Hello, college basketball fans!
Time for my second annual tradition. The first is my annual Schmolik 64 where I pick who I believe who belongs in the NCAA Tournament. The second is Schmolik Bracket Analysis where I go through and make some picks for the NCAA Tournament. Note: Use these picks for gambling purposes at your own risk!
We begin with the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs, the #1 seed and the #1 overall seed. Gonzaga should face a tough second round match between either Oklahoma or Missouri. I had Oklahoma a #7 seed instead of a #8 and Missouri a #6 instead of a #9. Missouri won seven Quad 1 games this year, Oklahoma five. There are a couple of dangerous Cinderellas in the top half of the West in #12 UC Santa Barbara and #13 Ohio University from the MAC Conference. I have UCSB beating #5 seed Creighton in a classic 12-5 upset. They have issues with their head coach and they lost two games to Quad 3 opponents this season. Ohio lost early in the season to Illinois by just two points at Illinois. The MAC has won NCAA Tournament games in four seasons in the 2010's including Buffalo's wins in 2018 and 2019. The West Regional has two teams, #3 seed Kansas and #4 seed Virginia, who had to pull out of their conference tournaments because of COVID-19 protocols. We are all hopeful that the two teams (and everyone else) at least are ready to play.
Gonzaga had several non conference games canceled this season including what would have been the biggest game of the season vs. 2nd overall seed Baylor but did get to play and win several big games including those vs. the #2, #3, and #4 seeds in the regional, the #2 Iowa Hawkeyes, #3 Kansas Jayhawks, and #4 Virginia Cavaliers, the 2019 national champions. Maybe if I weren't worried about Kansas and Virginia not being able to play I'd be tempted to pull the upset but I'll take the safe route and pick Gonzaga to win the conference. Iowa hasn't made the Final Four since the NCAA expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
West Regional Final: Gonzaga over Iowa
The Baylor Bears are the #1 seed here. They have been the 2nd best team through most of the season but haven't been the team they were earlier in the season, especially when they beat Illinois convincingly in Indianapolis. In their first game back after their long COVID-19 pause, they barely beat Iowa State, a team that went winless in the Big 12. They also lost in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. This is also a team that has never made the Final Four since the NCAA expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Only once have all four #1 seeds made the Final Four and Baylor is probably the best bet for the #1 (or one of) the #1 seeds to not make the Final Four. They might have to play as many as three Big Ten teams to make the Final Four, #9 Wisconsin, the #4 Purdue Boilermakers, and the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes. Wisconsin has the tough task of playing North Carolina in the first round as Roy Williams has never lost a first round game, either at Kansas or at North Carolina although I'm sure neither school is often seeded as low as #8 though.
You have another great chance at a 5-12 upset with Winthrop, who lost just one game this year vs. a Villanova team that lost Collin Gillespie and hasn't won a game since then. Another team that lost just one time this season is #14 Colgate, ranked #9 in the NET. I think they are underseeded as a #14 seed, I had them as a #12 seed. They are playing against the #3 seeded Arkansas Razorbacks. If you are daring enough to pick a 3-14 upset, this would probably be the one to do. Arkansas has an amazing stat CBS Sports pointed out. The last time the Razorbacks made the Sweet 16 was 1996 and 99 different teams have made the Sweet 16 since then. I don't like Arkansas's chances as they have a potential second round game against Texas Tech who made the title game in 2019. I see Purdue, who made three consecutive Sweet 16's, to take out Baylor in the Sweet 16 and the "South" Regional Final to be another Purdue-Ohio State game (fourth time this season), with Ohio State advancing to the Final Four.
