Survival Mode: Round of 32

This is where it really begins to get serious. If you’ve gone with a Cinderella team in the round of 64, why not keep them rolling here? A lot of college basketball is about momentum, so if a team has momentum, why not go further with them? I remember last year going with the Ducks, and the year before taking a flyer on the Flyers of Dayton. And both of them paid off, taking them (and me) into the Round of 32 and beyond. That’s where you can pick up points on the field.

Don’t get crazy, though. It’s all about calculated risk. Can you feasibly see Harvard beating Michigan State? Are you willing to go all in on K-State taking out Wichita State? If you are, then great, go with it, but the Round of 32 can be where the tournament is lost for you if you go for too much. Pick your upset specials, stick with them, and make your peace with it. For the most part I’m going with the higher seeds in the Round of 32, and not because they’re higher seeds, but because I think they will win those games. But keep your eyes peeled for a couple of risky moves. *Keep in mind this assumes these teams have made it this far.

THE SOUTH

1 Florida vs. 9 Pittsburgh – Florida is too well-balanced to lose this matchup, but it might be closer than you think. Pittsburgh was finally coming into its own at the end of the season, and they will be primed for this one. I think Florida wins one that comes down to the final five minutes.

4 UCLA vs. 5 VCU – Shaka Smart does prep a lot better than people give him credit for, and while he won’t be looking ahead to this one, he will have a plan in place in case they meet UCLA. I think that the seedings were right for these two teams, so I am assuming a close game. But I think VCU wins it at the line in the end.

3 Syracuse vs. 6 Ohio State – Syracuse is the epitome of inconsistent at this point, but more bad than good at the end of the season. If they sneak past W. Michigan it doesn’t get any easier from there. Ohio State has been consistent, and that might be all it takes to send Syracuse home early from the big dance. I think Aaron Craft and company get it done in upset form.

2 Kansas vs. 7 New Mexico – The Lobos are for real, and Kansas will be without Joel Embiid, so the upset is a possibility. Except that Kansas was built for this tournament, even without Embiid, and Wiggins is on fire right now. Kansas has a good defense that will be the difference maker in this one, sending the Lobos home.

THE WEST

1 Arizona vs. 9 Oklahoma State – Arizona can be stifling on defense, and I see them getting after it here, against a team that might be able to hang with them on offense. But the defense will dominate this game, and Arizona will come away with a big margin of victory, marking its ticket for the Sweet 16.

4 San Diego State vs. 12 ND State – While ND State will be coming off a huge upset, San Diego State will just be warming up, and I don’t think ND State has the staying power to be the Cinderella I mentioned earlier. I think San Diego State wins this one going away.

3 Creighton vs. 6 Baylor – I think Creighton is the best team in this section of the bracket on most given nights, and a lot of that hinges on the best player in the league, who also happens to be on the team. And I think he will carry this team past Baylor and into the Sweet Sixteen.

2 Wisconsin vs. 7 Oregon – Wisconsin is probably the second most underrated #2 seed (behind Villanova), and for good reason. They are like Syracuse in that they peaked too early, and they haven’t looked great recently. I think Oregon takes chances in the open court and it will serve them well here. They also score a lot of points, and I don’t see Wisconsin hanging with them. They make an early exit.

THE EAST

1 Virginia vs. 8 Memphis – Virginia is commonly seen as the weakest #1 seed, but I see them rolling into the Sweet 16 with a statement win over a Memphis team that will be exhausted after a huge battle against George Washington in the Round of 64. This will be one of the most lopsided games in this round.

4 Michigan State vs. 5 Cincinnati – Michigan State is the trendy pick to go to the Final Four from the East, but I’m not convinced they have the firepower or the defense to do that. Cincinnati will be a tough challenge, and if they can get past Cincinnati then perhaps they really are Final Four bound. It will come down to the final shot in this one, and I think Michigan State squeaks by.

3 Iowa State vs. 11 Providence – Providence doesn’t fit the glass slipper past the upset in the Round of 64, not against an Iowa State team that has been dominant of late. The game will be close until the second half when Iowa State puts it in gear and sends Providence to a slightly delayed off-season. Go ahead and punch that ticket for the Sweet 16.

2 Villanova vs. 7 UConn – As I mentioned earlier, for some reason Nova is underrated as a #2 seed, but they really only have one bad loss on the season. Sadly, it was their most recent game against Seton Hall. But they rebound here and show that their seeding is deserved, gearing up for a long run in the tournament.

THE MIDWEST

1 Wichita State vs. 9 Kansas State – Kentucky is gone, and Kansas State has survived, but what will they get for a reward? Having to face arguably one of the best teams in the country, and the #1 seed in the Midwest, the Shockers. Wichita State is up for proving that the undefeated season was no fluke, and they keep it going here, taking out K-State systematically. No shock here.

4 Louisville vs. 12 NC State – NC State looked good in winning their First Four game against Xavier, and coming off a win against a punchless St. Louis should keep them fired up, but in order to make the Cinderella claim they need to beat a Louisville team that is playing as good as anyone right now. It won’t happen. Rick Pitino coaches the Cardinals to another Sweet 16.

3 Duke vs. 11 Iowa/Tennessee – I think Iowa will be waiting here for Duke, but I also think the Blue Devils have an answer for anything they could throw at them. It will get tougher in the next round, but for now Duke keeps rolling along toward yet another March Madness showdown.

2 Michigan vs. 10 Arizona State – The Wolverines have something to prove here because they are supposed to be the second-best team in the Midwest but they are getting no love after the beatdown by rival Michigan State in their conference tournament. I think they come ready for this one and move into the Sweet 16 and that intriguing showdown with Duke.

The Fantasy Ace

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