loading...

Josh Nagel's official NCAA Tournament Bracket

Our Josh Nagel only sees one No. 1 seed reaching the Final Four in Houston. He explains the thought process behind his official bracket for SportsLine.
Hero Image

Other SportsLine brackets: Nick Kostos | Todd Fuhrman | Simulation

Who will cut down the nets a few weeks from now in Houston?

A wide open field with no shortage of contenders should lead to an exciting tournament.

Here's my official SportsLine NCAA Tournament bracket.

South Region

As the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas is theoretically supposed to have the "easiest" road to the Final Four.

But the selection committee did anything but hand the Jayhawks a first-class ticket to Houston.

They should have a relatively smooth ride to the Sweet 16, but the potential trouble starts there.

Kansas faces an extremely difficult matchup from either a tough California team or a talented Maryland club that can play with anyone in the country when living up to its potential.

The Jayhawks then have an undoubtedly brutal Elite Eight matchup against Villanova, Miami or Arizona, all of which are capable of knocking them out and moving on to the Final Four.

Even so, I think Kansas is still the class of this bracket and will survive a couple of close calls to advance to the Final Four.

West Region

I believe Oregon is the weakest of the No. 1 seeds but, fortunately for the Ducks, they have favorable matchups for the first couple of rounds.

They should reach the Sweet 16, where another reasonable matchup against likely Duke or Baylor awaits.

Still, this bracket isn't extremely top-heavy, which opens up the possibility for a lower-seeded team to emerge from this bracket.

I think second-seeded Oklahoma has been too inconsistent down the stretch and has struggled in some late-game situations.

I like the Sooners' chances against any team from the other side of the bracket, should they be fortunate enough to reach the Elite Eight.

In current form, I believe the most tournament-savvy team is Texas A&M, which has great guard play and a rugged defense that stands up well in a single-elimination format.

I am picking the Aggies to make it through the West bracket and have something of a home-court advantage in the Final Four.

East Region

This should be by far the most entertaining bracket, with a riveting mix of finesse, high-powered clubs on one side of the bracket, and tough, physical teams on the other.

The surging top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels face a potential classic matchup with Kentucky in the Sweet 16, the winner of which I believe will reach the Final Four.

In order to get there, the SEC-champion Wildcats will have to get past a matchup with Big 10 regular-season champion Indiana in a renewal of their classic rivalry.

Either North Carolina or Kentucky will face an opponent that could serve as the antidote to their high-flying ways, as rock-solid No. 2 Xavier or relentless third-seeded West Virginia will be standing in the way.

Still, in current form I like the Wildcats to get past the Tar Heels, mostly because of the edge in point guard play, as Tyler Ulis has emerged as the best floor leader and combo point guard in the country.

I am picking the Wildcats to get to the Final Four, and they have long been my high-value pick (at odds as high as 20/1) to win the national title.

Midwest Region

Virginia must have enemies on the selection committee because, for the second straight year, the Cavaliers were awarded a No. 1 seed. Only to see their road to the Final Four paved with broken glass and knee-high flames.

At best, Virginia will reach the Elite Eight and face its persistent nemesis and poor matchup in the Michigan State Spartans, who essentially do the same thing as the Cavaliers but at a higher level in the postseason.

I think the Spartans would be favored to knock out Virginia again, but the Cavaliers might not make it that far.

The trouble could start in the second round against a dangerous Butler team, but Virginia is sure to have a fight on its hands in the Sweet 16 against either Iowa State or Purdue, which could be the sleeper in this bracket.

Virginia has an awe-inspiring defense and perhaps the most well-rounded star in the country in ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon.

Even so, its style lends itself to a lot of close games, which creates high variance. The team that gets the key shot or defensive stop will win a tight contest, and this is a drawback in postseason play for Virginia's mode of operation.

I think this bracket is destined to be won by a team other than the top seed, and I will stick with the battle-tested Spartans, who were the top-rated team in the SportsLine Top 25 for most of the season, to make a return trip to the Final Four.

Final Four

My bracket has just one top seed advancing to the Final Four, and I'd be surprised if two No. 1s made it to Houston.

I think Kansas and North Carolina have the best chances to reach the promised land among the top seeds and it could easily be transposed, with the Tar Heels in and Jayhawks out by the Final Four.

But since I am picking a Kentucky upset over North Carolina, I see coach John Calipari's least-heralded team in recent memory riding in to the title game for a classic rematch with Kansas.

The Jayhawks used a 90-84 overtime win over Kentucky to spark their current 14-game winning streak, which includes the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles.

Although a third matchup with SEC opponent Texas A&M would be scintillating, as both games went to overtime this season, I am picking the Wildcats over the Jayhawks in the final.

 

Josh Nagel
Josh NagelSenior Analyst