Steven Baybutt

March is upon us, bringing with it my favorite sporting event of the year: The NCAA Tournament. Office, fraternity and family pools have been created, as millions across the nation look to predict this year’s perfect bracket. Although it’s likely no one will, some will come close, and more will win a good chunk of change. That being said, I hope to give you some advice for filling out your bracket this March.

The first two rounds are the hardest to predict. Upsets (11 seeds or greater winning) come out of nowhere (thank you University of Northern Iowa in 2010) and are hard to predict. However, trendy upset picks this year are Marquette University (11) over Xavier University (6), University of Missouri (11) over University of Cincinnati (6), University of Richmond (12) over Vanderbilt University (5), Utah State University (12) over Kansas State University (5) and Belmont University (13) over University of Wisconsin (4). Out of those games, a few will likely happen. I like Marquette over Xavier because of their ability to expose Xavier’s weakness on the inside and Marquette’s always strong guard play. Missouri could easily knock off Cincinnati if they can get out and run like they do when they are playing well. Plus, Missouri’s tough defense always comes handy at tournament time. I also like Utah State’s chances since Kansas State has been unpredictable all year. I don’t like Richmond over Vanderbilt, mainly because Vanderbilt only struggled against top teams this year and put teams like Richmond away. I also don’t like Belmont over Wisconsin, mainly because I think Wisconsin wins the Southeast region and makes it to the Final Four.

Speaking of the Final Four, I think there are about 10 teams capable of winning it all. I think the Ohio State University can handle the competition in the East, mainly University of Kentucky and Syracuse University and I like their chances of making the Final Four. But, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats or Orange knock them off and make a run.

The University of Kansas will dominate their bracket and I don’t think anyone but the University of Notre Dame or Purdue University could knock them off, but don’t expect that to happen. Kansas is in the Final Four in my mind.

In the Southeast, I wouldn’t be surprised if an underdog comes out. The University of Pittsburgh doesn’t match up well against mobile power forwards, which is why I think Wisconsin will beat them. I also like St. John’s University in this region, but don’t be surprised if the University of Florida comes out alive either. Even Michigan State University as a 10 seed could make it to the Final Four out of the Southeast.

Out West is where I have trouble making my choice. Duke University is strong, but the University of Texas matches up well and can play the defense it takes to knock Duke off. But Texas must face Oakland University in the first round (another sleeper), most likely University of Arizona next, who match-up well against them. Then they face Duke after those two tests. At the same time, the University of Connecticut might have the best tournament player on their team in Kemba Walker. I think Duke, Texas, or UConn comes out of here. As for the record, I’ll take Texas because of their D and ability to score.

That makes my Final Four Ohio State, Texas, Kansas and Wisconsin. Most likely won’t be the actual Final Four, but there’s always hope. As for a winner? I like Ohio State over Kansas in the final. The Buckeyes are too complete of a team and teams don’t need a deep bench, just a talented one, which is what the Buckeyes have. I said it earlier this year and I’ll stick with it. The Buckeyes win the title in 2011.