In the 25th Bracket Fiasco, I take chalk – and the Tar Heels

Darius Millier and Jonathan Davis: They'll lose again, I'm afraid. (AP photo)

Darius Millier and Anthony Davis: They'll lose another game, I'm afraid. (AP photo)

For our silver anniversary, I wanted to do something completely different. (Nattering nabobs might say, “Yeah? How about picking the right Final Four for a change?” I actually did that in 2004.) I thought about tabbing  an all-Kentucky Final Four, but the four Bluegrass entries were stuffed into two regionals, so that’s out.

This week I reviewed the previous 24 years of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco,  and I was surprised to note that I had outpicked the committee, if only just. I’d gone 41-for-96 over the past almost-quarter-century; of the teams actually seeded No. 1, only 39 made it. Buoyed by this knowledge, what does the world’s dumbest man do?

For the first time ever, he seconds the committee’s emotion. He picks the four No. 1 seeds.

Doesn’t it bother me that three of the four will enter the NCAA tournament on one-game losing streaks? On the contrary. Nothing concentrates the mind of a good team like losing. Narrow victories don’t do it. If anything, narrow victories confer a sense of invulnerability, and in college basketball no team is invulnerable. Not even Kentucky.

The Wildcats will, however, be back in New Orleans soon enough. They’ll go through Cat-lanta to get there, and they own the Georgia Dome. Some will see UConn as a threat to the Big Blue in Round 2. Please. The Huskies have lost 13 games. They’re not beating beat Kentucky in Louisville. Duke is the weakest of the No. 2 seeds — though the Devils should reach the Sweet 16 — and the only other team in the South Regional I really like is No. 5 Wichita State. About which …

We see again that the NCAA committee can be tin-eared. Wichita State is the best mid-major in the field, and against whom will the Shockers open? VCU, a mid-major that last year won five tournament games just to reach the Final Four. A simple request: Please don’t pair Cinderella against Sleeping Beauty.

More mellifluous is the 5-versus-12 game offered up in the East Regional: The Harvard of the South against the actual Harvard. Vanderbilt will be riding high off its first SEC tournament title since the event was restarted in 1979, but Tommy Amaker’s Crimson took down Florida State in November. There’s your Upset Special.

A month ago, I’d have picked Ohio State to win the NCAA championship. Today I’m saying the Buckeyes won’t make the Round of 16. I like West Virginia, coached by the former Ohio schoolboy Bob Huggins, to outslug Ohio State. After winning its first ACC tournament, Florida State has to fight the impulse to get giddy, but I see the Seminoles reaching the East final before losing to Syracuse.

The West Regional is Michigan State’s to lose. I see Virginia, which limped to the regular season’s finish, using its pedestrian tempo and Pack-Line Defense to upend Florida, which doesn’t defend, and second-seeded Missouri, which has to play fast, before falling to Murray State in the Sweet 16. The Racers are the greatest Ohio Valley Conference team since Western Kentucky crashed the 1971 Final Four, but they won’t have enough to deny the men of Izzo.

I almost broke a personal rule — which I have, I must confess, broken before — and picked Kansas to reach the Final Four. The Jayhawks are no worse than the fifth-best team in the land, and in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor they have two of the 20 best players. I just like North Carolina a bit more. (I assume John Henson’s wrist will have healed by the time the Tar Heels reach St. Louis.)

The Heels will beat Kansas to win the Midwest and beat Syracuse to advance to the title game against Kentucky. Everyone else is lining up to anoint the Wildcats — full disclosure: I’m a Kentucky grad — but Carolina can match the Wildcats in size and talent and will have a clear edge in depth. Kentucky plays much better defense, but the final eight minutes of the SEC championship against Vandy were reminiscent of a just-as-gifted Kentucky team’s 2010 NCAA loss to West Virginia.

Championship basketball comes down to making stops, yes, but the Heels can challenge Kentucky underneath and dare Doron Lamb to beat them from the perimeter. Florida State just beat Carolina by making jump shots, but FSU has more shooters than Kentucky. As good as these Wildcats are, I think they’re one shooter short. In a championship game for the ages, I like Carolina to be one point finer.

And there you have it. For the 25th consecutive year, I’ve left myself open to prognosticating ridicule.  (If you’d care to see my entire bracket, it’s here.)

I invite you to venture online and enter the Bracket Fiasco, the first prize of which is a $1,000 Kroger gift card. (You’ll also be entered in the national UPICKEM sweepstakes, the winner of which banks a cool million.)

I also invite you to check back Monday on AJC.com at 12:30 p.m. for a special live video chat regarding the Fiasco, my picks and the tournament in general. And no, I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for a quarter-century, either. But I’m glad we have.

