Fear not, friends: your pals at Anonymous Eagle are here to inject some half-baked, homespun "insight" into the proceedings, with our annual region-by-region tour, as we go Anonymously Through the Brackets.
For each region, we'll give you our patented Anonymous Eagle Half-Arsed Analysis with: a gutless pick to win the region; a sleeper regional champ; a CRUSH YOUR MAN upset special; a player we'd pay to watch; and something you're not going to want to see.
Without further ado:
GUTLESS WONDER PICK TO WIN
I'm going to be honest with y'all: I picked the East region to preview for the specific reason of picking against Virginia. I almost don't care what happens in this region, other than we need to get the #1 seed out of the tournament as fast as possible for the good of the tournament. Almost no one's going to watch the game between the Cavaliers and Coastal Carolina, so we're mostly safe there. But from that point out, the national audience for these games grow, and we can not allow the country at large to be subjected to the seventh slowest team in the country. Thus, I'm picking the Villanova Wildcats to come out of the East. They have just four losses on the season: At Syracuse, two firebombings at the hands of Creighton, and a Big East Tournament special against Seton Hall. But they have four guys who can legitimately lead the team in scoring on any given night, and that collection of guys are both inside & outside threats, so they can get to you in multiple ways. On top of all of that, there's only four teams that are top 20 in both Adjusted Offense and Adjusted Defense on KenPom.com, and of course, the Wildcats are one of them.
CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX BOLD PICK TO WIN
I've said it all season long: There are very few things more fun to do in college basketball than watch Shabazz Napier play when there's no threat of him playing your team. That makes the 7th seeded Connecticut Huskies the easy bold pick here. Here's what Shabazz did against Florida, KenPom.com's 5th best defense in the country and the #1 overall seed in the entire tournament.
EXACTLY. Plus, as the seven seed, Connecticut is playing in Buffalo and then in Madison Square Garden if they advance to the Sweet 16. The crowds in the F'N Center and MSG will be overloaded with rabid UConn fans that were deprived of an NCAA tournament last year, so the Huskies won't have to worry about playing against a hostile crowd.
Did I just make a pick against my Gutless Wonder pick? YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT I DID! That's how you know it's a BOLD PICK!
CRUSH YOUR MAN UPSET SPECIAL
This is a particularly fun bracket, because there are two Upset Specials that jump out at me. If you want to pick Harvard over Cincinnati, I'm not going to stop you. It's a pretty solid 5-12 upset pick, and you know you have to pick at least one of those in your bracket.
But my official pick is going to #11 Providence over #6 North Carolina. My logic (or what passes for logic here) is two-fold: Cheering for Bryce Cotton is ALMOST as fun as cheering for Shabazz Napier and North Carolina is a weird, weird, team. You know that Cotton's going to play the full 40 (or more!) minutes against the Tar Heels, so you're going to get a man sized effort from him and the rest of the Friars for that matter to keep their run going. Plus, if you're a fan of Marquette (or any other Big East school, really), it's a good plan to cheer for Providence in an effort to help boost the conference's bank account. As far as UNC goes: yes, they had that 12 game winning streak. But now they've lost two in a row, oh, and by the way, they found a way to lose AT HOME to Belmont earlier this year, plus there's that loss at UAB, too. It's a weird, weird team, and they're ripe for a first round bouncing.
PLAYER I'VE PAID TO WATCH
Well, I've already paid to watch Shabazz Napier play, and I've already raved about him long enough, so let's go in a different direction, albeit one I have paid to watch. Sean Kilpatrick might be one of the quietest best players in the country. The Cincinnati senior guard has been a dominant force for the Bearcats from the moment he stepped onto the floor his freshman year, but he's even better this season. He's shooting the ball better than ever, his assist rate is the highest it's ever been, his turnover rate has never been lower, he draws fouls like crazy and defends and grabs steals without fouling as well. In short, there's a reason why he's currently ranked #5 on the KenPom Player of the Year rankings. Yes, it's hard to watch the very slow paced Bearcats, but Kilpatrick's worth the price of admission.
HIDE YOUR EYES IF
Do you remember Marquette playing NC Central last season? The Eagles had the game tied at 60 with five and a half minutes to play before Marquette finally pulled away. This year, NCCU was the best team in the MEAC and they're in the field as a 14 seed facing off against #3 Iowa State. If NC Central can dodge the Cyclones, they have a possible second round match up with.... North Carolina.
If the Eagles manage to pull two upsets and land in the Sweet 16, it is going to be a CRAZY week in The Triangle, and you're gonna want to protect your face from flying shrapnel. Make sure you peek through your fingers to watch the Tar Heels fans losing their minds, though.