Welcome to Bracketsville

Philip Consuegra

So it’s finally on us. March Madness has arrived in full force, ready to captivate the nation in three weeks of great college basketball. We’ll all fill out brackets, we’ll all try to convince everyone else that we know so much about college hoops, but most of all, we’ll all pick our favorite teams to win the tournament. I am no different. So sit back, relax, get a hot cup-of-joe if you want-and let Phil tell you who’s going to be successful in San Antonio.

We’ll embark on this journey by beginning at the top, right hand corner of the bracket-the St. Louis portion. We’ll travel counterclockwise as I let you know my thoughts on each: upsets and routs, incredible games and ones we might want to turn off after the first half. Either way, my advice to you: don’t take any match-up for granted; an upset loves to brew in the tournament.

We’ll start with Kentucky. They’re solid all around with no clear superstar. They’re consistent and strong. However, they have been upset before, and it will happen again in the dance. They were in the same bracket last year, ranked No. 1, and was the hands-down favorite to win it all. Much like last year, they will fall before the Final Four.

A contests that I really can’t wait to see in this bracket, barring some upsets, are Providence and Kansas in the second round, Kentucky and Kansas in the third round, and Georgia Tech facing Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Upsets can loom, however, in the form of Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. They’ll most likely face Gonzaga in the second round, and that will definitely be one to watch. Phil’s pick: Georgia Tech.

The bracket below it has a familiar face: St, Joseph’s. They proved they were vulnerable in an 87-67 disaster against Xavier in the conference tournament. They’ll face either Bobby Knight and Texas Tech or Charlotte and its consistency in the second round. You can put your money on either of those teams. For my own bracket, I will go with Charlotte.

Because there is always, always, a 5-12 upset in the tournament, this is where my main one is. Manhattan has potential and could very well upset the Florida Gators, and we all know what the Gators love to do: choke like it’s going out of style. Manhattan wins a battle. Two other huge games that will cause nail-biters to go see psychologists both involve Oklahoma State. I’m still befuddled as to why St. Joe’s gets the one seed, and don’t even ask me why Wisconsin gets to play in Milwaukee, but I guess we’ll never know. Second round, OSU will face, in opinion, underrated Memphis, who will give them a run, and then face Pitt right after that. Wake Forest has a great path to the Elite Eight, but will be cut short by Pitt, who will be coming off a huge win against OSU. Phil’s pick: Pittsburgh.

Working our way to the other side of the brackets, the Phoenix portion will most likely be the toughest one to pick. With the combination of Stanford and UConn, and when you add in NC State, Maryland and Syracuse, this bracket could go anywhere.

A team that I really love in this bracket, and has potential to make noise are the Southern Illinois Salukis. They’ve been quietly solid all year, and they have my pick to take down ‘Bama in the first round. The second and third rounds, however, will belong to Stanford.

Maryland is a team that could make some noise in this bracket. They’ve come off the game of their lives, and won the ACC by beating the following teams, in sequence: Wake Forest, NC State in a 20-point comeback, and Duke in a hell-raising overtime. They’ll get past UTEP and ‘Cuse, but will eventually fall to Stanford. Hey, we all have to come crashing back down at some point.

NC State, the three-seed, will make it to the Elite Eight, but will run into a surging UConn team who will be ready to play. UConn will face Stanford in a classic 1-2 battle, but a determined UConn will not be stopped. Phil’s pick: Connecticut.

The fourth and final bracket in our tour takes us to the home of Phil, Atlanta. This bracket has the makings of housing some classic battles. With Duke at the top seed, they will be even tougher to bring down after they lost in the ACC Tournament Final. They’ve learned their lesson, and they’ll be the toughest team to beat. They’ll have a few donnybrooks with Arizona and Texas in their bracket, but Duke has the talent and the tools to beat both of them.

UNC Chapel Hill just isn’t as good as we all thought. They love turning the ball over, and will fall in either the first or second rounds to ETSU or Texas. Mississippi State will run into a big wall with Xavier or Louisville in the second round, with Xavier on a huge winning streak and with Louisville looking to regain their former status as one of the nation’s elite. Either way, MSU will go down. Texas will beat the victor of that game, setting up a date with the Dukies in Hotlanta. I expect the Devils to beat the Longhorns in a tough one, and then go on to the Final Four. Phil’s Pick: Duke.

So there’s my Final Four, folks: Duke facing UConn, and Georgia Tech facing Pitt. Both games will be solid, both games will be hard-fought, and this Final Four will have this result: Pittsburgh will be victorious over Tech, while Duke will squeak by UConn. Phil’s Tournament Winner: Duke over Pitt, 71-66.