The first time I participated in March Madness, I was 11, and it was my best bracket ever but I didn’t submit it anywhere. Since then, I have been atrocious at March Madness.
My pick for the University of Houston to make the national championship game is evidence of that. They’ll probably get knocked out by Michigan or UNC, or even San Diego State. But March Madness is all about going with your gut, even if your gut is unhinged from reality.
Click on a matchup to read how I came to each decision.
1-Virginia (31-2) 16-UMBC (24-10)
Virginia beat UNC by 7 points in the ACC
Championship and have lost two games all year. They good.
8-Creighton (21-11) 9-Kansas State (22-11)
My nostalgia for college Michael Beasley (and Jacob Pullen)
outweighs my nostalgia for college Doug McDermott.
5-Kentucky (24-10) 12-Davidson (21-11)
I like Davidson as a school and I think the ghost of
Steph Curry will carry the Wildcats through a first round upset.
4-Arizona (27-7) 13-Buffalo (26-8)
My lack of faith in upstate New York teams outweighs
my disdain of Sean Miller and his recruiting scandal.
DeAndre Ayton is also a matchup nightmare.
6-Miami(FL) (22-9) 11-Loyola-Chi (28-5)
I like Miami. I got a sweatshirt at a thrift shop in
Berkeley of the Canes, so I pick them.
3-Tennessee (25-8) 14-Wright State (25-9)
Tennessee won the SEC Championship but I have little
faith in them because I don’t like their color scheme and
their men’s team is not historically good.
7-Nevada (27-7) 10-Texas (19-14)
My Colin Kaepernick nostalgia outweighs my Vince Young nostalgia.
2-Cincinnati (30-4) 15-Georgia State (24-10)
Cincinnati always plays tough basketball. I think
they’ve got a chance of being a dark horse if they don’t get upset here.
1-Xavier (28-5) 16-Texas So. (16-19)
I don’t like Xavier. I think it’s a bad name for a school,
but Texas Southern started off this season 0-12,
so I think Xavier will win this round.
8-Missouri (20-12) 9-Florida State (20-11)
Two great football schools, but Florida State’s Seminole
mascot is racist and for that reason, I think they lose.
5-Ohio State (24-8) 12-South Dakota St. (28-6)
I love Ohio State, but they always disappoint me.
I miss Aaron Craft. I hope they win this round,
but I wouldn’t be surprised if they get upset.
4-Gonzaga (30-7) 13-UNC Greensboro (27-7)
I could see an upset here, but I usually get it wrong
when I bet against Gonzaga. Plus, their mascot is a bulldog
and that’s something I can support.
6-Houston (26-7) 11-San Diego State (22-10)
I really really like this Houston team. They lost to
Cincinnati by one point in the AAC tournament
and I think that gives them a chip on their shoulder.
3-Michigan (28-7) 14-Montana (26-7)
I hate Michigan but they play some damn good basketball.
7-Texas A&M (20-12) 10-Providence (21-13)
Providence made the Big East final, so I’m going with them.
2- North Carolina (25-10) 15-Lipscomb (23-9)
I swear if a school with a name that sounds like
“lip balm” upsets UNC… well that would
be about right for March Madness.
1-Villanova (30-4) 16-Radford
Villanova is my pick to win it all. They’re really
balanced and I love Mikal Bridges’ game.
I just hope his stock doesn’t rise too much
because I need him on the Knicks.
8-Virginia Tech (21-11) 9-Alabama (19-15)
Collin Sexton will win this game for Alabama.
5-West Virginia (24-10) 12-Murray State (26-5)
West Virginia is a weird, firework-frenzied place and
I like the idea that Bill Murray is somehow secretly in charge of
Murray state. For that reason, I see Murray State upsetting West Virginia.
4-Wichita State (25-7) 13-Marshall (24-10)
I prefer Wichita State as a lower seed because
they’re always my upset pick. I’m sticking with
them here even though I could see a Marshall upset.
6-Florida (20-12) 11-St. Bonaventure (26-7)
St. Bonaventure has a lot of backcourt talent and
could upset most teams. I think they’ll take down Florida here.