South Regional Final: Ohio State over Purdue
I am a graduate of the University of Illinois. I haven't been able to brag about that fact often in recent years. The Illinois Fighting Illini haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2013. Of course Illinois's first time back they are a #1 seed and they've had a dream season. I hate that Illinois opens with Drexel for two reasons. I live from the Philly area and I was hoping to root for Drexel but now I can't and I had Drexel a #15 seed in the Schmolik 64 so getting a #15 seed for a #16 seed is asking for trouble. Then Illinois would either play ACC Tournament champion Georgia Tech or everyone's favorite, Loyola Chicago and 101 year old super fan Sister Jean in the 2nd round (they made the Final Four in 2018). I had both of these teams as #7 seeds. In the Sweet 16 (assuming Illinois gets that far), Illinois will likely play the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Cade Cunningham, rumored for the #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. They were thought of as a #3 seed not only by me but the Bracket Matrix as well as ESPN's Joe Lunardi and USA Today. Illinois has a #1 in front of their name but they have the bracket of a #2 seed! Meanwhile the Houston Cougars, the #2 seed has the overrated #3 West Virginia Mountaineers, Clemson, Rutgers, and San Diego State. Every one of these teams except Rutgers was overseeded compared to my bracket. I'd gladly switch places with Houston in this bracket.
By the way, if you're looking for a 5-12 upset, it's not here. This is the #12 seed that's not winning. You expect the mid major the Power 5 team takes lightly to pull the upset. The #12 seed here is the Pathetic 12 champion Oregon State, not a mid major no one's heard of. Oregon State was so bad this year that they lost AT HOME to Portland who is ranked #327 in the NET (and only 347 teams played this season!) And if Oregon State won the conference, it says a lot about the rest of the Pathetic 12. Imagine if Northwestern or Nebraska won the Big Ten Tournament, DePaul won the Big East Tournament, or one of the Mississippi schools won the SEC Tournament. It tells you the rest of the conference sucks. Rutgers made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 but still finished seventh in the Big Ten. Oregon State wouldn't have won a real conference tournament. If Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado were halfway decent, they wouldn't have let a team that can't even beat Portland beat them. Oh by the way, I said the same thing about Oregon in 2019 so bet your own money using these picks at your own risk! But Oregon State isn't Oregon.
I hate putting the pressure on my own school but I also want to win my picks and I just think Illinois is the team to beat in this regional. Illinois hasn't made the Final Four since 2005. But Oklahoma State hasn't since 2004, Houston since Hakeem Olajuwon was there, and Syracuse did in 2016 but they're an 11 seed. West Virginia did make it in 2010 but I just like Illinois better vs. them. The Big Ten's just better than the Big 12, especially in the NCAA Tournament.
Midwest Regional Final: Illinois over West Virginia
The Michigan Wolverines lead the pack (no pun intended) here. They won the Big Ten regular season title. They were dealt back luck as Isiah Livers was hurt and is out indefinitely. That will certainly hurt Michigan's chances in this draw. The East Regional is pretty loaded with #2 Alabama Crimson Tide, #3 Texas Longhorns, and #4 Florida State Seminoles. Alabama is the SEC regular season and tournament champions while Texas won the Big 12 Tournament. If you want a 5-12 upset, the #5 seed is a Pathetic 12 team (Colorado). 'Nuff said. I like Michigan State to not only beat UCLA (Pathetic 12) but to beat BYU in the 1st round and it wouldn't surprise me if they beat Texas as well. This is Tom Izzo we're talking about. I actually picked both First Four winners to win first round games (Wichita State over USC).
I'll go with another #4 seed, Florida State, to upset Michigan. Alabama vs. Texas should be a great battle between Nate Oats in his first NCAA Tournament at 'Bama after two successful tournaments at Buffalo, and Shaka Smart. Shaka has underachieved at Texas before this season but he had the miracle run at VCU in 2011 all the way to the Final Four and Texas had a great season this year in the Big 12. If Michigan were healthy I'd pick them easily. Since they aren't, I'll go with Texas.
East Regional Final: Texas over Florida State
Final Four: Gonzaga should easily beat Texas. Illinois and Ohio State will meet a fourth time and they will play a tough game but I have Illinois winning. In the end, I have Gonzaga cutting down the nets and completing an undefeated, perfect season.
Championship Pick: Gonzaga over Illinois
Schmolik Bracket Analysis History:
I have internet records dating back to 2009. I have only correctly picked the champion once, back in 2012 when I picked Kentucky to win it all. Of the eleven champions I picked, only twice have they made the Final Four (ironically the only other one to do so was Kentucky in 2015). Two of the last four teams I picked to win it all (2016 Michigan State and 2018 Virginia) lost in the first round and another (2017 Duke) lost in the second round. I sure wasn't going to pick my Illini to win it all!
