I'm picking Indiana, over Gonzaga, in the NCAA championship game.
I like Indiana and Gonzaga because of their statistical versatility, smarts and depth. With Indiana, that means coach Tom Crean (the maniacal brother-in law of Jim and John Harbaugh), big man Cody Zeller and a cast of others led by Victor Oladipo. With Gonzaga, that means coach Mark Few, big man Kelly Olynyk, depth on the post, and several very effective perimeter players.
Gonzaga will need to survive a virtual Big 10 tournament in the West Region, with a potential Sweet 16 game against tough Wisconsin and a possible regional final against 2 seed Ohio State.
But I think Gonzaga is set up to blow out the weaker seeds, which will allow them to save energy for the grinding games ahead to close out the regional.
* I'm not so high on No. 1 overall seed Louisville, sitting in the Midwest region, and this one is a little more complicated to explain.
First warning: coach Rick Pitino can never be underestimated. He has reached to the Final Four with much more questionable teams than this one (including last year), and this one has performed beautifully the last few weeks.
Second warning: Louisville's defensive pressure (ranked 3rd in defensive efficiency) will eat up anybody without a good point guard or two, and that's a lot of teams.
But... I think Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo can survive the Cardinals' defensive storm—barely—and
This is clearly the best region in the brackets. If Michigan State beats Duke and Louisville back-to-back, that will be one more laurel for Izzo, who has a lot of them.
Plus, Louisville comes out very poorly in the rebounding (66th) and FG% (100th) categories, which means they give up possessions and aren't very efficient with the possessions they have.
That's a team to avoid in the national-title predictions, I think.
* I'm not picking Kansas because I just don't do that any more, even if I think the Jayhawks—the South's top seed—are almost as talented as Indiana and just as well-coached.
I've got Kansas losing to VCU in the Sweet 16—and we've seen that game before: In the Southwest regional final two years ago, in fact, when VCU sped the Jayhawks up, spun them around, and won by 10.
* You want early-round upsets? I didn't pick as many this year as I usually do—nothing crazy on my sheet.
I've got 10 Colorado over 7 Illinois in the East (I think Colorado's Tad Boyle is a really good coach, I think Illinois is not so good defensively).
I've got 11 Minnesota over 6 UCLA in the South (the Bruins are too sloppy and too awful on the boards to ever count on).
I've got 11 Belmont over 6 Arizona in the West (if Belmont gets hot from 3-point distance, watch out).
I've got 10 Cincinnati over 7 Creighton in the Midwest (just a flier).
My Elite Eight is Louisville, Michigan State, Gonzaga, Ohio State, VCU, Florida, Indiana and Miami.
My national champion is Indiana. For the first time since I was in college, watching Bobby Knight go ballistic on the sidelines, and maybe I should call him up and reminisce about the new championship-level nut ready to win a title for the Hoosiers.
Or maybe not.