Don’t let your bracket be a bust this year

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2017

At the height of the Roman Empire, emperors would host public spectacles for the public to enjoy on a regular basis. These consisted of chariot races, beast fights, and the well-known gladiator battles.

Today blood sport is frowned upon, but there is still a spectacle that comes around once every year that has all the things we love about sports rolled into one event. Joy, sorrow, shock, relief and bewilderment come wrapped with a bow every March when the field of 64 teams is announced for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and this year is no different. We’ve taken a look at the bracket and have named our top teams that have a chance at winning the tournament.

Brandon O’Connor

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If you are looking for some last minute expert tips before finishing your bracket, I am sorry to break it to you, but you’re in the wrong place. My history with brackets is abysmal. I make a yearly tradition of being all but busted by the second weekend. I come crawling back every year just to be disappointed when my upset picks lose and my chalk picks get upset. But alas, it is that time of year again so I might as well take the plunge, put pen to paper and see if this is the year my luck changes.

Things were complicated this year because my alma mater, FSU, has a talented, albeit inconsistent team. They have the talent to make an elite eight or maybe even final four run, but at the same time the potential to lose on Thursday in round one to FGCU. I decided to have some faith in them and have the ‘Noles losing in the elite eight to West Virginia. I’ve chosen the Mountaineers as one of my semi-Cinderella teams, they are the four seed in the west, and have them in the final four.

In the east bracket, I went with minimal chaos and have a region final of Villanova and Duke with the Blue Devils staying hot as Grayson Allen’s ankle gets healthier and making the run into the final past West Virginia.

My Midwest region is where I went for the most chaos. I like teams of destiny and Michigan seems to have it going for them after winning the Big Ten. So I am jumping on the Wolverine bandwagon, and taking them to upset Kansas in the elite eight and make the run to the final four.

The south region was hard with Butler, Wichita State, UNC, Kentucky, UCLA and my sleeper Cincinnati. That is a lot of teams with good history and lots of talent. I think UNC is clicking at the right time and I have them rolling through the top half to the elite eight where, after some upsets, Cincinnati is waiting for them (after taking down Kentucky and UCLA). Their run ends there and UNC plays spoiler, beating Cincinnati and Michigan to meet Duke in the final.

A rivalry game to decide the natty is perfect, but Duke has the advantage this year and the Blue Devils get to cut down the nets.

John Simpson

The common age gladiator fight is back for its annual spectacle.

March Madness returns to stun us, frustrate us, and wow us with its upsets, underdogs, and display of unparalleled athleticism.

I hold this time of year very dear. As a kid growing up I couldn’t be bothered by football. I was strictly basketball. I could name the starting five of UAB’s basketball team before I could tell you Alabama’s starting quarterback. To this day my favorite March memory is UAB’s run to the sweet sixteen, where the nobody-team stunned top seeded Kentucky in the round of 32 in 2004.

This year, like every year before it, it is hard to foresee the upsets in the bracket. Everyone relies on those upsets to give them the elusive points in their bracket challenge to give them an edge in their pool, but that’s not a good mentality.

The best way to the top of your bracket pool is simple, pick the correct national champion and guarantee yourself those points. This year, my pick is Kansas.

For the final four I have Arizona coming out of the West, UCLA out of the South, defending champ Villanova coming out of the East, and future champions Kansas coming out of the Midwest.

My justification for Kansas is simple. They are the example of what happens when players stay in college basketball instead of going professional after a year. Kansas’s senior guard Frank Mason III is in contention for National Player of the Year and is head and shoulder above anyone else in my opinion. He has led Kansas on more than one comeback in the final minutes this season and I think he is just the right leader to maneuver his ship to the championship game.

Pair him with 6-8 guard Josh Jackson and Kansas is a force to be reckoned with.

I cannot speak toward any upsets this year except for one, Look for Butler to make a run to the Elite Eight. The Bulldogs are experienced, and are a traditional bracket buster.