On the other hand, five of the eleven years a team I picked to make the Final Four did win it all: 2009 North Carolina, 2012 Kentucky, 2013 Louisville, 2017 North Carolina, and 2018 Villanova. Other than 2012 Kentucky, I picked the other four teams to lose the championship game.
Past Schmolik Bracket Analyses(Click on year for details):
Final Four: North Carolina (South #1), Pittsburgh (East #1), Louisville (Midwest #1), Memphis (West #2)
Championship: Louisville over North Carolina
Final Four Correct: 1 (North Carolina)
FInal Four: Kansas (Midwest #1), Syracuse (West #1), Kentucky (East #1), Texas A&M (South #5)
Championhip: Kansas over Kentucky
Final Four Correct: 0
Final Four: Louisville (Southwest #4), Pittsburgh (Southeast #1), Duke (West #1), Ohio State (East #1)
Championship: Duke over Pittsburgh
Final Four Correct: 0
Final Four: Kentucky (South #1), Michigan State (West #1), Florida State (East #3), North Carolina (Midwest #1)
Championship: Kentucky over North Carolina
Final Four Correct: 1 (Kentucky), Correct Champion
Final Four: Louisville (Midwest #1), Georgetown (South #2), Indiana (East #1), Ohio State (West #2)
Championship: Indiana over Louisville
Final Four Correct: 1 (Louisville)
Final Four: Florida (South #1), Michigan State (East #4), Arizona (West #1), Louisville (Midwest #4)
Championship: Michigan State over Florida
Final Four Correct: 1 (Florida)
Final Four: Kentucky (Midwest #1), Wisconsin (West #1), Villanova (East #1), Iowa State (South #3)
Championship: Kentucky over Villanova
Final Four Correct: 2 (Kentucky, Wisconsin)
Final Four: North Carolina (East #1), Michigan State (Midwest #2), Kansas (South #1), Oklahoma (West #2)
Championship: Michigan State over Oklahoma
Final Four Correct: 2 (North Carolina, Oklahoma)
Note: First year since at least 2008 that I picked a non #1 to make the Final Four and they did. All my other correct Final Four picks have been #1 seeds.
Final Four: Duke (East #2), Gonzaga (West #1), Louisville (Midwest #2), North Carolina (South #1)
Championship: Duke over North Carolina
Final Four Correct: 2 (North Carolina, Gonzaga)
Final Four: Virginia (South #1), Villanova (East #1), Michigan State (Midwest #3), North Carolina (West #2)
Championship: Virginia over Villanova
Final Four Correct: 1 (Villanova)
Final Four: Duke (East #1), Michigan (West #2), Villanova (South #6), North Carolina (Midwest #1)
Championship: Duke over North Carolina
Final Four Correct: 0
In 11 years, I picked 11 Final Four teams correctly or an average of 1 per season.
I have never picked all four #1 seeds to make the Final Four since they've only done it once in NCAA history (2008).
I have picked 27 #1 seeds, 9 #2 seeds, 3 #3 seeds, 3 #4 seeds, 1 #5 seed, and 1 #6 seed. I have only correctly picked one #2 seed to make the Final Four and have never correctly picked any team seeded below #2 to make the Final Four. Of the 27 #1's I picked to make the Final Four, 10 of them did (about 37%). In that span, 15 #1 seeds made the Final Four (out of 44 total #1 seeds, or about a third). In 2015, three #1 seeds made the Final Four (Duke, the national champion, Wisconsin, the runner up, and Kentucky, while Villanova was the only one who choked and #7 Michigan State was the other Final Four team). In 2011, none of the #1 seeds made the Final Four (in fact, none of the #2's did either!). To win a pool, you have to pick some non #1 seeds to make the Final Four. The problem is I keep picking the wrong ones! Who knows, maybe the best advice I can give you ... pick AGAINST me:)