After another eventful day of March Madness is in the books. Now we head to the second day of Elite Eight action with two games on deck. We know, your NCAA Tournament bracket may resemble a shambles heading into the regional finals. Do not worry, there’s no shame in missing on a few games because the opening weekend gave us all the surprises and upsets for which we could have asked.
Our experts have spent months preparing for this exact moment. We’ve broken down the tape, watched the top players and have all the intel necessary to help guide you through your bracket on teams from the No. 1 seeds all the way down to the No. 16 seeds.
Below, our team has filled out their expert brackets, so think of this as a cheat sheet to aid you in winning your pool. Copy all you want, we won’t judge. We’re here to serve you, and our knowledge is your knowledge. Just know if we’re right and make the correct picks, we’re absolutely responsible and want credit, and if not, we want zero blame. Them is the rules.
OK, on to the brackets.
Yes, once again, I’m picking Gonzaga to win the national title. Yes, I know, I’ve done this multiple times before — and it’s never worked out. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or dumb to go with the Zags again this season. The fact that they haven’t done it yet doesn’t mean they can’t do it. It just means they haven’t done it yet — but I sincerely believe that’ll change early next month. Gonzaga is elite offensively, elite defensively and loaded with top-end talent. This is the year the Zags get it done.
Where will we see chaos this year? It’s inevitable, you know. A beautiful bracket of 68 teams with near-infinite possibilities. And here I am putting Murray State and Vermont into the second weekend. Call me a romantic. But those two teams have won a combined 58-7 and have won 41 of their past 42 games. I’ll ride the hot hand, and yes, that means Murray State gets to play and beat Kentucky in the second round, a la Loyola Chicago doing the same thing to Illinois a year ago. (Both mid-majors obviously can never get in-state big brother to schedule them.) As for my Final Four: Kansas has the easiest path by far. That’s a default pick. I’ve maintained the entire season that teams as low as the 4-line are good enough to make it to New Orleans.
I’ll stick with that and go with Big Ten co-champs of the regular season Illinois, which is one of the best 4-seeds in recent memory. On the left side of the bracket, a Gonzaga-Duke regional final in San Francisco would be phenomenal. Gonzaga rates as the best team in the sport, so I’ll go with the 1-2 of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren to get it done, then I’m sticking with my preseason national title pick, Purdue, to come out of what I expect will be a noisy and entertaining East region. Gonzaga’s my pick to win the national championship because the 7-1 Holmgren paired with Timme is the best 1-2 in college hoops. Kansas to the title game is more of a value play, plus KU has a top-five guy in Ochai Agbaji.
Mark Few finally gets it done and makes history. There have been great Gonzaga teams — even some better than this one. But this is finally the year. GU has the offensive and defensive ceiling to get there, and it’s experience, length and improved athleticism wind up being enough. Bulldogs script a terrific college sports redemption story after falling one game short a year ago.
I’m not going out on a limb by picking the No. 1 overall seed to win it all, but after Gonzaga’s loss to Baylor in the title game last season — especially how it lost — it does feel like the Bulldogs are losing some believers. Absolutely should not be the case. This team is just as capable of winning it all as last year’s team that went 31-1 and finished as the national runner-up. Its guard play isn’t the strength it was a year ago, but its frontcourt play is even better, led by footwork king Drew Timme and 7-foot teammate Chet Holmgren, the frontrunner to go No. 1 in this year’s draft.
For a team as dominant as Arizona has been this season, the Wildcats have flown somewhat under the radar due to the fact that they play in the Pac-12, which reverted to mediocrity in 2021. Make no mistake, though. Arizona is an elite college basketball team with all the ingredients of a national title winner. With an excellent duo of rim protectors in Christian Koloko and Oumar Ballo, the Wildcats check the defense box. Offense is where they thrive, however. First-year coach Tommy Lloyd has seamlessly implemented the Gonzaga philosophy, and he’s got a deep rotation of quality guards and wings capable of carrying it out, led by a potential lottery pick in Bennedict Mathurin.
This is not one of the most talented teams that Bill Self has had at Kansas, but it’s supremely confident and rounding into form with full health and high-level basketball heading into the NCAA Tournament. I love their versatility in terms how many different players can get buckets while still having a true alpha in Ochai Agbaji. Picking the Jayhawks to the Final Four was easier than pulling the trigger on the title, as I think Arizona and Kentucky are both worthy contenders to win it all. Elsewhere in the bracket I’ve got a couple 1-seed upsets with Baylor bowing out early to a high-variance UNC squad and Gonzaga falling in the Sweet 16 to a UConn team that might be the most dangerous team outside the top-4 seed lines in the field.
The time has come for Gonzaga to finally finish the job.For the second consecutive season, the Bulldogs are the overall No. 1 seed. They are built differently this time. While Drew Timme remains, electric guard Jalen Suggs has been replaced by C Chet Holmgren, a rim protector who changes how the Zags defend. He can also score from anywhere on the floor. It will not be an easy path. Winning six games in this tournament never is. But I think the Zags will at long last get their shining moment.
Mark Few faces off against his protégé Tommy Lloyd, a result nobody saw coming from the Wildcats before the season started. But Gonzaga is a team on a mission after nearly running the table a year ago and falling short at the final step. In a fun up-and-down game, the Bulldogs have the better point guard, best NBA talent and best college basketball player. This Gonzaga team isn’t last year’s squad, and is a bit more flawed, but it’s certainly good enough to finish the job.
The pressure is the Big Ten. Nine teams — 64%of the league and 13% of the bracket – populate the NCAA Tournament. With that many teams comes big-time pressure to make a dent. The Big Ten didn’t last year despite having nine teams in as well. That despite the entire tournament being played one of the conference’s capitals, Indianapolis. Ohio State was knocked off by Oral Roberts. Purdue lost to North Texas. Illinois got beat by Loyola-Chicago. Here we go again with six of the nine Big Ten squads higher seeded in their first games. I like Purdue and Iowa to get to New Orleans. The Boilers and Hawkeyes would be making their first Final Four appearance since 1980. Iowa has been a resilient scoring force all season and his under-seeded at a No. 5. Purdue has been in the top 10 all season with a typically big front line and all-Big Ten guard Jaden Ivey. That helps the Big Ten look at itself in the mirror. It doesn’t prevent Arizona from winning it all, on the 25th anniversary of Lute Olson’s championship squad in 1997.
Following a loss to rival North Carolina on coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game and failing to win the ACC Tournament, the Blue Devils have just one opportunity remaining to send Coach K into retirement with a flourish. That opportunity lies in this erratic bunching providing the Hall of Fame coach with his sixth national title, and it appears the NCAA Tournament committee paved a favorable road for this possibility. The Blue Devils have a relatively modest road to the Final Four except for top-seeded Gonzaga, which it already defeated 84-81 in November. If the Blue Devils find themselves in the Final Four, look for them to finish the job and leave Coach K’s detractors seething.