As the hours tick down to enter Athlon's Bracket Breakdown game, we decided to give you a peek into the minds of players who've already set their brackets.
We crunched the numbers from thousands of entries to give you a look of how people are picking. Here are the results.
MOST COMMON FINAL FOUR CHOICES
1. Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State and North Carolina
2. Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio State and North Carolina
3. Kentucky, Michigan State, Syracuse and North Carolina
4. Kentucky, Missouri, Syracuse and North Carolina
5. Kentucky, Missouri, Florida State and North Carolina
MOST COMMON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH-UPS
1. Kentucky and North Carolina
2. Kentucky and Kansas
3. Kentucky and Syracuse
4. Kentucky and Ohio State
5. Michigan St. and North Carolina
MOST COMMON NATIONAL CHAMPION PICKS
2. North Carolina
3. Michigan State
MOST POPULAR UPSET PICKS
1. Wichita State over VCU
2. Long Beach State over New Mexico
3. Harvard over Vanderbilt
4. California over Temple
MOST COMMON LOW SEED TO WIN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PICKS
1. Texas (11 seed)
2. Colorado (11 seed)
3. Purdue (10 seed)
4. California (12 seed)
5. Ohio (13 seed)
South Dakota State star Nate Wolters is a player to watch
The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.
Which player are you most looking forward to watching on a national stage?
Mitch Light: Nate Wolters of South Dakota State is a scoring point guard who plays an exciting brand of basketball. The 6-4 junior from St. Cloud, Minn., is averaging 21.3 points per game but doesn’t do too much damage from 3-point range (one made three per game). He is a high-volume 2-point shooter who also gets to the foul line a bunch (7.1 shots per game). Earlier this season, he erupted for 34 points in the Jackrabbits’ 92–73 win at Washington. SDSU will need Wolters to be at his very best to have a chance of knocking off Baylor in the first round this Thursday in Albuquerque.
Mark Ross: Creighton's Doug McDermott has already received a lot of press this season as the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. That said, I am curious to see how he fares against Alabama in the Bluejays' opening game. McDermott is 6-7 and could be at a slight height disadvantage against the other Crimson Tide big men (depending on lineups). McDermott may need to alter his game somewhat to try and stretch Bama's defense and take advantage of his quickness, range and shot-making ability. If Creighton gets by Alabama then presumably a matchup with No. 1 seed North Carolina looms, which would pit McDermott against his former high school teammate, Harrison Barnes. North Carolina has seven players who are all athletic and 6-7 or taller which they can use to defend McDermott, including ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson. This should be a perfect opportunity for McDermott to show the nation, not to mention NBA scouts who are sure to be watching, what he can do on the big stage.
Nathan Rush: Now is the time for North Carolina's Harrison Barnes to show he can be a consistent leader, defender and late-game closer on basketball's biggest stage. The sophomore from Ames, Iowa, will be counted on to carry the Tar Heels to the Final Four in New Orleans, after falling one win short of the national semifinals last season. In the process, the 6'8", 215-pound small forward will answer several questions about his pro potential. Barnes has been compared to former Roy Williams product Paul Pierce and 2003 national champion Carmelo Anthony. With UNC's supporting cast, Barnes will be cutting down the nets on Monday night, April 2, if he has that type of All-Star killer instinct.
Patrick Snow: I think Doug McDermott of Creighton has a chance to have a Stephen Curry- or Jimmer Fredette-like effect on this year’s tournament. The 6-7 sophomore averaged 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this year, and he shot an amazingly efficient 61 percent from the field. McDermott dropped 36 points on Long Beach State in the BracketBusters game and had 33 in the Bluejays’ victory over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship. Creighton has a tough draw with a physical Alabama squad and then a potential North Carolina matchup in the next round, but McDermott is the type of dynamic scorer who fans will love to watch.
Braden Gall: From the little-guy-early-upset category, I will have to go with Long Beach State's Casper Ware and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters. I like both of these teams to pull the upset in the first round. But if you are asking me about the star player I can't wait to see push his team to New Orleans, none will be more fun to watch than Flip Pressey of Missouri. His vision and speed make him arguably the most difficult point guard in the nation to stop, and the Tigers looked poised to make a deep run — if they can get past their mirror image from Marquette in the Sweet 16.
