The 2013 NCAA Tournament starts tonight, getting going in full force on Thursday after the ridiculous "First Four" games are played in Dayton today and tomorrow. Yes, they are technically NCAA Tournament games, but no, they are not part of the tournament. They are play-in games and everyone knows this, so why pretend it is some glorious first round and that 60 teams get a first round bye?
There is a precedent for not completely ignoring the teams playing, however, as just two years ago VCU went from one of the last four teams in to one of the most memorable scenes of bracket carnage ever. They rolled through a Pac-12, Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and Big 12 team in succession before another mid-major finally beat them.
But we don't get to pick those games. What we do get to pick are the games from the real first round and beyond. With no real rooting interest outside of Miami (my wife's alma mater) this year it was kind of stress free to pick a bracket. If you haven't joined yet, go ahead and join up here to compete for the ultimate prize: your choice of an H&R t-shirt. My bracket can be found here, which is the standard-bearer for likely how you shouldn't pick your bracket. Let's go through the picks:
Round of 64:
Louisville over North Carolina A&T/Liberty - No No. 1 seed has ever lost to a 16 and usually the games are dull blowouts. Last year was close, as UNC-Asheville led Syracuse at halftime before the Orange got bailed out by some horrid officiating. People say it is going to happen one day, but until then, always pick the 1 seed. If it happens, then you lose nothing because everyone else picked the No. 1 anyway.
Missouri over Colorado State - A pick ‘em game. I know nothing about either team except that Mizzou likely wants to redeem itself for dicktripping over Norfolk State last year.
Oregon over Oklahoma State - The Ducks are criminally underseeded.
St. Louis over New Mexico State - Always get behind the team that has a dead coach/player to play for as inspiration.
St. Mary's over Memphis - I really like St. Mary's here. Matthew Dellavedova impressed me last year when Purdue played them.
Michigan State over Valparaiso - Brandon Wood is surely confused, but Tom Izzo won't be. This feels like another Izzo Final Four team.
Creighton over Cincinnati - Doug McDermott is contractually obligated to play in at least two games, isn't he?
Duke over Albany - There is no way in hell Duke becomes a 15 over 2 victim two seasons in a row.
Kansas over Western Kentucky - If the 16 over 1 happens this year, this is it. We all know it is going to be Kansas when it finally happens, as they either go all the way or become a massive upset victim.
North Carolina over Villanova - Ugh, I hate picking these 8/9 games almost as much as I hate watching them.
VCU over Akron - This is a giant middle finger to mid-major conferences. I wanted to see Akron as a 12 or 13 against a major conference foe, not as possibly the best mid-major of the tournament.
South Dakota State over Michigan - Nate Wolters and an SDSU team with tourney experience against a young Michigan team that can be streaky from three and is horrible at the line? The Wolverines could get hot and win the whole thing, or they could crap themselves like last year. Given the Indiana and Wisconsin games the finished with, I'll pick crap themselves.
UCLA over Minnesota - This might as well be a bye game, as no team in the entire tournament is colder than the Golden Gophers.
Florida over Northwestern State - Florida should win, but I am required by law to mentioned NWSU's last visit to the NCAA Tournament, also as a 14 seed. Also, they are 2-0 all-time in First round games. Hmmmmmmm.
Oklahoma over San Diego State - San Diego State has been supposed to be totally awesome the last few years, but as soon as they have had to face a major conference team lately, they've lost.
Georgetown over Florida Gulf Coast - Georgetown doesn't have the best offense and FGCU has a win over Miami, so they can beat a two seed. This is this year's most likely 15 over 2.
Gonzaga over Southern - It's a win for the SWAC that they avoided the play-in round this year.
Pittsburgh over Wichita State - Another crappy 8/9 game.
Wisconsin over Mississippi - The biggest loss already was putting the Badgers on the complete opposite side of the bracket from Indiana. I think we all deserve Ryan-Crean III.
Kansas State over Boise State/LaSalle - Kansas State's record this year is 27-4 against teams not named Kansas. They were similar in 2010 when they were 29-5 against teams not named Kansas, but 0-3 vs. Kansas both times. They are very glad to be on the opposite side.
Arizona over Belmont - Could be an upset here, but I am just not feeling it.
New Mexico over Harvard - No, IU fans, you can't hang a banner if Steve Alford makes a Final Four with the Lobos and you don't
Notre Dame over Iowa State - //wanking motion
Ohio State over Iona - The Buckeyes are pretty much on fire right now. They are the anti-Minnesota.
