MBB Bracket Breakdown: A look into the NCAA crystal ball

Max Petrunya

Despite the glitz, glamour and prestige that come with being chosen as a member of the NCAA selection committee, no one in America envied the men and women who sat down last Sunday to decide the 65 teams that would be playing for a shot at the NCAA basketball championship. This year, more teams than ever, like Syracuse, Drexel and Kansas State were left in a state of shock as their names weren’t called when CBS rattled off the teams that made it to this year’s big dance. Although all these programs made strong cases for invitations to partake in March Madness, the committee sent a strong message to teams this year: if you don’t win your conference games and you don’t finish the season strong, you won’t be dancing with some of your friends and foes.

As the games are set to tip in just a few hours, here are my bracket-busting NCAA tournament predictions.

Midwest Region

No. 1 Seed – Florida Gators

The defending champs were named the No. 1 seed overall in the tournament after capturing another SEC regular season title and rolling over teams in their conference tournament. With the same starting five that won the championship last year, Florida is the odds-on favorite to make it to the national championship game yet again this year. With Wisconsin as the No. 2 seed in this bracket, look for the Gators and the Badgers to meet in the Elite Eight, with Florida moving on to its second consecutive Final Four appearance.

Elite Eight Matchup: No. 1 Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers

Midwest Region Winner: No. 1 Florida Gators

Midwest Sleeper: No. 11 Winthrop.

Coming in as a No. 11 seed on an 18-game winning streak, the Big South champions are hungry for their first win in the NCAA tournament in six appearances. Matched up against a beatable No. 6 Notre Dame in the first round, don’t be surprised if the Winthrop Eagles get past the Irish and the Oregon Ducks on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.

West Region

No. 1 Seed – Kansas Jayhawks

Our Villanova Wildcats come to the West region seeded in the deadly No. 9 spot, matched up against No. 8 seed Kentucky Wildcats. It will be Wildcats vs. Wildcats on Friday at 9:30 p.m., as Villanova squares off against a Kentucky team that has yet to win this season against a team ranked in the Top 25. With a win over Kentucky, Villanova would most likely play the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the second round. Kansas is a beatable No. 1 seed, and, while it is a bold prediction, could fall to the Wildcats in the second round. Kansas trailed by as many as 15 against Texas in the Big 12 championship.Villanova beat Texas earlier this season, holding phenomenon Kevin Durant to his worst performance of the season, as he netted only eight points. Look for Villanova to make it to another Sweet Sixteen this season and possibly the Elite Eight if it matches up against Southern Illinois in the round of 16. Villanova should be matched up against another surprise team, the Pittsburgh Panthers and Jamie Dixon, who are talented enough to take down former Pitt coach Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins on their way to the Elite Eight. The dancing will stop for Villanova in the Elite Eight again this year, as Pitt should move on to the Final Four.

Elite Eight Matchup: No. 9 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh Panthers

West Region Winner: No. 3 Pittsburgh Panthers

West Sleeper/Upset Alert: No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth.

Facing a generously No. 6-seeded Duke Blue Devils in the first round, the Colonial Athletic Conference champs should be able to take down this year’s sub-par Duke team, which ended the season with a disappointing loss to the NC State Wolfpack in the ACC tournament. Virginia Commonwealth ranks 12th in 3-point field-goal percentage and should shoot well enough to send Coach K back to basketball camp a few weeks early this year.

South Region

No. 1 Seed – Ohio State


The Big Ten champs enter the tournament in a bracket that should play out with few surprises. The No. 2-seeded Memphis Tigers enter the tournament on a 22-game winning streak and should play their way into the Elite Eight to face the No. 1-seeded Buckeyes. In the end, Greg Oden and Ohio State will be too strong for Calapari’s Tigers to beat, and Ohio State, as predicted, will advance to the Final Four as winners of the South region.

Elite Eight Matchup: No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 2 Memphis Tigers

South Region Winner: No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes

South Sleeper/Upset: No real surprises here. Against a team other than Tennessee, the No. 12-seeded Long Breach State 49ers might have a chance of upsetting a No. 5 seed and playing in the second round, but given Tennessee’s strong wins at the end of the season and Head Coach Bruce Pearl’s history in the NCAA tournament, look for Tennessee to beat LBSU. All other teams should advance as seeded in this region.

East Region

No. 1 Seed – North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels enter yet another NCAA tournament near the top. Roy Williams’ young lineup has matured and gotten better throughout the year. Fresh off winning another ACC title, the Tar Heels seem ready to make a run deep into March. One minor set-back for the Heels could be Tyler Hansbrough’s broken nose, which will adversely affect his breathing and vision in the tournament. In the tournament’s toughest bracket, UNC will have to face No. 4-seeded Texas and Durant in the Sweet Sixteen and No. 2-seeded Georgetown Hoyas in the Elite Eight. UNC will not be able to make it past the powerful Longhorns in the Sweet Sixteen. Texas will then face the hottest team entering the NCAA tournament, the Georgetown Hoyas, in the Elite Eight. Georgetown, led by Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, will beat Texas on its way to the Final Four.

Elite Eight Matchup: No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas vs. No. 4 Texas Longhorns

East Region Winner: No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas

East Sleeper: No. 14 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

Already boasting a win against the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks this season, the Golden Eagles have a veteran lineup that has played together for four years and knows how to win. Matched up in round one against a weak, low-scoring No. 3 seed in Washington State, this matchup has bracket-buster written all over it. Don’t be surprised if the Golden Eagles fly away from the Cougars with a win in this game.

Final Four Matchups

No. 1 Florida Gators vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh Panthers

No contest here, the defending champs roll over the Panthers on their way to their second national title in as many years.

No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas

Hibbert versus Oden. Green versus Conley Jr. Hoyas take the lead early and hold on to get back to the championship game.

National Championship

No. 1 Florida Gators vs. No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas

Champions: No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas

Big East fans unite; the title is back. Georgetown rolled through the Big East tournament and will do the same in the NCAA. Jeff Green will be named tournament MVP, chosen as a lottery pick in the NBA draft, and Villanova will begin off-season workouts as Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark and Scottie Reynolds get ready to make a run at their own Big East/national title. Until next year, enjoy March Madness, the greatest month of the year.