Posted: 8:32 pm Sunday, March 16th, 2014

In this Bracket Fiasco, I like Florida over Louisville 

By Mark Bradley

The 27th annual edition of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco begins with a sigh. Had Georgia State not wasted an 11-point lead over the final 5:10 of regulation Sunday, I’d be picking them to beat Creighton in the NCAA tournament. That’s assuming the Panthers would have been placed where Louisiana-Lafayette, to whom they fell in an excruciating overtime, landed in the bracket.

Oh, and about that bracket: It’s terrible. To use a phrase in vogue this time of year, it doesn’t pass the eye test. Of the 12 teams seeded Nos. 1-3, how many would be favored over No. 4 Louisville on a neutral floor? Four? Two? Anybody except Florida?

They'll be celebrating again soon, I say. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

They’ll be celebrating again soon, I say. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

It’s nice that Wichita State was rewarded with a No. 1 seed after going undefeated. But here’s the path the Shockers could face: A second-game matchup against Kentucky, which was the preseason No. 1 and which seemed to find itself in the SEC tournament; a third-round pairing with Louisville, the reigning NCAA champ, and an Elite Eight date with Michigan, the 2014 runner-up, or Duke, four times a national champ under Mike Krzyzewski. The Midwest is the most difficult regional by three miles.

The East, by way of contrast, looks peaked at the top. Virginia won both the ACC’s regular season and tournament, but it’s still a weak No. 1. It lost to Wisconsin, Green Bay and Tennessee (by 35 points!) in December. A year ago, a better Miami team that was likewise an across-the-board ACC champ was seeded No. 2 in the East. This year’s No. 2 in the East is Villanova, which lost twice to Creighton by an aggregate 51 points and was beaten in the Big East tournament by sub-.500 Seton Hall.

The two best teams in the East are the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds. Iowa State finally got past Kansas and won the Big 12 tournament, and that’s no small thing: The Big 12 was the nation’s best league. Michigan State finally got healthy and won the Big 10 tournament, and we learned long ago never to bet against Tom Izzo in March. But I’m going to do it this once. I’m picking the Cyclones of Fred (The Mayor) Hoiberg to reach the Final Four.

The West is so unimpressive that Arizona will win by default. Part of me wants to take San Diego State over the Wildcats in the Sweet 16, but the Aztecs were playing better at the regular season’s start than at its finish, and back in November they lost to Arizona 69-60. In the bottom half of the West bracket, I don’t like anybody — which is why I’m picking Oregon, the No. 7 seed, to beat No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 3 Creighton.

The South Regional will turn on one question: Will Kansas last long enough for Joel Embiid, the big man with a bad back, to get healthy? If so, the Jayhawks should reach the regional final, and they’re one of the two or three teams I’d give a real shot against Florida. But I’m thinking Kansas goes down, without Embiid, in the round of 32 against New Mexico, which is coached by the former Georgia Tech guard Craig Neal and which is woefully underseeded at No. 7.

That will clear the track to Arlington, Texas, for the Gators, who don’t need much help. They play the best defense of any team anywhere. Two things about Florida trouble me, though: Apart from point guard Scottie Wilbekin, they don’t have a guy who can go get them the basket they absolutely have to have, and for such a splendid team the Gators are wretched foul shooters. (Their free-throw percentage, a devilish .666, ranks 275th in the nation.)

Back to the Midwest. Wichita State could lose to Kentucky, but the Shockers have been working in harmony for two years, which trumps the three SEC tournament games in which the young Wildcats found similar bliss. But Louisville, which rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to oust Wichita State in the semis at the Georgia Dome last year, is another matter.

The Cardinals are largely a different team – forward Chane Behanan was dismissed from the team, and guard Kevin Ware of Rockdale County wound up redshirting after his famous broken leg – but they play harder than anyone else, and Rick Pitino is capable of driving this team to another national title, which would be his third. I like Duke over Michigan in the Sweet 16, but I like Louisville over everybody in the Midwest.

So that’s my Final Four: Florida against Iowa State, Arizona against Louisville. As much as I admire the Mayor and his men, I like the Gators more, and over the past 10 days I’ve come to believe the Cardinals are no worse than the second-best team in the land. The temptation is great to pick a Pitino double, but the team his former disciple – Billy Donovan was Providence’s point guard when Pitino made his first Final Four run in 1987– has cultivated is a team in the fullest sense.

