In a previous posting, I compared March Madness to Valentine’s Day. Some will seal the deal, and others will blow it entirely, if Valentine’s Day was lasted 10 days and was spread out over the course of three weeks. The glory or the heartbreak can occur at anytime during the tournament.


    But the best days of the tourney, and arguably the best day for sports fans in America, are the opening Thursday and Friday, each featuring 16 games crammed into twelve hours. CBS sports usually does a good job keeping fans updated on what’s going on for every game, and will cut to the closest game in the final minutes.


    The tournament captures the imagination of America with unexpected upsets that can send a small school into euphoria and a big school into utter despair, breakout performances by a several basketball players who will come to dominate the pro game in the coming years, and an array of last second shots that could live on in highlight reels for decades.


    And almost everyone in the country, even those who haven’t watched a college basketball game all year, fill out their tournament bracket with their friends or coworkers. And it’s often the ones who don’t watch any games, know nothing about college basketball, or who pick their winners based on the team mascot or if their friend went to the school that can walk away with all the winnings. That’s what we love the most about college basketball. We can all have the chance to look like an expert and take our friends money at the same time.


    In full disclosure, I have never won an NCAA Basketball pool. Once, back in 2001 when I was a junior in high school, I correctly predicted the Final Four, which that year was Duke, Maryland, Michigan State, and Arizona. I even had Duke winning it all, but I had the Spartans over the Wildcats, which cost me the pool. I have never been close since. And as I worked on my bracket this year, I discovered that many of the experts had the same Elite Eight, Final Four, or Championship outcome, which made me both more and less confident in my picks (that will make sense to everyone that’s ever filled out a bracket - you don’t want to just copy an ESPN or CBS analyst) at the same time. But as the games start in a matter of minutes, I am confident in these picks.


    One note before my picks: The NBA and even the NHL should take note of the next couple of days. Both of their playoffs have plenty of excitement, but nothing like the full day of action that the first two NCAA Tourney days have. The NBA and NHL should start their playoffs on the weekends, with all eight series starting on a Saturday or Sunday. Imagine this setup for the game one’s of the NBA Playoffs next month (standings as of 3/18):

Orlando vs. Miami, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Atlanta vs. Milwaukee 12:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Dallas vs. Phoenix, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

Boston vs. Charlotte, 3:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Denver vs. San Antonio, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Cleveland vs. Toronto, 6:30 p.m. ET, TNT

LA Lakers vs. Portland, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Utah vs. Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT

   

You could see the end of all eight games, and would have a backup game to watch if one was a blow out. I don’t know how this wouldn’t work. But anyway, here are my picks, one region at a time:

Midwest (St. Louis)

First Round

(1) Kansas over (16) Lehigh

(9) Northern Iowa over (8) UNLV

(5) Michigan State over (12) New Mexico State

(4) Maryland over (13) Houston

(11) San Diego State over (6) Tennessee

(3) Georgetown over (14) Ohio

(7) Oklahoma State over (10) Georgia Tech

(2) Ohio State over (15) USCB


Second Round

(1) Kansas over (9) Northern Iowa

(5) Michigan State over (4) Maryland

(3) Georgetown over (11) San Diego State

(2) Ohio State over (7) Oklahoma State


Sweet 16


(1) Kansas over (5) Michigan State

(2) Ohio State over (3) Georgetown

Elite Eight

(1) Kansas over (2) Ohio State



West (Salt Lake City)

First Round

(1) Syracuse over (16) Vermont

(8) Gonzaga over (9) Florida State

(12) UTEP over (5) Butler

(13) Murray State over (4) Vanderbilt

(6) Xavier over (11) Minnesota

(3) Pittsburgh over (14) Oakland

(7) BYU over (10) Florida

(2) Kansas State over (15) North Texas

Second Round

(1) Syracuse over (8) Gonzaga

(12) UTEP over (13) Murray State

(6) Xavier over (3) Pittsburgh

(2) Kansas State over (7) BYU

Sweet 16

(1) Syracuse over (12) UTEP

(2) Kansas State over (6) Xavier

Elite Eight

(1) Syracuse over (2) Kansas State

East (Syracuse)

First Round

(1) Kentucky over (16) East Tennessee State

(8) Texas over (9) Wake Forest

(5) Temple over (12) Cornell

(4) Wisconsin over (13) Wofford

(6) Marquette over (11) Washington

(3) New Mexico over (14) Montana

(10) Missouri over (7) Clemson

(2) West Virginia over (15) Morgan State

Second Round

(1) Kentucky over (8) Texas

(4) Wisconsin over (5) Temple

(3) New Mexico over (6) Marquette

(2) West Virginia over (10) Missouri

Sweet 16

(1) Kentucky over (4) Wisconsin

(2) West Virginia over (3) New Mexico

Elite Eight

(2) West Virginia over (1) Kentucky

South (Houston)

First Round

(1) Duke over (16) Arkansas Pine-Bluff

(9) Louisville over (8) California

(12) Utah State over (5) Texas A&M

(13) Siena over (4) Purdue

(6) Notre Dame over (11) Old Dominion

(3) Baylor over (14) Sam Houston State

(10) St. Mary’s over (7) Richmond

(2) Villanova over (15) Robert Morris

Second Round

(9) Louisville over (1) Duke

(12) Utah State over (13) Siena

(3) Baylor over (6) Notre Dame

(2) Villanova over (10) St. Mary’s

Sweet 16

(9) Louisville over (12) Utah State

(3) Baylor over (2) Villanova

Elite Eight

(3) Baylor over (9) Louisville


Final Four

(1) Kansas over (1) Syracuse

(2) West Virginia over (3) Baylor

 

Championship

(1) Kansas 76 over (2) West Virginia (72)