The Monday after Selection Sunday is a day to digest everything that happened.
It's a day to debate which team deserved a better seed. It's a day to argue which teams deserved to go dancing but didn't. It's a day for brackets to be printed — and most likely on the printer at work.
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Today is also a day to fill out a winning bracket. If you're looking to do so, it'll take gutsy picks and not doing what everyone else is doing (ahem, ESPN analysts).
Here are 10 predictions that can aid in the decisively bold moves department.
1. Florida will not win it all: The Gators are the clear-cut favorite to win the national championship. Billy Donovan's veteran-laden team has the moxie to do so, but this isn't as obvious as it was last year with a team like Louisville, especially when we consider why Florida garnered the No. 1 overall seed.
The Gators, who haven't lost since early December, dominated the SEC en route to regular-season and tournament titles. Yet if there was one thing evidenced in a one-point win against an athletic, finally putting-it-together Kentucky team, it was that this team can be vulnerable, particularly in late-game situations after coughing up a 16-point lead. "There is a level of luck that comes into a lot of these situations," coach Billy Donovan said after the game. That luck will eventually run out.
2. Syracuse will lose in the second round: Momentum is an area that isn't spotlighted enough as an ingredient for a jaw-dropping upset. Consider Syracuse on the wrong side of that. The Orange have been scrutinized since a perfect 25-0 record unraveled into a late-season stretch in which 'Cuse lost five of its final seven games. Jim Boeheim will be the first to tell you his team hasn't truly dominated opponents this season, evidenced in a bevy of close ACC victories to basement teams and a pair of head-scratching losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College.
That's where Western Michigan enters the mix. The Mid-American Conference tournament champs won't be the most hyped Cinderella sleeper. But there's enough weaponry to pull off the upset of the tournament. David Brown (19.4 ppg) and Shayne Whittington (16.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg) make for a potent inside-out presence that could counter 'Cuse's matchup 2-3 zone.
3. Kansas is an unsafe safe bet: "There are just too many question marks." That's been the common refrain for a team with the projected top two NBA lottery picks in June's draft. That's understandable. The Jayhawks, who lost to Iowa State in the Big 12 Conference Tournament, are certainly vulnerable. But what team in this bracket isn't?
No Joel Embiid means Andrew Wiggins has to step up offensively. That's actually a good thing. And though chemistry could be a concern, the fact that Embiid could return provides hope for a deep run. KU was one of several teams to slip into the national title conversation at points this season, and that had a lot to do with Embiid's dominant January play. The upside still remains for this team, despite all the skepticism. If Bill Self's group can transition into letting Wiggins play Batman and Embiid (if healthy) or Perry Ellis playing Robin, then why is Kansas such a bad pick? March Madness is about stars as much as it is about anything.
4. Wichita > Kentucky schools: The Shockers earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament but were placed in perhaps the most difficult region in the history of the NCAA tournament. The last part of that statement might be an exaggeration, but a majority of brackets will either have a surging and preseason No. 1 Kentucky team upsetting undefeated Wichita State in the round of 32 or Louisville beating the Shockers in the Sweet 16. There's no denying the Wildcats' potential and the fact that the Cardinals are playing the best brand of basketball in the country.
But remember the Final Four last year? That game where Wichita almost beat the heavily-favored Cardinals? Well, this Wichita State team is better. And this Louisville team is not as good. Wichita State got the most prove-yourself-to-us-because-you're-a-mid-major seeding it could have possibly gotten. Gregg Marshall won't even have to say anything to motivate his players now.
5. Virginia will reach the Final Four: Defense wins championships. Coach Tony Bennett's man-to-man defense is as good as any team in the country. Just ask Duke or Syracuse. The Cavaliers were rewarded with the NCAA tournament selection committee's final No. 1 seed. But don't let that be a reason to think this seasoned Virginia squad will be the first No. 1 to fall. Michigan State is a better team on paper if both teams meet in the Sweet 16. However, one thing Virginia does incredibly well is control the game's tempo. A boring, grinded-out pace won't make for great television, but it makes for a solid Final Four recipe.
6. Wisconsin will be the best finisher from the Big Ten: Bo Ryan has never piloted the Badgers to the Final Four. And Wisconsin was hot and cold in Big Ten Conference play, But one thing this team proved during non-conference play was that it can beat teams when shots aren't falling. Arizona will be the favorite in the West Region, and rightfully so, but there's enough pieces on this Wisconsin team, led by Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, to upend the Wildcats.
7. Villanova will reach the Elite Eight: Although momentum needs to be considered, matchups play a more pivotal role in a team making a run. Duke's path to the Final Four in 2010 is a good example. With that in mind, Villanova is a team that has ridiculously slipped under the radar due to the recency effect. Yes, the Wildcats lost to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament. And yes this team got blown out in two losses to Creighton. But we're talking about a team in contention for a No. 1 seed before that Seton Hall loss, and Jay Wright's group has a dribble-drive offense that should help it advance through the bracket.
8. North Dakota State will beat Oklahoma: Perhaps this shouldn't be considered that bold considering the 12-over-5-seed upset is most likely based on tournament history. But matchup-wise, this is a big one to keep an eye on. The Sooners rely heavily on outside shooting, which could be a gift or a curse, whereas their counterpart takes higher percentage shots. The Bison rank first in the country in field goal percentage, and one key ingredient for an upset is undoubtedly a potent offense, which North Dakota State has in Taylor Braun. Braun is a versatile 6-7 guard who could cause matchup problems for Oklahoma.
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9. Stephen F. Austin will beat VCU: This team has been chronicled as 2014's version of Florida Gulf Coast, and it seems as though the selection committee likes to punish former Cinderellas by giving them a dose of their own medicine every now and again. Both teams rely heavily on forcing turnovers, so it will make for an intriguing matchup between Shaka Smart's havoc-wreaking D and Stephen F. Austin's similar turnover-inducing D. Riding a 28-game winning streak and Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker, the Lumberjacks are dangerous. Very dangerous.
10. Saint Joseph's will beat UConn: Connecticut is playing the best it's played all season, and Shabazz Napier and Co. will be hungry to earn an NCAA tournament victory after being academically ineligible for the 2013 NCAAs. However, this Saint Joseph's team is red-hot and quite frankly, a terrible draw for the Huskies. The Hawks are coming off an Atlantic 10 Conference tournament title and have the skill set for the classic 10-over-7 upset in the second round behind do-everything guard Langston Galloway (17.5 ppg).