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  • Ian Livingston Brooking

Second chance at madness: How to not have your bracket busted twice

The first two rounds of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are complete and we sure have seen some surprising results. Duke barely surviving against UCF, a team that didn’t even advance in their conference tournament; Virginia almost losing to a 16-seed, again; and Purdue powering past the reigning champions in Villanova.

From tight finishes, upsets and flashy players, we sure have seen a lot. And I guarantee that your trash cans have been filling up with your busted brackets.

While there were some surprises in the first two rounds, three of the four regionals look pretty normal. However, that does not mean that the madness is over yet. So, here are some tips on how to avoid getting your bracket busted again.

EAST REGIONAL – Duke v. Virginia Tech/LSU v. Michigan State

Alright, let’s be like everyone else in the college basketball world and address him. Zion Williamson. Yes, he’s good. Some might say great, which means that a lot of people are picking Duke to ease their way to a national title.

However, Duke only beat North Dakota State, a team that had to muscle their way to a win in the First Four, by 23 and then followed that up with barely scraping past Central Florida. If you look at a team like Kentucky, who is also in the Sweet 16, they beat Abilene Christian by 35 while the other two seeds defeated their 15-seeds by a combined score of 37. And then Kentucky follows up that performance by holding the best three-point shooter in the country to zero three-point shots made (despite 12 attempts).

And Kentucky did this WITHOUT their best player in PJ Washington.

Duke has shown signs that they are beatable and they will go up against a team that beat them earlier this year in Virginia Tech. Can Tech do it again? I think they can and that’s why I have the Hokies advancing to the Elite Eight.

On the other side of the East Regional, there is LSU and Michigan State. While we won’t even touch the scandal that is hanging over LSU, the Tigers have proven that they are able to block out the noise and keep fighting. However, they are coming up against a Michigan State team that is wanting to finally win a national championship for the first time since 2000.

Tom Izzo has his team right where he wants them and I think the playing style of Cassius Winston will be enough to overcome a talented LSU team. Michigan State is at a point where they have yet to be given the respect they deserve after beating Michigan, another two-seed, three times this past season, including the Big 10 Tournament Championship game.

Michigan State will be the team to come out of the East Regional.

WEST REGIONAL – Gonzage v. Florida State/ Texas Tech v. Michigan

Gonzaga has yet to meet their match in this year’s tournament. We saw what happened to them when a team that wanted it more came for them. They lost. In a conference championship game. In my opinion, Gonzaga and Michigan State should have been flipped. But I guess that is why I am not o the selection committee.

Florida State will have their hands full when they go up against the Zags but they should be able to take care of business,

As for the other side, Texas Tech is currently on a roll and I do not see them having a problem with Michigan. Texas Tech will dominate the Wolverines easily and they will also take care of business against Florida State. Surprising to say after Texas Tech did get knocked out early in the Big 12 Tournament earlier this year. However, they have come together and put together two great performances and they are easily my Final Four pick.

SOUTH REGIONAL – Virginia v. Oregon/ Purdue v. Tennessee

This is the only regional that looks unnatural compared to the rest. While Virginia had another scare against a 16-seed, the Cavaliers managed to make it to the Sweet 16. However, there are going up against a 12-seeded Oregon squad that is playing with a ‘never-say-die’ attitude. If Oregon had lost in the Pac-12 Championship game, they would be in the NIT. Instead, they won and are now playing for a spot in the Elite Eight, which they will get because we can’t trust Virginia with low seeded teams.

On the other side, I have Purdue advancing. Not because I am from Kentucky and don’t like Tennessee (okay, that may be part of the reason) but Tennessee was pushed well beyond their limits this past weekend against Iowa. The Vols were up by 21 at the half and yet, they only won by six and had to win in overtime.

Purdue is also playing for someone that made a huge impact on not only the Boilermaker community, but the whole world. Tyler Trent was a former student who died on Jan. 1, 2019 of a rare form of bone cancer. Before he passed away, his story was told to the world on a day that Purdue fans would never forget. On Oct. 20, 2018, the Purdue football team stunned the college football world by blowing out #2 Ohio State 49-20. The team dedicated their win to Tyler.

And while Oregon has had an incredible postseason run, it will come to an end to Purdue.

MIDWEST REGIONAL – UNC v. Auburn/ Kentucky v. Houston

Auburn has had a great run this postseason and their 5-seed was too low considering this a team that blew out Tennessee in the SEC Championship game. However, North Carolina is full of talented seniors that have been to two national championship games in the last four years so the experience is there for this Tar Heel team.

And that is why the Tar Heels will advance to the Elite Eight and will face off against Kentucky in a rematch of the 2017 Elite Eight which saw North Carolina win the game with 0.3 seconds left. However, this time, it will be the other shade of blue that advances to the Final Four as PJ Washington is back and if people thought Kentucky could hold their own without him, just wait.

FINAL FOUR – Michigan State v. Texas Tech / Purdue v. Kentucky

Michigan State will be pushed beyond their limits with Texas Tech but will be able to hold on thanks to the coaching experience that Tom Izzo has in these types of moments. Kentucky, fresh off having PJ Washington back should cruise to their 13th national championship game as graduate transfer Reid Travis plays lights out in his hometown of Minneapolis (the host city of the 2019 Final Four).

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – Michigan State v. Kentucky

The 2019 National Championship game will feature two teams that no one was talking about come the start of March Madness. Now, one of them will be cutting down the nets. And that team will be the Kentucky Wildcats. Reid Travis came to Kentucky as a transfer for one reason, to win a national championship. And what a way to do it in your hometown.

So, there. That is my advice on how to go about picking your “second chance bracket”. Do I have all the answers? Of course not. Otherwise, I would have won that $1 million prize from Warren Buffett years ago and wouldn’t have over $60,000 in student debt.

Love my picks. Hate my picks. That is your choice. Just try to have fun with your bracket before it gets busted and you are out 20 bucks.

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