Wichita State's Gregg Marshall will get a long look
Darrin Horn was fired as the head coach at South Carolina after four seasons. He went 10–6 in the SEC in Year 1 but is 13–35 since. Overall, he went 60–63 at South Carolina after a five-year run at Western Kentucky, his alma mater.
Here are some of the names South Carolina might target:
1992 Second Round
The game was tied on what appeared to be game's last possession when USC hit a short jumper to take the lead by two with just under three seconds left to play. Georgia Tech wasn't done yet, however, as Matt Geiger inbounded the baskeetball with 0.8 seconds left on the clock. Forrest was on the receiving end of the in-bounds pass and he knew what to do with it. Forrest immediately turned, fired and burried the game-winner from three-point land to give Tech the 79-78 win over the Trojans. It was Forrest's first made three-pointer of the season. "Holy Mackerel" has gone down in NCAA lore as one of the most memorable phrases in tourney history.
9. Richard Hamilton, UConn, 1998
2 of 11
1998 East Regional Semifinal “Rip” Hamilton did just that, stealing victory from the jaws of defeat in a panicked final possession by both sets of Huskies. With UConn trailing Washington, 74–73, Khalid El-Amin dribbled the clock down to 10 seconds before driving and dishing to Jake Voskuhl in the paint. The big fella’s shot danced around the rim before one shot — by Hamilton — and two tips ultimately landed in Hamilton’s hands (again) with less than two seconds to play. Falling to the ground, “Rip” put the ball in the air and ended the chaos with a game-winning shot as time expired. Jim Calhoun’s same core group took that never-say-die attitude to a national title the following season.
8. Will Bynum, Georgia Tech, 2004
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2004 Final Four
The Jackets on an improbable NCAA Championship game run due in large part to Will Bynum. Facing his former high school teammate Tony Allen and John Lucas, the son of former NBA great by the same name, Bynum was called upon to win the National semifinal against the two-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys. Bynum waits until the time is right, gets into the lane and softly lays-in the game-winner for Georgia Tech. The bucket sent the Jackets into the National Championship game against the heavily-favored UConn Huskies.
7. U.S. Reed, Arkansas, 1981
4 of 11
1981 Second Round The U of L’s Derek Smith corralled an errant Poncho Wright desperation heave — in a crowd of Hogs — to put back what in all likelihood should have been a game-winning fade-away in the lane with five seconds on the clock. But an Arkansas timeout later, U.S. Reed patiently dribbled up the court with no apparent concern for time or score, only to throw up a leaning floater from just beyond halfcourt as time expired — sinking the shot, ending the Cardinals’ premature celebration and giving the Razorbacks a seemingly impossible win.
6. Tate George, UConn, 1990
5 of 11
1990 East Regional Semifinal Trailing Clemson 70–69 with one second to go at the Meadowlands, UConn’s Scott Burrell — a first-round pick of MLB’s Seattle Mariners in 1989 and, ultimately, a first-round pick of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets in 1993 — threw a full-court pass that even Grant Hill can’t relate to. The right-handed pitcher threw a strike over Tigers 7-footer Elden Campbell, hitting Tate George — who caught the ball in traffic with his back to the basket, turned — to the bench and then baseline — and let it fly for one of the greatest game-winning shots in NCAA Tournament history.
5. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso, 1998
6 of 11
1998 First Round Coach Homer Drew’s No. 13 seed Valparaiso trailed 69–67 with 2.5 seconds remaining against No. 4 seed Ole Miss. Against all odds, Jamie Sykes threw an on-target three-quarter-court pass to Bill Jenkins, who jumped to catch the ball before turning in mid-air and dishing to Bryce Drew. The coach’s son and Crusaders’ superstar caught the pass with 1.9 seconds left, launched a leaning 3-pointer from three-and-a-half feet behind the arc and dove to the floor to celebrate a thrilling 70–69 upset win — and one of the greatest Cinderella shots in Big Dance history.
4. Keith Smart, Indiana, 1987
7 of 11
1987 National Championship Following Derrick Coleman’s short-armed missed free throw with 28 seconds to play, Bob Knight’s Hoosiers dribbled out the clock until Keith Smart made a jump pass to senior co-captain Daryl Thomas with 10 seconds remaining. With a fundamental give-and-go for the ages, Thomas took one bounce facing the basket, turned back to Smart and pitched an underhanded assist for the win. Smart’s baseline pull-up with five ticks left gave IU a 74–73 lead. A stunned Syracuse club — coached by Jim Boeheim and including Coleman, Rony Seikley and Sherman Douglas — failed to call time out until one second left. By then, the dye was cast red, not orange.