3-Texas Tech (24-9) 14-Stephen F. Austin (28-6)
I’m picking Stephen F. Austin to go to the Elite Eight.
I like them as an upset team, and I like their color scheme.
7-Arkansas (23-11) 10-Butler (20-13)
The Gordon Hayward nostalgia is very very real.
2-Purdue (28-6) 15-CS Fullerton (20-11)
I’ve seen Purdue play a few times and I don’t think they’re that good. I wanted to pick Fullerton to win this game, but I think that’s really unlikely and Jeff Pearlman talked me out of it.
1-Kansas (27-7) 16-Penn (24-8)
Kansas always has a lot of talent. They often blow it. This is the one 16-1 upset I could see happening.
8-Seton Hall (21-11) 9-NC State (21-11)
My mom used to work at Seton Hall. Shout out to northern New Jersey.
5-Clemson (23-9) 12-New Mexico St. (28-5)
New Mexico is a weird, gorgeous state and I love that the Lobos match that culture.
4-Auburn (25-7) 13-Charleston (26-7)
I don’t know much about these teams, but I heard someone
say Auburn was vulnerable, and he seemed reliable. And my friend goes to Charleston.
6-TCU (21-11) 11-Syracuse (21-13)
Have you ever been to Syracuse, New York? Of course not, because it’s a terrible, freezing hellscape, and men’s basketball is one of the few things that gives them hope.
3-Michigan State (29-4) 14-Bucknell (25-9)
Miles Bridges is an absolute animal. I think he’ll carry Michigan State to the Final Four for a Bridges brothers matchup.
7-Rhode Island (25-7) 10-Oklahoma (18-13)
Trae Young will need to be the Steph Curry he wants to be, because his team is garbage.
2-Duke (26-7) 15-Iona (20-13)
Just win this game Duke, don’t get upset as a No. 2 seed again.
1-Virginia (31-2) 9-Kansas State (22-11)
I think Virginia is really good, but Kansas State is not as good.
12-Davidson (21-11) 4-Arizona (27-7)
DeAndre Ayton will overpower Davidson.
3-Tennessee (25-8) 6-Miami(FL) (22-9)
My weird like of Miami and indifference/dislike of
Tennessee’s color scheme makes me go for Miami here.
2-Cincinnati (30-4) 7-Nevada (27-7)
Cincinnati could challenge for the final four, this should be a good confidence-builder in theory.
1-Xavier (28-5) 8-Missouri (20-12)
I think Xavier loses in this round regardless of which team it plays. I don’t like Xavier.
5-Ohio State (24-8) 4-Gonzaga (30-7)
I want to pick Ohio State. I really do. But they’ve
let me down too many times, and they’ve shown weakness
late in the season this year, so that makes me lean towards Gonzaga.
6-Houston (26-7) 3-Michigan (28-7)
I’m picking Houston blindly over everyone. That includes Michigan.
10-Providence (21-13) 2- North Carolina (25-10)
I could see UNC blowing it against Providence, but they have
five players who average double-digit scoring. That’ll be too much for Providence.
1-Villanova (30-4) 9-Alabama (19-15)
I think Villanova is the best team in this tournament
and Alabama isn’t well-rounded enough for the upset. I hope.
12-Murray State (26-5) 4-Wichita State (25-7)
Murray State is carrying a 13-game win streak into
the tournament and they’ve got a dynamic backcourt.
There’s a good chance Landry Shamet comes up clutch for Wichita though.
11-St. Bonaventure (26-7) 14-Stephen F. Austin (28-6)
I think either one of these teams will win in the next round.
They’ve got that double-digit seed and recognizable name,
but I just like Stephen F. Austin here.
10-Butler (20-13) 2-Purdue (28-6)
Butler’s Bulldog mascot will personally score 30-40 points while Purdue chokes.
1-Kansas (27-7) 8-Seton Hall (21-11)
I have a great disdain for Kansas and I would love
nothing more than for Seton Hall to go swashbuckle their way
to the next round, but Kansas has a top backcourt and
solid big man in Udoka Azubuike, so I see them advancing.
