.  New Mexico coach Steve Alford was previously the coach at the University of Iowa.  He’s not very well like in the state.  Although I’m a fan of Iowa State and not Iowa, the stories I’ve heard about him don’t paint a good picture.  Thus, I have no qualms picking his team to go down in flames.  Murray State’s an upsets according to the seeds (6 over 3), but Murray State is actually ranked higher than Marquette in the coaches poll (and is one spot behind them in the AP poll. 

MOREHEAD, KY - JANUARY 18:  Steve Prohm the he...

Third round winners: Michigan State and Murray State.  Davidson’s run ends in the third round.  I have the utmost respect for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, one of the greats in the game.  Why Murray State over Mizzou.  Well, first of all, I hate Mizzou.  Second, the disconnect between the voters and the selection committee bothers me.  I realize that these are different groups of people, but one of the groups is clearly wrong.  You can’t be the #9 team in the nation (coaches poll) and also be the #6 seed (which means at least 20 teams are seeded higher).  One of these things is wrong.

Regional champ: Murray State.  Hey, why not?  Regardless of how weak Murray State’s conference is, the fact remains that they won 30 of 31 games.  That’s incredibly difficult to do – at some point, you just run into a team that is on a hot streak and you fall short.  I’ll bring the whole ranking vs. seeding debate to a head by pushing Murray State into the Final Four.

East Region

LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 13: Kris Joseph #32 ...

First round winners: Syracuse, Kansas State, Harvard, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Florida State, Gonzaga, Ohio State.  The big upset here is Harvard over Vanderbilt.  However, a 12 usually beats a 5, and why not pick a 12 that has a sterling reputation for academics.  After all, that’s the whole reason for colleges.

Second round winners: Syracuse, Wisconsin, Florida State, Gonazaga.  I push Gonzaga forward based on the strength of their coach.  The rest of my picks here are chalk.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 07:  Head coach Mark Few...

Third round winners: Wisconsin and Gonzaga.  Syracuse will not have the services of Fab Melo for the tournament.  I think they can get by UNC Asheville and Kansas State without him, but I think Wisconsin comes away with the win.  I like the Zags, and their coach, Mark Few.  I know almost nothing about Florida State, so Gonzaga is basically my default pick here.

Regional champ: Wisconsin.  Seems like they always peak at tourney time.

Midwest Region

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 12:  Harrison Barnes #4...

First round winners: North Carolina, Creighton, Temple, Ohio, San Siego State, Georgetown, St. Mary’s, Kansas.  The only upset here is Ohio over Michigan.  The main reason for this is the animosity between the two states (yes, I realize that this Ohio and not Ohio State).

Second round winners: North Carolina, Temple, Georgetown, Kansas.  All chalk here … boring picks in this region so far.

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 29:  Josh Selby #32 of ...

Third round winners: North Carolina and Kansas.  Yawn … very predictable.  Two of the better programs in the country, headed by coaches with length post-season resumes.

Regional Champ: North Carolina.  First of all, I despise Kansas basketball.  Second, North Carolina star Harrison Barnes is an Iowa kid, so I have to root for him to succeed.  I wish he had stayed in-state (in town, actually) and played for Iowa State, but kids need to make their own choices, so I’m OK with his decision and wish him success.

Final Four

WACO, TX - OCTOBER 24: The Baylor Bears mascot...

OK, it’s the end of the road for Murray State, as they lose to Baylor.  On the other side of the bracket, Harrison Barnes powers North Carolina to the finals with a win over Wisconsin.

In the championship game, Baylor caps off a tremendous academic year with the national title.  Add in the football team’s great season and a possible (likely?) championship on the women’s side, and the roar of the Bears can be heard from afar.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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