The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been set. For college football fans, this may be the only time some watch college basketball. That is largely the case for me, honestly. Sure, I’ll watch a few minutes here and there during the basketball season, but that mostly comes when I am working for College Football Talk and I am looking for some background noise. I have nothing against college basketball, I just do not watch it regularly until tournament time it seems.
Because I do not watch regularly, I admit to not knowing a whole lot about these teams, or at least the ones outside of the Philadelphia region. So because I lack the knowledge my colleagues and friends over at College Basketball Talk, Philly.com , City of Basketball Love and The Student Section possess, I decided to fill out a bracket based solely on which school I think would win on the college football field. Let’s see how this goes.
Villanova has a very favorable match-up in the first round as the top seed in the region. The Wildcats take on Lafayette for an in-state battle that will be played in Pittsburgh. Villanova should have an easy time on the court, and they likely would have a decided edge on the football field in the battle of FCS programs. Villanova’s run would come to a brief end in the second round though, as they would take on LSU, with the Tigers getting by North Carolina State in a Power Five match-up.
Moving down the bracket we would see Louisville have a cakewalk to the Sweet 16. The Cardinals of the ACC get a first round match-up against UC Irvine, a school without a football program. Louisville then would take on either Northern Iowa or Wyoming. Wyoming gets the nod here, but not without a fight from the FCS program. As the bracket plays out, I would have LSU taking on Louisville in the Sweet 16. While I may be pulling for the local teams in reality, LSU and Louisville in the Sweet 16 is not all that unfathomable. I’m going to give the nod to LSU to get to the regional final.
In the bottom half of the East Region, things could be pretty interesting. Virginia gets a bye against Belmont, which does not play football. Virginia gets the toughest draw in the bottom half of the region though, taking on the winner of the best first round match-up in the east; Michigan State vs. Georgia. This is a tough one, but on a neutral field I am going to give the Spartans a slight edge to move on. I then would pick Michigan State easily over Virginia to get to the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, we have a Fiesta Bowl classic rematch in the second round. That is because I have Boise State easily getting through the play-in game against Dayton of the FCS Pioneer Football League and a bye against Providence (no football). Boise State then gets another round with the Oklahoma Sooners, who easily put away Albany of the Colonial Athletic Association. With a spot in the Sweet 16 up for grabs, Boise State pulls an upset on Oklahoma once again, earning a chance to avenge a 2012 regular season loss at Michigan State. The magic runs out against Michigan State’s defense though, with the Spartans playing their way to the regional final against LSU.
In another Big Ten vs. SEC match-up in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, Michigan State finds a way to come out on top to advance to the Final Four, going 2-0 against the SEC and picking up another win against a power five conference foe. There is just something about Michigan State and the Final Four, right?
Number one seed Duke is going to have a relatively easy path to the Sweet 16, but that may be as far as the Blue Devils go. Duke gets a match-up against a one-win Robert Morris team that won the play-in game by default against North Florida (no football), and Duke then gets by San Diego State coming off a bye against St. John’s (no football). Meanwhile, Utah’s defense is too much for FCS Stephen F. Austin and Eastern Washington has no problem with Georgetown. Despite being one of the top FCS programs in the field, the Eagles are put aside by Utah in the second round, setting up a Utah vs. Duke match-up that goes to the Pac-12 program.
In the bottom half of the South bracket, the low-speed UCLA goes on a tear. The Bruins easily get by SMU in the first round. UCLA then takes on UAB, who scores the victory over Iowa State. Yes, UAB is still in my field, but their stay is not for long as the Bruins advance to the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, the top FCS program in the field, North Dakota State gets a bye against Gonzaga to set up a match-up with Iowa of the Big Ten. As they have done multiple times before, the Bison score the upset over a power five conference to advance to the Sweet 16, but UCLA avoids the upset to advance to the regional final against their Pac-12 South rivals from Utah.
The Pac-12 South regional final is a back-and-forth affair in Houston, but the Bruins squeak away with a victory to reach the Final Four.
Let’s move over to the other side of the bracket now.
