Winning your bracket pool isn’t about being the smartest or understanding the math of college basketball the best: It’s about figuring out the contenders from the pretenders amongst the teams most people aren’t watching all season.
Your humble author gets paid to watch Big West games at 2 a.m. ET, but for about 99,999 of 100,000 bracket creators, that isn’t really a possibility. So caveat emptor of course, but here’s my pick out of the 10’s and higher to actually get it done
Which double-digit seed is most likely to reach Final Four?
With apologies to Iona (can’t shoot three-pointers well enough four times in a row), Penn State (a No. 10 playing like a No. 6 right now, but inconsistent defensively), and Charleston (who drew a matchup nightmare in San Diego State in the opening round, otherwise we loved them), the move here is one of only two teams to go from the First Four in Dayton to the Final Four in history: The VCU Rams.
Virginia Commonwealth has won nine in a row in the good-not-great A-10, but eight of them have been by double digits. They rank 17th in adjusted defense via KenPom nationally, and they caught a terrific bracket break in opening with Saint Mary’s, who has been exposed as pretty fraudy when you press them. From there it’s the winner of UConn-Iona, and you can’t find a more inconsistent team than the Huskies. And while Iona is dangerous, they’re still a No. 13 for a reason.
After that they’d catch Kansas, who I think is actually the team to beat in the tournament. But if Kevin McCullar doesn’t come back, VCU can really get after the Jayhawks inside and give them fits. And that assumes KU gets past an Arkansas team that happens their matchup nightmare.
March Madness is always a crap shoot with extremely high variance, so the best you can do is find a team that’s a bit underseeded with a decent path forward. And that’s this VCU Rams squad. If anyone can do it, it’s a team with a mid-major star in Ace Baldwin (12.7 ppg, 5.9 apg) and a rotation eight-deep that gets double-digit minutes.
And if you’re looking for where to pick your surprises, start in the West Region. Because that’s where the widest range of outcomes is possible.