2017 Preliminary Bracket

Finally, it’s here. After much time and deliberation, and a series of missteps, the time has come to speak of many things all rolled up into one — the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket. What an unwieldy name for something that is quite unwieldy in theory and in reality.

I tried to explain the whole idea of The Bracket to my 11-year old tonight, a process that took a bit longer than I thought it would because I couldn’t assume that she knew anything.

“So there are going to be 68 teams playing in this tournament,” I told her.

“Then why are there 72 lines?” she asked, that scion of fast math.

I explained to her how the First Four works, and how the seeding system is supposed to line up.

“I don’t get why you have to pick which ones you think are going to win then,” she said to me, perplexed. “I mean, if this number 1 team is better than the number 8 team, why do they even play the game?”

“Because on any given day any team can beat any other team — theoretically,” I told her.

“So I could pick this New Orleans team to beat Villanova?” she asked.

I groaned inwardly, but she’s right. There’s a chance that any team could win any game, but I told her if she wants to pick the upsets it’s best to stay away from the 16-seeds. After I was done she got the picture, even though she still knew nothing about any of the teams except for the numbers by their names. So I explained each matchup as I went through selecting my preliminary bracket.

What is my preliminary bracket? Well, I do one every year directly after the selection show airs on Selection Sunday. As the commentators unveil the teams and seeding, I sit with pencil in hand working hard on initial impressions, sketching in my entire bracket within ten minutes of show’s end. It’s preliminary because odds are things will change between now and my final bracket, for several different reasons. But it gives me a good baseline for my first thoughts.

How do I create it? First, I pick my Final Four teams and work backwards, then I work forwards until it’s all filled in. My Final Four teams, initially, are Villanova, Louisville, UCLA, and Gonzaga.

Here is my preliminary bracket:

EAST (ROUND of 64)

(1)VILLANOVA vs. (16)New Orleans* — (1)VILLANOVA
(8)WISCONSIN vs. (9)Virginia Tech — (8)WISCONSIN
(5)Virginia vs. (12)UNC WILMINGTON — (12)UNC WILMINGTON
(4)FLORIDA vs. (13)E. Tennessee State — (4)FLORIDA
(6)SMU vs. (11)Providence* — (6)SMU
(3)BAYLOR vs. (14)New Mexico State — (3)BAYLOR
(7)S. Carolina vs. (10)MARQUETTE — (10)MARQUETTE
(2)DUKE vs. (15)Troy — (2)DUKE

MIDWEST (ROUND OF 64)

(1)KANSAS vs. (16)NC Central* — (1)KANSAS
(8)Miami vs. (9)MICHIGAN STATE — (9)MICHIGAN STATE
(5)IOWA STATE vs. (12)Nevada — (5)IOWA STATE
(4)PURDUE vs. (13)Vermont — (4)PURDUE
(6)Creighton vs. (11)RHODE ISLAND — (11) RHODE ISLAND
(3)OREGON vs. (14)Iona — (3)OREGON
(7)MICHIGAN vs. (10)Oklahoma State — (7)MICHIGAN
(2)LOUISVILLE vs. (15)Jacksonville State — (2)LOUISVILLE

SOUTH (ROUND of 64)

(1)NORTH CAROLINA vs. (16)Texas Southern — (1)NORTH CAROLINA
(8)Arkansas vs. (9)SETON HALL — (9)SETON HALL
(5)Minnesota vs. (12)MIDDLE TENNESSEE — (12)MIDDLE TENNESSEE
(4)BUTLER vs. (13)Winthrop — (4)BUTLER
(6)Cincinnati vs. (11)WAKE FOREST* — (11)WAKE FOREST
(3)UCLA vs. (14)Kent State — (3)UCLA
(7)Dayton vs. (10)WICHITA STATE — (10)WICHITA STATE
(2)KENTUCKY vs. (15)Northern Kentucky — (2)KENTUCKY

WEST (ROUND of 64)

