It’s almost that time, we are all counting the days until the Madness begins. With ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi updating his “Bracketology” almost every day, The Dance is clearly almost upon us. So I figured I’d breakdown his latest bracket (3/5) section by section to give you a little preview of how I view the contenders. Agree or disagree, I hope you enjoy reading.

MIDWEST
The Midwest is a section of the bracket that could get very interesting. I’m not high on the two seed (Louisville), the four seed (Virginia), the five seed (Purdue) and the six seed (St. Mary’s). All of these teams lack consistency and that gets exposed in March. Louisville and Virginia don’t have a go to scorer, that is consistent. Purdue doesn’t get contribution from their guards and St. Mary’s doesn’t play anyone. Therefore, I think all of these teams have a good chance of getting upset in the first round (maybe despite Louisville), and if they make it past the first round, I don’t see them making it very deep into the tournament. But, we could have an epic match up in the Elite 8 between the number 1 overall seed, Kansas, and the 3 seed, UCLA.

Upset: 13 Akron over 4 Virginia (Round of 64)
Akron played Gonzaga and Creighton (before they fell apart) so they know what top tier competition feels like. These conference champions always come out with confidence and fire, and with Virginia’s lack of offense, I think the Hoos could be sent home early.

Midwest Champion: 3 UCLA
I think the Bruins’ talent and speed prevails in their win over Kansas. The Jayhawks are a very disciplined team with great leadership, but they have been sped up before. The game against West Virginia (1/24) showed the nation how to beat Kansas. And what West Virginia and UCLA both do, is play fast.

WEST
This section of the bracket confuses me. The committee hates Gonzaga, because Gonzaga has made them look stupid on many occasions. But, they give them the weakest 3 seed in Butler and a very weak 5 seed in SMU. And although Duke has a lot of talent, they haven’t been very dominant and they are the 4 seed. So, if Gonzaga is as good as their record shows, they should cruise to the Elite 8, where they finally meet a test in the Oregon Ducks. But, they aren’t as good as their record and we know that.

Upset: 4 Duke over 1 Gonzaga (Sweet 16)
Many don’t consider it an “upset” but with the seeds, there’s nothing else to call it. The Bulldogs haven’t been tested by talent of Duke’s caliber, therefore they will be flustered. And with that, they will rely on Nigel Williams-Goss too much, and don’t get me wrong Williams-Goss is a great player. But, Frank Jackson is playing at the top of his game right row, and I believe he is going to hold Williams-Goss in check en route to having a breakout NCAA tournament. But, if that upset doesn’t work for you, look out for 14 Bucknell over 3 Butler or the Classic 5-12 upset with 12 USC over 5 SMU.

West Champion: 2 Oregon
As much as I love my Dukies, the Ducks’ resilience and their ability to consistently play both sides of the ball will outlast the Blue Devils in this one. The Ducks have very good role players that are very reliable and consistent, which is huge in the tournament. Duke is going to experience a little deja vu, with their season ending once again, at the hands of Dana Altman’s Ducks.

EAST
This is a very intriguing section of the bracket to me. You have a Northwestern team who is going to be dancing for the first time in school history, so you know they are going to bring the fire. And if the Wildcats win, they get to play the other Wildcats, the defending national champions. And as much as Villanova brought back, they also lost a lot, so to me that could be a very intriguing game. Then, you have a team in Baylor that has struggled sometimes as the two seed, and if the higher seeds prevail, the Bears would meet a very talented Florida State team in the sweet 16. But, the Seminoles have to get past Wisconsin, and as much as they have struggled, we know how good they are come tournament time. I think the winner of that matchup will meet Villanova in the Elite 8. This bracket has the chance to go a million different ways, and we all love the sound of that.

Upset: 12 UNC Wilmington over 5 Norte Dame (Round of 64) or 7 Maryland over 2 Baylor (Round of 32)
UNC Wilmington has a pretty good resume, I’m not high on Norte Dame at all, and it’s 5-12, so why not. But the other matchup, my Maryland friends are going to love me for this one. I think Baylor is very beatable, especially for a 2 seed, and Maryland is very talented and they are only a 7 because of some bad home losses. Considering none of the tournament is on your home court, I’m going to throw the Terps a bone here, and put some confidence in them for once.

East Champion: 3 Florida State
Although the Wildcats brought back their “best player” they are not completely the same without Ryan Arcidiacono. I’ve been talking about Florida State being a Final Four team since the beginning of the season, when they were unranked. And I’m going to stick with that. First round picks Dwayne Bacon and Jonathon Issac will carry this team throughout March but they also have a good supporting cast led by point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

SOUTH
I actually said a prayer hoping that this section isn’t real. North Carolina, Kentucky, and Arizona all in the same quadrant, arguably the three most talented teams in the nation. This section is a blessing for viewers, but hell for people like me, who have to predict it, and get reamed when they are wrong. Honestly, I’m just going to go with my gut on this one, because I am truly lost in which of these teams will lose. Also, we can’t forget about Minnesota, who is playing their best basketball of the year by a long shot, coming in at a 6 seed.

Upset: 12 UT Arlington over 5 Cincinnati
In my opinion, Cincinnati is the most likely 5 seed to go down, they play an extremely mediocre schedule and aren’t that dominant while playing that mediocre schedule. The 12 seeds are usually some of the best mid major conference champions, and UT Arlington is going to bring it. This is an upset everyone should think about.

South Champion: 3 Arizona
This year is the year Sean Miller finally makes it to the third and final weekend of the college basketball season. I was extremely high on Arizona last year, and they made me look very stupid. But, this year is different. One of my favorite players since he was in high school, Alonzo Trier, is more than what he was. He used to just be a scorer, and he still has that, but now he is the leader of this team. And they have done very well following his lead for the time he’s been back.

This could all come back to bite me, much like my March Madness predictions last year (http://jakeinthepaint.com/post/141174101480/tournament-talkthings-to-think-about-before-you). But remember, this is the preview of the preview, so don’t take it too seriously. Unless I predict it correctly, in that case, take it seriously.

BRACKET BANTER- thoughts, analysis and tips for filling out your 2017 bracket
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