By now, you should know where this is headed. After more than a quarter century of predicting the NCAA Tournament, I'm not about to get soft now. Oh, every year I promise to be more judicious. But the more the NCAA does to keep the little guy out of the field, the more determined I am to wave the flag for the mid-majors.
It's getting harder and harder. The major schools get all the advantages. If you're to believe the reports about the FBI's ongoing probe into corruption into the sport, that includes having enough available cash to lure a 7-1 stud like Deandre Ayton to Arizona, so he can ruin UB's dreams of a first-round upset.
But I remain undaunted. I can see a potential under every rock. So what if I shoot too high? As I've often said, if loving mid-majors is wrong, I don't want to be right. Part of what makes us human is belief in the improbable. Why be like the TV talking heads who stand there and predict all the higher seeds to win?
With apologies to Trump and Kim Jong-un, I'm going nuclear this year. A No. 1 seed hasn't lost in the first game since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They're 132-0. It has to end sometime. The No. 2 seeds have lost eight openers, and there's not much difference between the 1s and 2s anymore.
Someone is going down this year. I also see a bundle of top seeds evaporating before the Sweet 16. I won't pick UB or St. Bonaventure to pull an upset. I don't want to jinx them. But VCU did make the Final Four out of the First Four matchup at No. 11 in 2011. Just sayin' ...
A refresher, in case you're new to this exercise, when I talk about a sleeper, I mean a team seeded fifth or lower with a good shot at the Final Four. Grab your brackets and come along for the ride. It's not the end of the world, after all.
Game to Watch
UB vs. Arizona. The Bulls shoot for an upset for the third time in four years. They came close against West Virginia in 2015 and Miami (Fla.) two years ago. All they have to do is find a way to stop Ayton, the Bahamian who should be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The Wildcats have a second star in guard Allonzo Trier. UB's perimeter D could unsettle the Wildcats. Arizona isn't great on defense, so UB, seventh in the nation in scoring at 85 points a game, could be dangerous if it's good in transition and making threes.
Georgia State over Cincinnati. Why not? The Panthers have pulled an upset the last two times they got in. Remember coach Ron Hunter falling off his chair when his son, R.J., hit the 30-footer to stun No. 3 seed Baylor three years ago? They're sixth in the country in field-goal defense, and top 30 in both steals and blocks. The Bearcats, who barely beat UB, might have trouble scoring.
Loyola-Chicago over Miami (Fla.). Miami is only a 2.5-point favorite, which tells you something. The 11th seeds are 17-15 against the 6s in the last eight years, 3-1 in each of the last two years. At least one 11 has reached the Sweet 16 in seven of the last eight tourneys. Loyola, in the field for the first time since 1985, is fifth in the country in scoring defense. They shoot 51 percent from the field, 40 percent from three. They have five guys who score in double figures. Come on, when do I not fall for the Missouri Valley champ?
Buffalo native Rob Lanier is the associate head coach under Rick Barnes at Tennessee.
Virginia, Arizona, Loyola-Chicago, Nevada