(1)GONZAGA vs. (16)S. Dakota State — (1)GONZAGA
(8)NORTHWESTERN vs. (9)Vanderbilt — (8)NORTHWESTERN
(5)NOTRE DAME vs. (12)Princeton — (5)NOTRE DAME
(4)WEST VIRGINIA vs. (13)Bucknell — (4)WEST VIRGINIA
(6)MARYLAND vs. (11)Xavier — (6)MARYLAND
(3)Florida State vs. (14)FLORIDA GULF COAST — (14)FLORIDA GULF COAST
(7)Saint Mary’s vs. (10)VCU — (10)VCU
(2)ARIZONA vs. (15)N. Dakota — (2)ARIZONA

EAST (ROUND of 32)

(1)VILLANOVA vs. (8)Wisconsin — (1)VILLANOVA
(12)UNC WILMINGTON vs.(4)Florida — (12)UNC WILMINGTON
(6)SMU vs. (3)Baylor — (6)SMU
(10)Marquette vs. (2)DUKE — (2)DUKE

MIDWEST (ROUND of 32)

(1)KANSAS vs. (9)Michigan State — (1)KANSAS
(5)IOWA STATE vs. (4)Purdue — (5)IOWA STATE
(11)RHODE ISLAND vs. (3)Oregon — (11)RHODE ISLAND
(7)Michigan vs. (2)LOUISVILLE — (2)LOUISVILLE

SOUTH (ROUND of 32)

(1)N. CAROLINA vs. (9)Seton Hall — (1)N. CAROLINA
(12)Middle Tennessee vs. (4)BUTLER — (4)BUTLER
(11)Wake Forest* vs. (3)UCLA — (3)UCLA
(10)WICHITA STATE vs. (2)Kentucky — (10)WICHITA STATE

WEST (ROUND of 32)

(1)GONZAGA vs. (8)Northwestern — (1)GONZAGA
(5)Notre Dame vs. (4)WEST VIRGINIA — (4)WEST VIRGINIA
(6)MARYLAND vs. (14)Florida Gulf Coast — (6)MARYLAND
(10)VCU vs. (2)ARIZONA — (2)ARIZONA

EAST (SWEET 16)

(1)VILLANOVA vs. (12)UNC Wilmington — (1)VILLANOVA
(6)SMU vs. (2)DUKE — (2)DUKE

MIDWEST (SWEET 16)

(1)KANSAS vs. (5)Iowa State — (1)KANSAS
(11)Rhode Island vs. (2)LOUISVILLE — (2)LOUISVILLE

SOUTH (SWEET 16)

(1)N. CAROLINA vs. (4)Butler — (1)N. CAROLINA
(3)UCLA vs. (10)Wichita State — (3)UCLA

WEST (SWEET 16)

(1)GONZAGA vs. (4)West Virginia — (1)GONZAGA
(6)Maryland vs. (2)ARIZONA — (2)ARIZONA

EAST (ELITE 8)

(1)VILLANOVA vs. (2)Duke — (1)VILLANOVA

MIDWEST (ELITE 8)

(1)Kansas vs. (2)LOUISVILLE — (2)LOUISVILLE

SOUTH (ELITE 8)

(1)N. Carolina vs. (3)UCLA — (3)UCLA

WEST (ELITE 8)

(1)GONZAGA vs. (2)Arizona — (1)GONZAGA

FINAL FOUR

(1)VILLANOVA vs. (1)Gonzaga — (1)VILLANOVA
(2)LOUISVILLE vs. (3)UCLA — (2)LOUISVILLE

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

(1)VILLANOVA vs. (2)Louisville — (1)VILLANOVA

As you can see, my preliminary bracket has Villanova once again cutting down the nets when all is said and done, the first repeat champion in over a decade. It’s a risky move, but that’s one thing I know won’t change from the preliminary bracket to the final bracket. I felt all along that the Wildcats would win, so I won’t let last second changes affect that. Instead, most of the changes I will make between now and Thursday are results in the Rounds of 64 and 32.

On Wednesday night (after all play-in games are done) I will post my complete, final bracket.

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