By Mark Bradley

60 comments Add your comment

Steve

March 11th, 2012
8:23 pm

First? Like Tar Heels

Steve Painter

March 11th, 2012
8:23 pm

Steve

March 11th, 2012
8:25 pm

Take a back seat, Steve Painter.

JPizzle

March 11th, 2012
8:26 pm

4th! I win. hahahahahahahah

Mark Bradley

March 11th, 2012
8:28 pm

Kudos to Steve. To two Steves, actually.

Steve

March 11th, 2012
8:28 pm

Kudos JPizzle.

Steve Clusters

March 11th, 2012
8:50 pm

Paxton

March 11th, 2012
8:50 pm

How about some upsets Bradley? All number ones will not make the final 4. I do agree that Vandy is vulnerable and has a history of 1st round upsets.

ChopAttack

March 11th, 2012
8:51 pm

Wow…. I’m very surprised Bradley picked UNC. It’s tough picking the tourney because it’s all about match-ups.

I don’t think the committee did UK any favors with their bracket.

Big Crimson 75

March 11th, 2012
8:58 pm

This is Kentucky’s Tourney to Win!!
Mich St & UNC are the #1 seeds that don’t make to the Final 4.

UK over Syracuse in the Title Game.

cadilac

March 11th, 2012
9:13 pm

I really believe the loss today by the wildcats will motivate them to the title

cadilac

March 11th, 2012
9:14 pm

Enter your comments here

Mark Bradley

March 11th, 2012
9:14 pm

I think the loss today will help recalibrate Calipari and crew.

kral

March 11th, 2012
9:37 pm

the easiest coaching job…have the best players…still can be a good coach…still can get beat..today is proof positive…may win it all…well should..you don’t..well are you great..maybe..just re-load and try again next year calipari..and they will..

Paul in NH

March 11th, 2012
9:51 pm

I think there is some kind of rule for the NCAA’s where you have to match good mid-majors so that they can’t embarrass the big boys. Almost like the rule that says that Duke has to play in Greensboro in the first 2 rounds.

Bruce

March 11th, 2012
10:03 pm

John Richards

March 11th, 2012
10:11 pm

Picture caption #fail. Jonathan Davis? Thought the kid’s name was Anthony. *sigh*

Kirby

March 11th, 2012
10:13 pm

Im with John Richards. How do you consider yourself a sports writer and not even get the name right of the potential POY. You lost all credibility after that.

James

March 11th, 2012
10:16 pm

“Jonathan” Davis? Check that caption, MB.

Mark Bradley

March 11th, 2012
10:32 pm

Sorry. Anthony Davis. But for some reason I think of him as Jonathan.

Maybe because my memory of Anthony Davis was the six touchdowns he scored against the Irish.

Rabun Dawg

March 11th, 2012
10:44 pm

Vandy has a senior laden team, and if Jenkins and Taylor can keep scoring, and Ezzeli can stay out of foul trouble, the “Dores can be a force. The “Cats need to get Darius Miller involved along with the rest of the freshmen and UK can win it all. Watch the Gators crash and burn quickly when the 3’s don’t fall, and Bama’s defense will keep them going for a couple of rounds. And, what a shame, no major Georgia program in the mix

Mark, I think the key to the ‘Cats is keeping Miller involved in the game. If he can keep his head in the game and play to his potential, UK can win it all. However, the ‘Dores with Taylor and Jenkins scoring, and keeping Ezzeli from getting in foul trouble, Vandy can be hard to handle.Their freshman Johnson looks to be a star of the future. The Gators will not be a force if the threes don’t fall, and Bama with their defense can maybe win a couple. The toughest out in the tourney looks to be Izzo’s bunch. They really play tough, but it is not called March Madness for naught!

Rabun Dawg

March 11th, 2012
10:46 pm

Sorry for the double post as I thought I had lost the 1st one.

Buzz2011

March 11th, 2012
11:45 pm

If not North Carolina then Florida State will win it. The ACC is again the best basketball conference by far………………

Buzz2011

March 11th, 2012
11:48 pm

I thought Bradley would have picked the Dawgs as his number one seed..
Dawgs should never have danced last year for that matter, but Bradley
claims they are a dream team. Look for GT to make deep run into NCAA
dance next year!!! Deep run..

wes

March 12th, 2012
12:09 am

2004 was a fluke. A fluke I tells ya’!!!!

Whopper Dawg

March 12th, 2012
12:40 am

Mark,

I always appreciate you picking early so we know what not to do. Ha.

Note on Kentucky, I have been in Memphis the last ten years, and Coach Cal’s teams always lack discipline and fundamentals at the foul line especially, and I have heard him say many, many times he doesn’t care, we will just shoot more threes.

He will not cut down the nets.

