It’s that time again, friends.
March Madness is upon us and our NCAA Tournament bracket is filled out, ready to be framed or thrown in the trash at any moment.
This year, however, I’m hopeful my bracket will survive ... at least the first day ... as I breakdown my picks here at FrontPageBets and reveal my Final Four and national champion.
(Scroll to the bottom for my complete bracket)
The 12-seed special
First, let’s start with the always popular 5-12 game.
It’s trendy to have at least one No. 12 seed winning a first-round game. But it’s not just because it’s cool to pick the underdog, it’s also productive.
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Since 2010, a 12 seed has won 19 first-round games over a No. 5 seed. That’s 40%.
In 22 of the last 26 NCAA Tournaments, a 12 seed has won at least one game.
Last year, we saw two 12 seeds win their opening games – Richmond over Iowa and New Mexico State over UConn.
Two years ago as a 12 seed, Oregon State made it all the way to the Elite Eight.
While I don’t have a 12 seed going that far this year, I do have two winning their first-round games.
Yep, that’s right.
VCU (27-7) beats Saint Mary’s (26-7) in the West Region’s first-round game in Albany, N.Y., on Friday. The Rams are playing extremely well right now, and have the X-factor in point guard and A-10 player of the year Ace Baldwin.
I also have Oral Roberts (30-5) beating Duke (26-8) in the East Region first round on Thursday in Orlando, in what could be the biggest upset of the tournament.
But, consider this: Oral Roberts has the nation’s third-highest scoring offense that averages 84.2 points per game, while also boasting the nation’s sixth-best scorer in Max Abmas, who is dropping more than 22 points every time out.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Golden Eagles have a 7-foot-5 forward in Connor Vanover, who is second in the country with 109 blocked shots.
Another thing to consider: This is the worst seed Duke has had since 2007, and just the third time since 1979 the Blue Devils haven’t been seeded in the top four in any region.
While Oral Roberts beating Duke could be the biggest upset of this year’s NCAA Tournament – considering anytime a Blue Blood gets bounced early it registers on the sport’s Richter scale – the biggest upset on my bracket – seeding-wise – is No. 11 N.C. State beating No. 3 Baylor in the second round of the South Region.
I’ve got the Wolfpack (23-12) getting past No. 6 Creighton (21-12) in the first round in Denver, Colo., Friday afternoon to set up a second-round matchup against the Bears (22-10), who have one of the nation’s best offenses.
N.C. State has the No. 2 scoring offense in the ACC, averaging 78.9 points per game and are led by star guards Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner, who are averaging 17.5 and 17.1 points per game, respectively. Those numbers are good enough to put Smith and Joiner in the top four in the ACC in scoring and in the top 100 in the nation.
And while it’s the first time in four years that the Wolfpack is in the NCAA Tournament, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the program’s magical 1983 national championship. A Sweet 16 run is just meant to be.
Speaking of upsets, let’s stay in the South Region for the biggest potential bracket-busting games of the entire tournament.
While I’m picking N.C. State as the underdog to make the biggest noise in this region, there are other games ripe for madness.
In another 5-12 game, the College of Charleston enters with a 31-3 record and is averaging more than 80 points per game. As a 12 seed, the Cougars are dangerous and have a chance to be No. 5 San Diego State (27-6).
Another trendy pick in that region is No. 13 Furman (27-7) beating No. 4 Virginia (25-7) in the first round in Orlando on Thursday. While I didn’t pick it, that wouldn’t be a surprise.
One other first-round upset I did pick in the South Region is No. 10 Utah State (26-8) over No. 7 Missouri (24-9).
And, finally, I’ve got second-seeded Arizona (28-6) beating No. 1 overall seed Alabama (29-5) in the Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four.
Final Four picks
And now, my Final Four … which is less spicy than my early round picks. It’s actually pretty bland and mostly chalk, except for the South Region champion.
I’m picking Arizona, Purdue, Houston and Kansas to make it to the Final Four, with Kansas playing Arizona in the national championship game. There, the Jayhawks will successfully defend their title.
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Mike Szvetitz is the General Manager and Content Director for FrontPageBets.com. Szvetitz is a 23-year veteran reporter and editor, including serving 17 years as a sports editor in Florida, Alabama and Virginia, covering everything from preps to pros. His "View From The Lazy Boy" column won multiple state and national awards. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.