I just couldn't pick against Kentucky. They are so good defensively and have answers on offense. I love that in crunch time, they know they can throw it into Karl-Anthony Towns. Other than the Cats, I thought Wichita State is the most balanced team in the region and I'm a big believer in strong guard play succeeding in March. The Buffalo over WV pick is all about Bobby Hurley. Butler over Texas is all about Rick Barnes.
Pretty chalky here. I really thought hard about both OSU and Baylor over Arizona, but the Cats play great D and really rebound. But I don't love either of those matchups (why I'm picking Arizona first in my knockout pool). I loved Ole Miss played against BYU and think they can cause problems. And if UNC gets hot, nobody can stop them but their defense.
NC State could really throw a wrench into this if they go off on offense. I love Seth Tuttle's game and think Northern Iowa could really wreak havoc with their balance. If they can get past Louisville, Villanova is going to have a fight to get to the Elite Eight. I don't think anyone knows what Virginia team we'll see. I think a healthy Virginia team is the best in the country - they can defend, shoot, beat you multiple ways, and don't make mistakes. The Oklahoma pick is more insurance than anything, just in case Justin Anderson can't quite play himself into shape.
I love the way Utah plays and they Utes have great basketball IQ. And I really struggled with ISU/SMU. I've seen ISU dig some pretty deep holes, but also how they've dug out. I think the Cyclones are the dark horse of the region - if they can make the second weekend. I would love to believe in Gonzaga, but I've been burned too many times. I think there are 8 teams that can win this thing on talent (in order): Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, Virginia, Villanova, Wisconsin, ISU, and Baylor (Notre Dame, Utah, Oklahoma after that, but they'll need more luck).
My first version of this post had both Cats in the Final - UK against Villanova. But I just felt uneasy because I haven't watched enough Big East play. So I switched my pick to Duke, hoping that the interior play of Okafor and Winslow can help the Blue Devils withstand an off shooting night and poor defense to get to the final. I also think Duke has the easiest path to the Final of any 1 seed. But Kentucky is so good and can best Duke inside. Duke will have to shoot lights out from 3 to get close. Kentucky by 8.