Broken into pieces, the Gators are nothing extraordinary. Taken as a whole, they’re a beautiful assemblage. They’re a lot like Louisville was last season – smart, daring, relentless – and they’ll prove just a hair better than the Louisville of 2014.

But that’s just my opinion, and I’m almost always wrong. As I’ve done every March since 1988, I invite you to enter the Bracket Fiasco, and I note that this year’s winner will, in addition to the traditional Final Four sweatshirt, receive a Samsung Galaxy S4 smart phone and accessories valued at $950 from our sponsor Verizon. The NCAA committee might have turned out a bad bracket, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have yourself a fabulous Fiasco.

For picking-against purposes, my full bracket can be found here.

50 comments
TheOldGuy
TheOldGuy

Think the NCAA has lost a lot of its luster due to conference tie ins and automatic qualifier terms. The NIT looks better this year. Here are some of the teams that have played in the NCAA over the past 20 years:



2012-13 Liberty Flames – Final Record: 15-21; Strength of Schedule: 315


2007-08 Coppin State Eagles – Final Record: 16-21; Strength of Schedule: 285


1998-99 Florida A&M Rattlers – Final Record: 12-19; Strength of Schedule: 299


1994-95 Florida International Panthers – Final Record: 11-19; Strength of Schedule: 220


1995-96 Central Florida Golden Knights – Final Record: 11-19; Strength of Schedule: 201


1996-97 Fairfield Stags – Final Record: 11-19; Strength of Schedule: 172


1997-98 Prairie View A&M Panthers – Final Record: 13-17; Strength of Schedule: 236


1997-98 Prairie View A&M Panthers – Final Record: 13-17; Strength of Schedule: 236


2004-05 Oakland Grizzlies – Final Record: 13-19; Strength of Schedule: 142


1995-96 San Jose State Spartans – Final Record: 13-17; Strength of Schedule: 120


2001-02 Siena Saints – Final Record: 17-19; Strength of Schedule: 227


Obama_Joke
Obama_Joke

Of course you like Florida, Mark.  Your shameless pandering to the SEC is legendary in these parts.

TampGator1
TampGator1

Wow.....on those four arrests.  Did they really believe they could get away with that, or are they really that dumb.  Probably, both.  Will be interesting to see how Richt handles this one. 

TampGator1
TampGator1

350....


You really went out on a limb with that last....."book it".....didn't you.  Must admit, your odds are good with that one.  FYI.....I am picking Michigan State to win it all.   But I would not "book it."

Delusionaldog
Delusionaldog

I like the over/under:


FOUR


# of dog arrests last night

TampGator1
TampGator1

@FoSho.....


You have a house to bet? 


@350....


Typing errors happen......and you can "book" your house on that.   And that would be about the only thing you could "book" that you would not be wrong about.

JaySly
JaySly

fla--will be upset by pittsburgh---bet the house!

TampGator1
TampGator1

350.....


The only book your should be interested in is your 8th grade history book.  Study that and you might get something right once in a while. 

Delusionaldog
Delusionaldog

I like Vernont over the dogs at the Schmeg


Oh, that's the NIT. 

Dawg350
Dawg350

UGA football is still the king sport in the state and the south.you best believe that. Florida b- ball is boring! Braves baseball sucks! All basketball is boring!

TampGator1
TampGator1

And 350.....


1. Georgia did not win the SEC tourney.  You "booked" that.


2. Kentucky did not beat the crap out of Florida.  You "booked" that, too.


3. And the team that "should have lost to Kentucky".......is the overall #1 seed in the NCAA tourney.


4. Georgia is the #2 seed in the NIT.   But again, any dummy would know that. 

TampGator1
TampGator1

350....


The Kentucky player even stated "I slipped on the cut".....but you think what you want.  Wilbekin beating the screen and stepping out caused the Kentucky player to make a wider turn in an attempt to get off his shot....and he slipped.  And by the way, Wilbekin is a great defensive player.  But any "dummy" would know that.  

crackbaby
crackbaby

Not bad MB.  I take it you haven't watched UVA play much (hey, who has?).