Kentucky enters the tournament with the number one overall seed and without a loss, but how long can they last in this football tournament? They will have no problem advancing to the second round with a victory over play-in winner Hampton of the MEAC, but they have a slightly more difficult time in the second round against Cincinnati, which took out Purdue in the first round. In fact, Cincinnati brings Kentucky’s season to an end with a victory. Meanwhile, Maryland had no problem getting by Valparaiso, another FCS program from the Pioneer Football League, and then manage to edge West Virginia in the second round. West Virginia put away Buffalo in the first round. Cincinnati gives Maryland all it can handle in the Sweet 16 round, but Maryland marches on to carry the Big Ten banner in the midwest.
The bottom half of the bracket is all about Notre Dame. The Irish get a favorable match-up with Northeastern (no football since 2009). The Irish face Texas in the second round (just as they will in the actual football season opener this fall) in one of the sexier match-ups in the field after Texas man-handle Butler, another Pioneer Football League representative. Texas plays well defensively, but the Irish advance to the Sweet 16 as they pull away from the rebuilding Longhorns. The Irish are set up for an in-state battle against Indiana. The Hoosiers got a bye against Wichita State (no football) and then pulled away from Kansas, with the Jayhawks coming out of a pillow fight against New Mexico State. In the Battle of Indiana, Notre Dame comes out on top.
With Notre Dame and Maryland in the Midwest Regional Final, Notre Dame gets the edge and moves on to Indianapolis as regional champion in Cleveland. Will that supposed home field advantage come into play?
If this was a football tournament, the West Region would be lots of fun to watch, at least starting in the second round. Wisconsin gets an easy win in the first round against Coastal Carolina, but faces an incredibly stiff challenge in the second round. Wisconsin draws Oregon after the Ducks pull away from Oklahoma State in the first round. The Ducks, just as they did a few years ago in the Rose Bowl, end Wisconsin’s season with a loss to advance to the Sweet 16. While all of that is happening, Arkansas blows out Wofford and North Carolina is too much for Harvard in the first round, and the Razorbacks come out on top of an offensive firework explosion against the Tar Heels. Oregon moves on after another game of offensive fireworks.
The bottom half of the bracket has a very familiar face wrecking havoc. Ohio State is given a first round bye against VCU (no football) to set up a match-up against former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, now with Arizona. Arizona was too much for Texas Southern in the first round. In the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 battle, Ohio State powers its way to the Sweet 16. Elsewhere, BYU and Ole Miss played the most entertaining play-in game in the field, with Ole Miss coming out on top to set up an easy win against Xavier (no football). Baylor put sup 60 points against Georgia State in the first round and moves on to challenge the SEC’s Ole Miss. Baylor’s offense struggles against the Ole Miss defense, but manages to score just enough to move on to take on Ohio State, the team that stole their spot in the College Football Playoff. Revenge? Oh yeah, but the Buckeyes settle the score once and for all and set Baylor down in convincing fashion.
The Buckeyes move on to take on Oregon in Cleveland. Just as they did in the College Football Playoff, Ohio State proves to have little problem with Oregon once they get going and takes advantage of playing close to home, which sends the Buckeyes to Indianapolis to take on the Irish.
Michigan State, UCLA, Notre Dame and Ohio State makes for a fantastic Final Four. But who would come out on top? Indianapolis is a familiar place for the Spartans and Buckeyes, but the Fighting Irish could have a bit of a home field advantage. UCLA travels the farthest and may have a tough time against Michigan State. If choosing between Michigan State and UCLA on a neutral field in Big Ten territory, I have to go with sending Michigan State to the championship game. UCLA puts up a respectable fight, but the Spartans are too well-rounded to be upended in this one.
In the other semifinal we have a match-up of historic powers Ohio State and Notre Dame, but this one is all Ohio State just as it was in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State is too big, too strong and too quick for the Irish and they set-up an all-Big Ten championship game against their Big Ten East division rivals from East Lansing. And it is another defensive struggle between the Buckeyes and Spartans. For now, Ohio State continues to own the edge with a deeper roster and more talent on offense to get by Michigan State.
So congratulations to Ohio State, the No. 10 seed in the West Regional. If these were football games, this tournament is all yours to lose.
Related: Picking the NIT using football logic