theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

March 19, 2014

Making some picks, checking them twice

Jeff Cali Sports Editor adanewssports@cableone.net
www.theadanews.com

Ada — While my 2014 March Madness picks certainly won’t win you a billion dollars — heck, they won’t win you a 2-for-20 deal at your favorite local restaurant — I’m going to share them with you anyway.

From this writer’s points of view, this year’s men's NCAA Tournament bracket is one of the most convoluted in recent history. So let’s get started.

WEST REGION

Love that both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are in this region. Fans are chomping at the bit for a projected Sweet 16 matchup. Can’t see it happening, though.

I was torn between the OSU-Gonzaga first-round matchup. Should be a great game. I finally decided a big play by Marcus Smart down the stretch will be the difference.

The buck will stop there for the Cowboys, but expect them to play top seed Arizona tough before bowing out.

Many national pundits are picking North Dakota State to upset the Sooners in the first round, but I think Lon Kruger’s bunch will find a way to grind out a first-round victory. And although my bracket has San Diego State defeating OU, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see the Sooners advance to a Sweet 16 showdown with Arizona.

Which brings us to the top seed in the West. Nick Johnson will carry the Wildcats on to the Elite 8.

I like No. 2 seed Wisconsin to battle its way out of the bottom of the West bracket and meet Arizona in the Elite 8. The Badgers have two freshmen (Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes) who will help push them to a Final Four berth.

EAST REGION

I could see No. 12 Harvard making a bit of a run if Michigan State weren’t standing in the way in the second round. The Spartans are this guy’s pick to advance to the Final Four out of the East. Congrats to Virginia for nailing down a No. 1 seed at the last minute, but the Spartans will knock the Cavaliers out in the Sweet 16.

I’m a little biased, but as a North Carolina hoops fan, I’m not sure the Tar Heels could have asked for a better draw as a No. 6 seed. I have Carolina knocking off a red-hot Iowa State team in the second round and then dumping Villanova to earn a berth in the Elite 8.

But I’m sticking with the Spartans to be the Beasts of the East and earn a trip to the Final Four.

MIDWEST REGION

I would absolutely love to see Kansas State take on Wichita State in the second round. It’s amazing to me that Big 12 powers Kansas and Kansas State never play the Shockers. But I don’t think I’ll get to see that dream matchup.

Kentucky appears to be on a mission, and I see the Wildcats knocking off the No. 1 seed Shockers and advancing to meet the best No. 4 seed ever, Louisville, in the Sweet 16.

Louisville has to feel disrespected by landing a No. 4 seed, and the Cardinals will make everybody in their path pay. 

Look for the Duke Blue Devils to survive the bottom half of the Midwest bracket, but Coach K and company won’t make it past Louisville either.

Louisville is going to the Final Four.

SOUTH REGION

No doubt No. 1 seed Florida is one of the top teams in the field this year, and while I think they’ll be tested during a second-round matchup with Pittsburgh, the Gators will be heading to the Elite 8.

I wish I could pick Tulsa to upset UCLA, but the No. 4 Bruins will have a date with Florida and they won’t like it.

No. 3 Syracuse will survive the bottom of the South bracket to set up a date with Florida.

If Kansas still had the services of Joel Embiid, I’d take the Jayhawks to beat those orange dudes and get to the Elite 8.

Florida vs Syracuse should be a dandy, but I’ll take the Gators to escape to a Final Four berth.

THE FINAL FOUR

Michigan State versus Florida will provide another fun matchup. I’m picking the Spartans in a thriller to advance to the title game.

Louisville will rock Wisconsin’s world in the other Final Four matchup with its relentless, pressing defense and set up a battle of No. 4 seeds for the 2014 NCAA championship.

And the winner is ...

Louisville will make a laughingstock out of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee by winning the national championship after a grueling war with Michigan State.

So there you have it. You still have plenty of time to change your picks. You probably don’t want your bracket to have very many similarities to mine.

And best of luck in that billion-dollar bracket challenge. Everyone will need it.