3. Tyus Edney, UCLA, 1995
8 of 11
1995 Second Round
With the No. 1 team in the country, UCLA, trailing 74–73 against No. 8 seed Missouri, diminutive 5'10" point guard Tyus Edney went coast-to-coast with 4.8 seconds to play for the game-winning layup — going off the glass and through the net as the buzzer sounded in Boise, Idaho. Following Edney’s do-or-die drive, the Bruins, led by M.O.P. Ed O’Bannon,went on to win UCLA’s 11th national championship — the first (and only) since John Wooden’s run of 10 national titles ended in 1975.
2. Christian Laettner, Duke, 1992
9 of 11
1992 East Regional Finals With 2.1 seconds on the clock, the son of a former Dallas Cowboy — sophomore Grant Hill (Calvin’s kid) — threw a touchdown pass roughly 80 feet to Christian Laettner. Kentucky coach Rick Pitino’s “Unforgettables,” along with Jamal Mashburn, went 5-on-4 rather than guarding Hill’s full court inbounds pass from the far baseline. The strategic move was a poor one, as Hill tossed a perfect pass to Laettner, who caught the ball cleanly, faked right, turned left and released a fade-away game-winner from the free-throw line with 0.3 left on the clock. The ball swished as time expired, stunning UK fans (and Duke’s Thomas Hill, whose memorable postgame expression summed up what we all felt). Thanks to Laettner’s late-game heroics, Coach K’s club advanced to the Final Four and went on to win its second straight national title.
1. Lorenzo Charles, NC State, 1983
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1983 National Championship Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler had no answer for coach Jim Valvano’s NC State underdogs, who hung around and hung around until it was all over for the Cougars and their two future Hall of Fame stars. With the game knotted at 52–52, the Wolfpack’s Dereck Whittenburg launched a desperation heave from between half court and the top of the key with four seconds to play. An airball has never looked so good, as Lorenzo Charles turned the miss into an alley-oop dunk and gave the “Cardiac Pack” a 54–52 national title win — handing NC State its sixth consecutive come-from-behind victory and causing Jimmy V to run wild at the Pit in Albuquerque.
Note: Kansas' Mario Chalmers' game-tying three-point basket at the end of the 2008 National Championship game against Memphis might have been the most important shot in NCAA Tournament history. However, it is not eligible as it did not technically win the game for the Jayhawks. It sent the game into overtime.
Athlon editors give their Sweet 16 picks and beyond
So you've been pulled into your office's NCAA Tournament bracket picks game and you have no clue which teams to choose. Athlon Sports is here to help. We put together these handy cheat sheets of bracket picks—starting with the Sweet 16 on down—from three of our college basketball experts. Each editor has their own bracket picks, so you can choose one or use the cumulative knowledge of each to create your own unique picks. Either way, it will likely save you the office humilation of picking Norfolk State to win it all.
We're pretty sure we knocked these picks out of the park.
I spend a lot more time watching baseball than I do college basketball, but it’s a law that everyone — sports fan or not — must fill out a bracket. And I must obey the law. So knowing what I know about baseball, here’s my bracket.
Which double-digit seeds are most likely to advance?
The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.
Name two double-digit seeds that you believe will win at least one game.
Mitch Light: I realize I’m not the only member of the Long Beach State bandwagon, but I really like this team to beat New Mexico in the 5 vs. 12 matchup in the West Region. The 49ers feature an elite guard in Casper Ware and a solid cast of role players. They don’t have great size, but senior forward T.J. Robinson is averaging a double-double and shooting over 50 percent from the floor. This team also won’t be spooked by the big stage; Long Beach has played at Pittsburgh, San Diego, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina and also played Xavier, Auburn and Kansas State on a neutral court.