UVA has great D.  Maybe better than UF and their offense is balanced.  They will have to get by Iowa State to make it to Arlington.  Methinks it's UVA all the way this year.

urbanCHICKENmeyer
urbanCHICKENmeyer

Methinks Oklahoma St knocks off 'Zona.  (Shout out to Izzo & Sparty, awfully impressive yesterday.)  

forexbomb
forexbomb

I am soooooo glad I picked Louisville... :)

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Good Luck to the Gators, they are finishing strong.

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

I find it hard to fault you or your logic, but I have my lucky U of L hat and my Louisville glass that is always half full ready for the tourney. Louisville over the Gators. 

electric1234
electric1234

Dawgs will bring home toilet bowl paper and that is all for the "Billy Bob's"

TampGator1
TampGator1

350.....


Yeah.....a Kentucky team that NEVER led in the SEC title game should have won the game over Florida.  Great logic from the person who "booked" Kentucky to win the game.  Enjoy watching the NIT.    

MoistDawg
MoistDawg

moist has some intresting predictions this season but i wont share them til after the games because all the bama and tech loosers here will steal the picks.  dawg350 aka buckeye you make me sick and i hope YOU feel like vomiting after we dismantel vermont

Dawg350
Dawg350

UGA has home court advantage in the nit baby! We gonna bring home that trophy!

Dawg350
Dawg350

UGA is the number 2 seed in the NIT! Go fox bring home the title! Dawgs doing work!

MarkBradley
MarkBradley moderator

I note that all five ESPN analysts picked Michigan State -- a No. 4 seed, mind you -- to win the NCAA title.

Dawg350
Dawg350

I will take...Louisville over Florida....hell Kentucky should of won today. Go dawgs.

Dawg350
Dawg350

Tampa

Gators won't win the NCAA title. Book it!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Tampa

"Your should be" wow.....heck you might not even be in 8th grade yet bud. Lmao! Go dawgs!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Bucky

Ohio state won't last either you delusional smock!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Tampa..

So I was wrong! So what life goes on brah, gators will get knocked out of the 2nd round....you best believe that....they would get knocked out of the 1st round but they are playing some cupcake like georgia state.

Dawg350
Dawg350

Whatever...he was pushed...that's why he slipped! Kentucky was the better team...just too much youth on that team did them in. Well anyways watch UGA beat the gators for the 4th year in a row! Book it!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Card

That's right...ride those coat tails bobby

Dawg350
Dawg350

Tampa

It came down to one shot dummy....Kentucky got fouled on that play.

Terry1961
Terry1961

I never though Kentucky would beat Florida, and was glad to see Kentucky lose, but Kentucky made it closer than it should have been, and the biggest reason was Florida missed a lot of goals at the end of the game, any way congrats, I will be pulling for Florida, unless, Wichita State some how makes it through that meat grinder, I love an under dog.

Dawg350
Dawg350

Moist

Are you even a real person??

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

@MoistDawg   It's the REAL crazy people who talk about themselves in the third person!

JeffersonDavisHogg
JeffersonDavisHogg

@MarkBradley Michigan State is always a player this time of year. Izzo seems to have them at their best come the dance. I do like your picks though but it seems like the tournament field is very equal this yr so who knows. I think UVA could make some noise as well. Something tells me that 2 teams come out of nowhere to play for the title this year.

Kbenn34
Kbenn34

Why should Kentucky have won? Because Florida stopped them?

wowev
wowev

@Dawg350  0-3 versus UF. Yep, Kentucky was the better team this year.

Dawg350
Dawg350

I will be pulling for Florida too go to hell! Lmao!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Electric 1234

Yeah I bet you would! I bet eat to! Lol

Dawg350
Dawg350

I want talking to you bud! Go eat a bag of dirt!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Wow I'm dumb

Yeah I thought Kentucky was better to! Thanks for agreeing.

Dawg350
Dawg350

Thanks Star Wars geek!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Road

Well I don't like nothing about tech fans...so there ya bud!

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Dawg350 That's what I like about dawg fans...soooooooo little intelligence matched with being rude!

Dawg350
Dawg350

Kbenn

Go finish playing with Ken and Barbie...and clean up your mom's basement.

Kbenn34
Kbenn34

I'm sure some where in that sentence was something intelligent......maybe....