12-New Mexico St. (28-5) 13-Charleston (26-7)
Lobos gonna take over the globe-os, am I right? I’ll let myself out.
11-Syracuse (21-13) 3-Michigan State (29-4)
Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. will make
Syracuse welcome the cold of northern New York. It will get ugly.
2-Duke (26-7) 10-Oklahoma (18-13)
Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. will win
and go on to name their future sons after themselves
- after having solid NBA careers.
1-Virginia (31-2) 4-Arizona (27-7)
Four seeds have a tough time making the elite eight,
but Virginia is without De’Andre Hunter, the SEC sixth man of the year,
and top defenses prove to become less valuable in the tournament
2-Cincinnati (30-4) 6-Miami(FL) (22-9)
Gary Clark is a beast. He leads Cincy in scoring and rebounds
and shoots over 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3.
He’ll lead Cincy over Miami.
8-Missouri (20-12) 4-Gonzaga (30-7)
Gonzaga’s five double-digit scorers demonstrate a balanced offense.
That should carry them to the Elite Eight with a fairly favorable matchup here.
6-Houston (26-7) 2- North Carolina (25-10)
The spirit of Phi Slamma Jamma will live on, despite UNC being the better team on paper.
And I want Houston to get to play the Final Four in Texas.
Houston and San Antonio are only a two-hour drive, so if Houston can get there,
the atmosphere could be in their favor (although Final Four games
have notoriously bad separation between fans and the court).
1-Villanova (30-4) 12-Murray State (26-5)
Villanova will crush Murray State’s Cinderella dreams here
10-Butler (20-13) 14-Stephen F. Austin (28-6)
Yes, I’m picking a 14-seed I don’t really know that well
because they have veterans, I recognize the team name and I like their color scheme.
1-Kansas (27-7) 12-New Mexico St. (28-5)
Kansas gets lucky with this matchup and advances into the Elite Eight.
3-Michigan State (29-4) 2-Duke (26-7)
This will be an incredible game to watch. It’ll probably come down to
a few bricked shots by Marvin Bagley III
doing his best Josh Smith impression, followed by a Miles Bridges game-winner.
Or that’s what I’m imagining at least.
4-Arizona (27-7) 2-Cincinnati (30-4)
I really don’t like Sean Miller and I’m shocked he’s still allowed to coach,
and as good as Arizona is, I think Cincinnati’s balance will send it to the the Final Four.
4-Gonzaga (30-7) 6-Houston (26-7)
Houston. All. Day. I fully expect Travi$ Scott and
his newborn Kylie Jenner “rager” child to steal a pass if need be for Houston.
1-Villanova (30-4) 14-Stephen F. Austin (28-6)
Both teams are going to be extremely confused that
they’re playing each other, but this is where Stephen F. Austin’s luck runs out.
1-Kansas (27-7) 3-Michigan State (29-4)
Finally, Kansas gets what’s coming. If Duke ends up here,
I see Duke going through to the Final Four also.
2-Cincinnati (30-4) 6-Houston (26-7)
Maybe I’m just anchoring for an AAC title rematch here,
in which Cincinnati beat Houston 56-55.
There’s a good chance both of these teams get knocked out before this,
but if Houston gets past UNC, I think they make it to the Final Four.
I may look very dumb with these picks, but I’m sticking with it.
I think Houston gets its revenge here
and makes it to the championship not far from home.
1-Villanova (30-4) 3-Michigan State (29-4)
Again, this is wishful thinking, but very plausible.
I need to see the Bridges brothers go at each other in this round,
with Mikal hitting a dagger, fall-away three to seal it over Miles.
They hug, both get drafted in the top-15
and go on to have much better careers than the Morris twins.
6-Houston (26-7) 1-Villanova (30-4)
Houston’s luck finally runs out. Mikal Bridges lifts the national championship trophy
and drops to the 6th or 7th pick in the NBA draft, wherever the Knicks fail to draft him.
Interactive graphic by Jackie Cohen