The top half of the Eastern bracket is easy. 1-seed Indiana is the big favorite to win with an overall bracket rating of 47 of 50 (see “Selection Sunday” stories below for each team’s rating), but they could get a tough challenge in their second game (NC State 31) and the next game (Syracuse 36). The strange thing is that those three teams plus UNLV look stronger going in than any of the eight teams in the bottom half of the bracket–so that’s where you choices can win your bracket.
In perhaps the most balanced bracket I have seen, every team ranks between a 16 (for 15-seed Pacific) and a 25 (Miami, Marquette and Colorado).
Thursday, Mar. 21
(San Jose, CA)- No. 5 UNLV vs. No. 12 California – this game is much closer than the seeds would indicate, but UNLV does have a slight edge.
(San Jose, CA)- No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Montana – forget the hiccup for a few games; Syracuse has the second best team in this bracket and has the best shot of anyone to beat Indiana if they meet, though they would still be big underdogs. Montana is not even at full strength.
(Lexington, KY)- No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Davidson – closer than you would think from the seeds, with a hot Davidson team against a Marquette team that relies on depth during the season.
(Lexington, KY)- No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell – UPSET ALERT – Mike Muscala and his teammates are just slightly better than Butler, and might give them a taste of their own “upset” medicine.
Friday, Mar. 22
(Dayton, OH)- No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 16 LIU Brooklyn/James Madison – obviously this is a blowout, but Indiana could get progressively stronger challenges from NC State and Syracuse if seeds play out. Those two have a better chance at the upset than Miami would.
(Dayton, OH)- No. 8 North Carolina State vs. No. 9 Temple
(Austin, TX)- No. 2 Miami vs. No. 15 Pacific – if you want to really roll the dice, Pacific is really good for a 15-seed and Miami is a pretty soft 2-seed, but there is definitely still a gap.
(Austin, TX)- No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 10 Colorado – UPSET ALERT. Colorado is just a better team, though not by a wide margin.