Indiana over LIU Brooklyn/James Madison - I am surprised there wasn't a riot over the Hoosiers not getting put through Indianapolis.
NC State over Temple - It would be nice if NC State could finally play like the top 5 team they were rated as in the preseason.
UNLV over California - Cal is an at large team? Seriously?
Syracuse over Montana - Jim Boeheim always wins games, or pays the refs to win games like last year vs. UNC-Asheville.
Butler over Bucknell - Dammit, if you're going to have Bucknell as a dangerous 11 seed put them against Arizona, UCLA, or Memphis. DON'T RUIN MY BUTLER!
Marquette over Davidson - Big East Wankery.
Illinois over Colorado - I believe in Brandon Paul!
Miami (FL) over Pacific - The Hurricanes can make a ton of noise.
Round of 32:
Louisville over Missouri - This is what you get for trying to steal coach Painter. Keep being "The best school to never reach a Final Four".
St. Louis over Oklahoma State - Dead Coach Corollary.
Michigan State over St. Mary's/Middle Tennessee State - H to the Izzo.
Duke over Creighton - After last year I think Duke is a mortal lock for at least the Sweet 16.
Kansas over North Carolina - There might be something said here about Roy Williams
VCU over South Dakota State - Sorry Jackrabbits, the run ends here against helter-skelter VCU.
Florida over UCLA - Jordan Adams is hurt and Shabazz Muhammad is already pricing Bentley's for the NBA. Never trust a guy named Shabazz.
Georgetown over Oklahoma - Solid defense over middling Big 12 team.
Gonzaga over Pittsburgh - Yeah, I get more nervous every round I pick Gonzaga too.
Wisconsin over Kansas State - Bo Ryan's wizardry usually runs out after two rounds.
New Mexico over Arizona - There is bad, bad blood here dating back to 1863 when they had to be separated from the same territory.
Ohio State over Notre Dame - As long as Laura Quinn doesn't show up we'll all be happy.
Indiana over NC State - Indiana wins because NC State is the biggest fraud of a team from the preseason.
Syracuse over UNLV - The 4/5 games are the 8/9 games of the second round.
Butler over Marquette - Uh oh, is that Brad Stevens' music I hear?
Miami over Illinois - Cody Zeller, Reggie Johnson is coming for you. that, and I believe in Brandon Paul for only one round.
Louisville over St. Louis - Good run for the Billikens, but it ends here.
Michigan State over Duke - The Duke Redemption Tour can only go so far before people realize, "Wait a minute, these guys trailed Miami by three games for most of the year. Why did we think they were great, again?"
Kansas over VCU - Revenge for two years ago.
Georgetown over Florida - The most boring game of the third round
Wisconsin over Gonzaga - Give Bo Ryan a week to prepare a defense and this game might end 4-2.
Ohio State over New Mexico - At least one Big Ten team is reaching the Final Four. This guarantees it.
Indiana over Syracuse - I can't wait to see what the 2-3 Syracuse zone does to Crean. If IU is cold and the zone prevents Kevin Ferrell from penetrating or the ball from getting to Zeller it could get ugly because we all know Crean will refuse to adjust to it, but IU can still be hot from three and just shoot over it.
Miami over Butler - As much as I would love to see Stevens knock out Crean I really like this Miami team.
Louisville over Michigan State - This will be the most exciting game of the entire tournament.
Ohio State over Wisconsin - We already saw on Sunday what happens when these two meet in a tournament.
Georgetown over Kansas - Defense can win championships.
Indiana over Miami (FL) - Zeller vs. Reggie Johnson would be fantastic, but I fear Baby Jesus rules would apply in any Elite Eight game between the two.
Louisville over Ohio State - Depth finally gets to Ohio State.
Indiana over Georgetown - It took overtime the first time, but we've already seen this.
Indiana over Louisville - I have said all along that Indiana is the best team in the country and is virtually unbeatable when they are playing well. Ferrell can play the inside-out game, Zeller can control the middle, and they have four deadly shooters from outside even before Remy Abell plays. I am not backing down that this is the best team in the country and when it is on, has no valid excuse to lose. By their own "Banners Uber Alles" metric their season means nothing without a National Title, as we have been reminded as Purdue fans for decades. Well, they get it done, Banner Six gets hung, and winter lasts until August 15th in West Lafayette.
I pray that I am wrong.