Tomorrow begins the best four sports days of the year as we embark on the NCAA Tournament. Since Purdue is not involved at all I am praying for upsets. I am a huge fan of mid-majors going far into the tournament and low majors rising up to upset bigger schools. I always hope this is the year a 16 finally knocks off a No. 1 seed. Since Purdue is out and I don't have Indiana to cheer against this is the first tournament in years where I don't really have a vested interest.
While you can still sign up for the Hammer & Rails challenge, here is how I am picking one of my final ESPN brackets and the rationale for why:
First Round (and yes, it is the first round, not the second round. This First Four crap is merely a play-in round).
Florida over Albany - Just because a 16 will beat a 1 some day doesn't mean you pick it. This is stillt he safest pick on the board.
Pittsburgh over Colorado - Colorado is playing without a main player that tore his ACL (Spencer Dinwiddie). Sound familiar?
VCU over Stephen F. Austin - I always hate when they pair a good mid-major with a very good low major. SFA has won 26-0, but has beaten no one in doing so.
Tulsa over UCLA - Always pick against a Steve Alford coached team in round 1.
Ohio State over Dayton - This will likely be like OSU's two Big Ten Tournament wins. They won't look good for most of the game, but find a way to win in the end.
Syracuse over Western Michigan - The ‘cuse struggled after a hot start, but the MAC is still a shell of its former self.
New Mexico over Stanford - Now that Steve Alford is gone New Mexico is legitimately dangerous.
Kansas over Eastern Kentucky - Somewhere, Danny Hope is crying.
Florida over Pittsburgh - Florida is a hot team for a reason and Pittsburgh is in an 8/9 game for a reason: They're a solid NCAA team, but not much else.
VCU over Tulsa - I still believe in Shaka Smart.
Syracuse over Ohio State - Both teams are capable of beating anyone or losing to anyone, so I'll go with the team that is at least a little more consistent. Thus ends Aaron Craft for all of us.
New Mexico over Kansas - If Joel Embiid does not play Kansas is in trouble.
Florida over VCU - This should be a fun one, but Florida is just really, really good. If SFA gets here somehow it will be two of the nation's longest winning streaks.
Syracuse over New Mexico - At some point you simply pick the bigger programs to prevail
Florida over Syracuse - This really is a pretty easy region for Florida
Arizona over Weber State - Does Weber State get to bring back Harold "the Show" Arceneaux? No? They're screwed.
Oklahoma State over Gonzaga - If it plays to its ability Okie Light can be a Final Four team easily.
North Dakota State over Oklahoma - Oklahoma doesn't believe in defense and ND State plays smart basketball.
New Mexico State over San Diego State - It is fun to watch a ridiculously large guy in Sim Bhullar protect the rim and Whale's Vagina State is consistently the most overrated team in the country.
Nebraska over Baylor - The Cornhuskers will get their first ever NCAA Tournament win.
Creighton over Louisiana-Lafayette - At least a team from Lafayette made the tournament.
Oregon over BYU - The Fightin' Mormons were a bubble team that somehow got a 10 seed.
Wisconsin over American - Bo Ryan's teams always exit early, but never this early.
Oklahoma State over Arizona - I believe in Marcus Smart and he has to audition for a higher draft pick.
North Dakota State over New Mexico State - A double-digit seed almost always gets through to week 2, usually because of games like these.
Creighton over Nebraska - Nebraska might be getting better, but they still aren't the best team in their state.
Wisconsin over Oregon - Hard to believe that the Badgers are one of the only teams to beat Florida this season.
Oklahoma State over North Dakota State - The ride ends for the Bison, but what a ride.
Creighton over Wisconsin - This is about right for a Bo Ryan exit
Creighton over Oklahoma State - Doug McDermott deserves to go to a Final Four in his career.
Virginia over Coastal Carolina - is Virginia one of the most unlikely No. 1 seeds ever?
George Washington over Memphis - I do have to give credit here to Maurice Creek, who FINALLY getsto play in an NCAA Tournament game unless he comes down with Legionnaire's Disease this week.
Harvard over Cincinnati - Harvard is a solid 12 over 5 pick after getting an upset last year.
Michigan State over Delaware - Bonus that Spartan fans get to enjoy a win over a team whose football team looks like Michigan.
North Carolina over Providence - Tom Izzo has to be terrified that the Tar Heels are in this bracket.
Iowa State over North Carolina Central - Iowa State is 9-3 in its last 12 games coming in.
Connecticut over St. Joseph's - Fun fact: St. Joe's has Kyle Molock, who once committed to Purdue only to back out once Purdue got Ronnie Johnson. I think they won this deal.
Villanova over Milwaukee - Another over-rated team, but Villanova gets rewarded with a bad Milwaukee team.
Virginia over George Washington - I already picked one No. 1 seed to miss the second weekend. Rarely does it happen to two.
Michigan State over Harvard - The Spartans looked the best of anyone in the conference tournaments.
North Carolina over Iowa State - Of course North Carolina would turn it on late.
Connecticut over Villanova - As I said, Villanova is ridiculously over-rated as a two seed.
Michigan State over Virginia - MSU just has "The Look"
North Carolina over Connecticut - Tough to call this one, but UNC is ridiculously talented.
Michgian State over North Carolina - The Spartans finally break their hex against UNC.
Wichita State over Cal Poly/Texas Southern - Just a reminder that Mike Davis at Texas Southern has a better chance of winning the National title this year than "The Movement".
Kentucky over Kansas State - I guarantee the Wildcats will win this game.
St. Louis over North Carolina State - NC State looked good last night, but St. Louis has had more time to rest.
Louisville over Manhattan - They are still The Champs until someone beats them.
Iowa over UMass - Yes, I even think Iowa puts out Cuonzo Martin tonight.
Duke over Mercer - Yes, I hate picking Duke too.
Arizona State over Texas - Rick Barnes against Steve Alford would be one of the worst coached NCAA games ever.
Michigan over Wofford - I am not doubting Michigan again.
Wichita State over Kentucky - Kentucky is more talented, but Wichita State actually plays together like a team as opposed to a bunch of individuals.
Louisville over St. Louis - It's the battle of I-64!
Duke over Iowa - This matchup is almost unfair.
Michigan over Arizona State - The Wolverines want to return to Indy after looking so good there last week.
Louisville over Wichita State - Cans of PBR are cracked all over southern Indiana to celebrate the 1976 IU team's place as the last undefeated team.
Michigan over Duke - Fuck Duke
Michigan over Lousiville - This would be a fantastic game with tons of fans coming in since both schools are close. Michigan gets revenge for last season.
Michigan State over Florida - This should be another good game and it might be the first true challenge for Florida in months.
Michigan over Creighton - It's time to emB1Ggen the title game.
Michigan State over Michigan - Since this would tie the season series at 2-2 I propose a rubber match at Ford Field.