Gordon

March 12th, 2012
12:53 am

What is it with everyone tryin’ to be first to post. No wonder ATL & their fans suck.

Remarkable

March 12th, 2012
1:16 am

Mark, I really liked you until you disclosed that you are a Kentucky grad. I spent a few years in Louisville and learned to love U of L because the Kentucky fans were just so obnoxious. I love how Ky gets to play in Kentucky in the first round. Almost home field advantage, wouldn’t you say. Looks like someone wants them to have an easy road to the Final Four.

Hairy Dawg

March 12th, 2012
2:22 am

I’ve been reading Bradley’s stuff since I was in elementary school (I’m 32) and have known of the whereabouts of his despicable matriculation for twenty-five years or more. Even so, I have to say that Mark knows his hoops and is about as fair a columnist as you’ll see when you read what he writes regarding his alma mater. I hope he’s wrong about UNC, but I hope he’s right about the ‘Cats losing.

I’ll be filling out my Fiasco bracket in due time. It will be nice to fail again.

JSS

March 12th, 2012
2:45 am

You can say “I told you so” on Lehigh coming out of the Patriot and St. Bony being hot! Take anybody from the Big 12 at your own risk (excluding Missouri)… Kansas is all Phog, somebody is going to tear them to shreds! What in the world is Texas doing in this Tournament?

Georgia Tide Fan

March 12th, 2012
2:52 am

Please, somebody beat the Kentucky Wild Cayuts. I hate yUcK!!!!!!

Anthony Davis

March 12th, 2012
5:45 am

BIG BLUE All The way, By The Way. Did The Pups Make the Mens Tourney? Or The Boys Tourney?

Holy Smoke

March 12th, 2012
5:46 am

Dwags and hashbrowns all the WAY!

Heath

March 12th, 2012
7:18 am

Harvard over Vandy? How can that be when Vandy is going to the final four?

Beast from the East

March 12th, 2012
7:19 am

Tried a different approach this year and went with the higher seed on every pick. I have MSU over Cuse in the final. Izzo’s the best tournament coach in the country.

Jeff

March 12th, 2012
8:06 am

I had a dream about the contest last night. lol I was at the mall talking over my picks and you MB walk up and discuss it with me and two other people. Haha. Crazy what’s on my mind right now.

bali

March 12th, 2012
8:25 am

kansas in the final four…hmmmm..how many times have i picked kansas to win and see my brackets explode…too many. just cannot pull the trigger on those guys…love the way they play and really respect the coach at kansas but……think they will be out of it by the sweet 16

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2012
9:02 am

I dream about the contest, too, Jeff.

I need help, is what I’m saying.

Rickster

March 12th, 2012
9:09 am

Dream? Or nightmare?

The $1 million would be nice… as would the hoodie… but I just want to score better than Mark! :-)

Rickster

March 12th, 2012
9:14 am

Dream, Mark? Or nightmare?

[...] is up and running. (You can enter it here.) I’ve made my picks. (You can find them here and read an overview here.) And if you return to this space at 12:30 p.m. today, you’ll be able to hear me talk about [...]

Bobcat

March 12th, 2012
9:37 am

I’ll take the Racers from Murray State to be the surprise underdog to win it all.

Gatorhater

March 12th, 2012
9:45 am

I’m suprised you picked against Calipari. This will be one of his last chances to win it all, because he’ll have the cats on probation soon enough. I can’t see all the #1s making it to the finals. There are too many good teams and questionable calls that change games.

Rickster

March 12th, 2012
9:53 am

That’s just weird. The first post didn’t show up…. so I tried the second one… which didn’t show up.

Now.. both of them do?

Rickster

March 12th, 2012
9:55 am

“Bill… Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” Ted “Theodore” Logan

bmk44

March 12th, 2012
10:04 am

Harvard v. Vanderbilt – Mellifluous indeed. Such fun for 25 years – who could believe? Thanks for putting on the bullseye once again. Cheers

adam

March 12th, 2012
10:17 am

Mark, I noticed that you picked Harvard to beat Vanderbilt in the opening round. Is this just sour grapes or do you really believe that the Commodores should be in this preantepenultimate position?

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2012
10:28 am

Check Vandy’s NCAA history, Adam

DawginLex

March 12th, 2012
10:33 am

Easy road to the Final Four for Kentucky?

Get to play the defending national champs in the round of 32?

Get to play 1 of the 2 teams that ebat you in the round of 16?

Want to talk easy? Take a look at Duke’s bracket. Switch UK and duke and then UK has an easy road. Playing in Louisville is nice but UNC is playing in Greensboro so give that easy road crap a rest.

North Carolina won’t beat UK in the final if they both get there.

adam

March 12th, 2012
10:35 am

Three’s a charm, Mark! The loss streak has to stop somewhere.