I also like Ohio University in a 4 vs. 13 game against Michigan in the Midwest Region. Ohio defends the 3-point shot very well — opponents only shoot 30.3 percent — and Michigan relies heavily on the 3-point arc. Keep an eye on junior guard D.J. Cooper, who scored 23 points as a freshman two years ago when the Bobcats pounded Georgetown 97–83 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Mark Ross: Long Beach State (No. 12 in the West) will have its hands full with Drew Gordon and No. 5 New Mexico, but this is a veteran team that starts four seniors and one junior and won’t be intimidated by the higher-seeded Lobos. The 49ers’ non-conference schedule this season included eight teams — Creighton, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Montana, North Carolina, San Diego State and Xavier — that are in this year’s field of 68. And although Long Beach State went 1–7 in these games (beat then-No. 15 Xavier on a neutral court in December), the 49ers’ margin of defeat was a respectable 7.4 points. This is a team that has been working toward this point all season, and not only do I think they will upset New Mexico, I also sixth-seeded think they have good shot at beating Louisville, should the Cardinals take care of business against Davidson, and advancing to the Sweet 16.
Speaking of Xavier, the Musketeers (No. 10 in the South) have been inconsistent throughout the season, but played well in the A-10 Tournament before falling to St. Bonaventure in the championship game. Xavier gets No. 7 seed Notre Dame in the first round, and I think the Musketeers will be too much for the Fighting Irish to handle. Notre Dame was hit hard early by injuries and had a remarkable season going 13–5 in the Big East, but most of its big wins came at home. The Fighting Irish have struggled against athletic, guard-oriented teams that can defend, and Xavier seems to fit the bill here.
Nathan Rush: West Virginia (No. 10) and Belmont (No. 14) are the double-digit underdogs with the best chance of winning at least one game. The Mountaineers are playing Gonzaga (No. 7) in Pittsburgh, which is less than two hours away from their home in Morgantown. Along with a “homecourt” edge, WVU also has senior leaders in Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant as well as a Tournament-tested coach in Bob Huggins; “Huggy Bear” is 15–4 all-time in the first round of the Big Dance. The Bruins are a longshot against Georgetown (No. 3), but Rick Byrd’s team is well-coached, experienced and more athletic than most realize. Plus, the Hoyas are fresh off of back-to-back losses in the first round, making John Thompson III’s squad vulnerable for late-game “deja vu all over again” jitters against a smart Belmont team hungry to earn the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
Patrick Snow: I have been a fan of San Diego State all season, but the 6th-seeded Aztecs are ripe for an upset versus lower-seeded NC State. Steve Fisher’s bunch lost four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 club, but SDSU still won 26 games. Even though sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin has been on fire lately, I believe NC State will be able to pack it in on defense against the Aztecs, a team that only shot 34 percent from 3-point range (T-182nd in the nation) this season. For the Wolfpack, sophomore forward C.J. Leslie can be a force inside and played well down the stretch. Guard Lorenzo Brown is one of the more underrated players in the country, as he contributes in all areas of the game. That duo is part of five NC State players who average double-digit points, and Mark Gottfried’s team should share the ball well enough to beat San Diego State.
Saint Mary’s had a solid year in winning the West Coast Conference and breaking Gonzaga’s decade-plus stranglehold on WCC regular-season league titles. However, Purdue showed improvement late — winning five of its last seven regular-season games — and Robbie Hummel has been playing back to his 2009-10 form. The senior forward is a great story of perseverance after multiple ACL tears, and he forms a trio of top treymakers with Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd. The Gaels will be led by a formidable duo in Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova and burly Rob Jones inside, and Randy Bennett’s club should control the boards. But Purdue’s veteran group should be able to control the tempo, and I see Matt Painter’s Boilermakers pulling the upset over Saint Mary’s.
Braden Gall: I will go with St. Bonaventure (No. 14) and Long Beach State (No. 12). In an East Region loaded with hot teams — Vanderbilt won the SEC tourney, Florida State won the ACC tourney and Montana has won 14 straight — St. Bonaventure enters having won five straight and the Atlantic 10 tourney. The Bonnies are an excellent offensive team (38th in Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings) with stud big man Andrew Nicholson playing like a lottery pick. He has averaged 26 points and 10.6 rebounds per game over his last seven, and the Bonnies are 6–1 over that span. Something has to give against a team that plays stellar defense like Florida State, which also lacks a true point guard.
New Mexico also plays excellent defense, but Long Beach State can really score and certainly won’t be scared of the Mountain West champs. Dan Monson’s bunch has played Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina, Xavier, Kansas State, San Diego State, Pitt and Creighton in non-conference action. The 49ers lost to Kansas by eight, North Carolina by six, Creighton by two and the Aztecs by four in overtime. They have won 18 of their last 20 and are as prepared to make a Sweet 16 run as any mid-major squad in the tourney.