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Nick's Picks: Prepare For An NCAA Championship That Will Be Vacated

* Breaking news: Syracuse center Fab Melo ruled ineligible for the tournament due to largely presumed academic issues.

* Three of the four number one seeds lost in their conference post-season tournaments: Syracuse, Kentucky and North Carolina. Michigan State gets a one-seed with seven losses, the most I can remember any one-seed.

* If you still haven't filled out your bracket and are completely clueless or stuck somewhere, check the Wall Street Journal's interactive Blindfold Brackets.

As always, the usual March Madness conventional wisdom applies:

* Location: Playing close to home is a factor and has the potential to influence the outcome of a game. You can view a bracket that has the locations for all 'pods' here.

* 12/5: Just about every year a 12-seed defeats a 5-seed. Last year Richmond defeated Virginia. By now most everyone is aware of this. 13-seeds over 4-seeds aren't that unusual either; it happens.

* Recent Performance: Last year I wrote about this and mentioned UConn winning five days in a row in the Big East tournament before the NCAA tournament. They played five days in a row because the better teams got the bye and were scheduled to play less. UConn won it all. They were not the best team but peaked at the right time.

When in doubt of a certain match-up, check the location, the trending of their last few games and, of course, any injuries or breaking news.


Iowa State (8) vs. UConn (9) looks to be one the better games in the opening round. Iowa Stat finished third in the Big 12, beating two of the tournaments No. 2 seeds in conference play (KU, MU) and you can never count out a Jim Calhoun coached team (UConn). This all likely is futile, though, as the winner will likely have to face Kentucky (1) the next round. For the uninitiated, a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed in the opening round and likely never will, barring any natural disasters.

VCU (12) is a different team this year and I don't see this being a 12-seed that beats a 5 this year as Wichita State (5). ESPN's Jay Bilas has Wichita State knocking off Indiana (4) in the second round, but I don't see it happening. Verdell Jones III for IU tore his ACL recently and likely won't be upsetting Kentucky, however.

A Duke (2) and Baylor (3) in an Elite Eight matchup would be a good game and is very possible; whomever ultimately advances to the Final Four is coming from the top half of the bracket. Nearly everyone's favorite is Kentucky.

Upset alert: New Mexico State (13) over Indiana. Indiana lost to Nebraska and Iowa and went just 11-7 in their league; now they have a key player injured.


This is probably the toughest region to pick. Don't be surprised to see the top four seeds in this region in the Sweet Sixteen. Louisville (4) vs Michigan State (1) and Missouri (2) vs Marquette (3). Missouri has probably the best chance in a decade to reach their first ever Final Four, assuming they can get past Bradley Beal (a St Louis native) and Florida in the second round, which would be one of the better games that round. A lot of national sportswriters have MU in the Final Four.

Upset alert: Missouri over Michigan State. Though I don't know if you could really call a No. 2 defeating a No. 1 a true upset.


Fab Melo for Syracuse (1) is ineligible and Kansas State (8) has a lot to be excited about. The Orange wasn't exactly deep in the post to begin with, and losing their starting center is going to kill them. It's quite possible they make it out of the second round, but not much further.

Vanderbilt (5) defeated Kentucky in the SEC tournament. They are a legit team and in my own bracket I've got them defeating Kansas State in the Sweet Sixteen. I like Florida State (3) over Cincinnati (6) in the second round (another exciting second round match-up) and over Ohio State (2) in the Sweet Sixteen.

Gonzaga (7) and West Virginia (10) is a coin toss as far as I'm concerned, and either will lose badly to Ohio State in the second round.

Most will disagree but in my bracket I've got Florida State over Vanderbilt getting into the Final Four; FSU just won the ACC tournament and Michael Snaer is as good as they come. I like their momentum.

Upset alert: As previously discussed, Kansas State over Syracuse.


North Carolina (1) has what appears to be a pretty easy road to the Elite Eight and perhaps beyond, with a potential Kansas (2) or Georgetown (3) match-up. I was at the Georgetown-DePaul game here in mid-January. Georgetown is a good team in a tough league but the game was never blown open, which I thoroughly expected it be after 10 minutes.

I like Michigan (4) or Temple (5) and Kansas (2) over Purdue (10) in the second round. One of the better Elite Eight games to watch would be KU and UNC - Roy Williams against the school he left, for the second time. It could go either way. I think most would choose UNC here; the lack of depth for KU would hurt but they have arguably the best big man and Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson and one of the premier guards in Tyshawn Taylor.

Don't bother spending too much time choosing Creighton (8) vs Alabama (9), as either will get destroyed by UNC in the second round.

Upset alert: Any mid-major team in the tournament over Kansas (VCU, UNI, Bradley, and Bucknell all say hello).

Final Four

Kentucky (1) over Michigan St (1): Anthony Davis and the rest of the one and done's for UK are too much to handle.

FSU (3) over UNC (1): FSU defeats UNC once again; the entire state of North Carolina collectively poops it's pants.

Kentucky over FSU: Coach Calipari finally wins it all and it's only a matter of time before the NCAA finds a reason to vacate it, making him the only coach to have had three different teams to the Final Four that got removed from the books.


Nick Shreders welcomes your comments.


1. From Sasha Shreders:

I really dig Nick's Picks. I hope he's wrong about the State of North Carolina.

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