UPDATE 1: A couple of changed picks; UPDATE 2: Some eerie resemblances my bracket and those of SI writers; UPDATE 4: Surveying the carnage: Thoughts after the first two roundsHere's the bracket that I made on the Monday after the seedings were announced.
UPDATE: Since Monday, I've been spending a lot of time reading up on the teams I don't know/care about — in SI.com and its Tourney Blog, statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy's blog, the NYT Bracket blog, and the ever-unfriendly ESPN.com which must hide a lot of its useful stuff behind its subscription service, Insider. In any case, the more you read about the first round match-ups, the more confusing it all gets. I've seen many of the teams play at some point during the season, but I'm totally in the dark on pretty much any team from the Pac 10 (even though I live in California, I just really can't even force myself to care about it) and almost all of the mid-majors. One bracket change came out of this — I can't believe I'm saying this, but Duke seems less likely to get upset by VCU. Duke has been criticized a lot for being soft, sloppy, and generally uninspired, and they're coming off a stinging loss in the ACC Tournament. How could they not be hungry? They've got a bunch of talented players, and it just seems really unlikely that they won't be able to pull off a win against a VCU team that has only played one team in the tournament (Old Dominion). While I've only changed one outcome, my reading did produce many doubts in my bracket, which I detail below. (It also caused me to create three more versions of my bracket to account for the different scenarios that the pundits highlighted — What if Oregon can't play defense? What if Oden explodes on the scene and dominates everyone? What if North Carolina is as good as they appear to be in 3‑minute stretches?)
UPDATE 2: Incidentally, SI writer Grant Wahl's bracket is almost exactly the same as mine. (Actually, same with Seth Davis). Same Final Four; same final game; same outcome. The only big differences are that he has Texas beating UNC (UPDATE 3: Now, so do I), and Creighton beating Memphis, whereas I have both UNC and Memphis getting knocked out in the next round. (I also have more first-round upsets than him … Oral Roberts over Washington State, etc).UPDATE 4 (in the week following the first two rounds): After two straight years in which my bracket burst into flames during the first weekend, I was just happy to emerge with 15 out of 16 teams still alive. Mostly, I got burned by my late changes — Texas beating UNC and Duke beating VCU — and by the fashionable upsets that I stubbornly decided to stick with — Georgia Tech over UNLV, Creighton over Nevada, and Oral Roberts over Washington State, each of which found their own agonizing way of driving a spear through my heart. Crxp.As usual, there were a couple of teams that I was totally, totally wrong about: (1) UNLV. Obviously, these guys can play. I discounted them because (a) who did they beat? and (b) the coach's son seemed to play an inordinately important role. Both seemed like big-time red flags. I ignored the fact that they were experienced, and that they were clearly pissed off by their #7 seed. Who would have thought that the team that rose to the occasion would be composed of hard-nosed guys led by journeyman coach Lon Kruger (UNLV), and not composed of McDonald's All-Americans and led by the sainted Coach K? Seemed unlikely before it happened, but oh how sweet it is in retrospect. (2) Texas. During the two Kansas games, they were dangerously weak at guard. Both games would likely have been blow-outs if Durant hadn't totally gone off in the first 15 minutes of each. Abrams is a terrible ball-handler who needs multiple screens to get his shot going, and Augustin is completely dominant one moment and out-of-control the next. USC forced these guys to play a bigger role by taking away Durant's dribble; good call, Tim Floyd. (Didn't really think I'd be saying those words anytime after 2002). On the other bench, Rick Barnes made no discernible adjustments. Again, not that surprising, in retrospect.The next round looks mostly boring to me, though I guess half the games could be exciting — UNC-USC, if USC is able to hang on while UNC goes on its periodic runs, A&M‑Memphis should display some good offensive firepower (unlike Pitt-UCLA, which almost certainly will be a grind-it-out snore-fest), and KU-SIU which could be exciting if KU has a hard time running its offense against the defense-minded Salukis. Let's hope that it's not exciting in this way.