March Madness is all about filling out a bracket, but this year should be the one where all of you avoid making the mistakes that end up costing you pride amongst your friends.
This means knowing which teams to pick and which to avoid, the latter being ones that could mess up your entire system. Just one wrong pick can take you out of the running in your pool, and leave you just watching the rest of the tournament unfold while your team goes home early.
This year's crop of teams is full of ones that could easily come out from under the radar and enjoy a long run, but there are also some destined to exit early, no matter how much hype is surrounding them.
That said, let's take a look at squads that are sure to make the tournament this year but probably won't get any further than the first two or three rounds.
The Big East Conference is no joke and is incredibly deep this season. There is currently a three-way tie for first place, and the Pittsburgh Panthers are in a three-way tie for second.
The team's season has been decent, with head coach Jamie Dixon leading his men to a 23-7 overall record and an 11-6 mark in conference play. Signature wins over Georgetown on Jan. 8 and Syracuse on Feb. 2 are noteworthy, and the Panthers are at No. 20 in the latest AP poll.
Just how Pittsburgh is seeded remains to be seen, but I'll say this much. Having them reach the Sweet Sixteen would be a bold prediction on anyone's part.
The fact of the matter is that, though Pittsburgh ranks 10th in the nation in assists and 25th in field goal percentage, their offense is predictable and pretty weak. When push comes to shove, the ball is either going to be put in the hands of guard Tray Woodall or forward Lamar Patterson, who are only averaging a combined 21.5 points per contest.
If the team is matched against a squad that likes to play a fast-paced game or has one particularly strong scorer, then it's definitely going to be an uphill battle for the Panthers. Unless they earn a favorable draw, don't expect them to get past the Round of 32.
Here we have a team that, depending on tournament seeding, some people will likely be tempted to place in their Final Four. No. 11 Florida has been the sole solid team in a terrible SEC this season, going 24-5 overall and 14-3 in conference play.
But unless they go on a huge run and absolutely dominate their conference tournament, the Gators are going to be a candidate for an early exit in the Big Dance. Yes, Billy Donovan is an excellent coach, and he can definitely rally his troops for a long run, but that's just not going to happen this year.
Not only do the Gators not have any key signature wins, but the fact that they are three games ahead of second-place Missouri in the SEC is so telling as to how terrible the conference truly is this year. They could easily get as far as the Sweet Sixteen, but putting them past that round is definitely a stretch.
Sorry, folks, but Gonzaga is overrated despite being No. 1 in the polls right now. Even with a 29-2 overall record and 16-0 mark in conference play, this team is destined for an early exit.
This is because the Bulldogs play in the ridiculously easy West Coast Conference and don't really have much in the way of competition.
Don't get me wrong. That isn't to say that they won't dominate during the early stages of the tournament. Barring a massive collapse, Gonzaga should be able to plow through the first set of opponents the draw throws at them.
But that's in the early rounds, where top-ranked teams often blow the opposition away. Once the Sweet Sixteen rolls around and it's time to face a squad from a tougher conference, the Bulldogs' flaws are going to be exposed, and the team will exit the tourney with their tails between their legs.
It just goes to show that without key wins, an impressive record is meaningless.
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