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Roll 'Bama Roll Previews the NCAA Tournament

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Roll 'Bama Roll's basketball crew tries to figure out March Madness

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s about that time, y'all!

After 4 months, tons of games, a few stunning upsets, and 34 Kentucky contests that went more or less as expected, we’ve finally reached one of sport’s great spectacles — March Madness! Over the next 21 days we will be treated to 67 more games, sure to include a couple of stunning upsets and, quite probably, six more Kentucky tilts that will go more or less as expected. The SEC Champions were easily the #1 overall seed and the heavy favorites, but anyone expecting it to be a cakewalk for the ‘Cats hasn’t been paying attention over the last several tournaments.

There’s a reason they call it Madness, and that’s because of those upsets - many of which come in the first round. Will it be #2 seed Kansas stumbling out of the gate against #15 New Mexico State? Perhaps #3 Notre Dame against #14 Northeastern. Who’s this year’s Florida Gulf Coast or VCU? Someone’s going to lose that should not, and someone’s going to make a deep tourney run that you won’t expect. But that’s what makes this thing so much damn fun every year.

The Roll ‘Bama Roll Pick Extravaganza

Oh you weren’t expecting just one bracket, were you? No, sir/ma’am, this is RBR, and we like to do it big around these parts, so you’re getting FOUR different brackets. Bamabrave4 (BB4), SaxonRBR (SAX), and btbama22 (BT) all filled out brackets for your reading pleasure, and you’ll also see what KenPom has to say about each game.

For those of you who are more graphically inclined, here’s links to each bracket, courtesy of PrintYourBrackets::

This is going to be a long one, so without further ado…

The First Four

#16 Hampton vs. #16 Manhattan

  • BB4: Manhattan
  • SAX: Manhattan
  • BT: Manhattan
  • KP: Manhattan (72.2%)

No stunner here — the Jaspers should win the coveted spot across from Kentucky in the Round of 64.

#11 Boise State vs. #11 Dayton

  • BB4: Dayton
  • SAX: Dayton
  • BT: Dayton
  • KP: Boise State (50.6%)

RBR is unanimous in our disagreement with KenPom — could we all hate Boise, perhaps? — but this one should be the tightest game of the First Four.

#16 North Florida vs. #16 Robert Morris

  • BB4: North Florida
  • SAX: North Florida
  • BT: North Florida
  • KP: North Florida (61.4%)

Former Tide opponent North Florida gets to try their hand against Jahlil Okafor and the Blue Devils.

#11 BYU vs. #11 Ole Miss

  • BB4: BYU
  • SAX: BYU
  • BT: BYU
  • KP: BYU (56.7%)

BYU has one of the better offenses in the country, and is your best shot at a VCU-like run from the First Four through the tournament. They absolutely have the firepower to take out the Rebels.

The Rounds of 64 and 32 are rather beefy, so they’re hidden for your protection. Scroll on down to the Sweet Sixteen if you’d like, but there are few tasty upset nuggets within for those who are interested.

The Midwest Region

ROUND OF 64

#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Manhattan

  • BB4: Kentucky
  • SAX: Kentucky
  • BT: Kentucky
  • KP: Kentucky (99%)

#1 seeds never lose in the first round, and most of them aren’t as good as this Kentucky team.

#8 Cincinnati vs. #9 Purdue

  • BB4: Purdue
  • SAX: Cincinnati
  • BT: Cincinnati
  • KP: Cincinnati (56.6%)

BB4 picks his first upset — although 8s only beat 9s about 45% of the time, so who knows?

#5 West Virginia vs. #12 Buffalo

  • BB4: West Virginia
  • SAX: West Virginia
  • BT: West Virginia
  • KP: West Virginia (62.8%)

The Mountaineers finished fifth in the Big-12, and have a seed to match, but the Bulls are better than people think. 5s only win 2/3 of the time, so keep an eye on this one.

#4 Maryland vs. #13 Valparaiso

  • BB4: Valparaiso
  • SAX: Maryland
  • BT: Maryland
  • KP: Maryland (61.8%)

Valpo is a classic cinderella from way back — they’ve made an impression on BB4, certainly — but do they have the offense to take down a balanced Maryland?

#6 Butler vs. #11 Texas

  • BB4: Butler
  • SAX: Texas
  • BT: Texas
  • KP: Texas (52.2%)

Texas was way, way disrespected by the committee, but this should be one of the games of the first round.

#3 Notre Dame vs. #14 Northeastern

  • BB4: Notre Dame
  • SAX: Notre Dame
  • BT: Notre Dame
  • KP: Notre Dame (87.5%)

The ACC champs versus the CAA champs! Unfortunately for the Huskies, the ACC is a much better conference, and Notre Dame is a much better team.

#7 Wichita State vs. #10 Indiana

  • BB4: Wichita State
  • SAX: Wichita State
  • BT: Wichita State
  • KP: Wichita State (73.2%)

This could be game one of another deep run for the Shockers, who dropped far in the minds of many after a shocking upset loss to Illinois State in the MVC tourney.

#2 Kansas vs. #15 New Mexico State

  • BB4: Kansas
  • SAX: Kansas
  • BT: Kansas
  • KP: Kansas (83.6%)

No shocking loss to a 15 seed this year for the Jayhawks.

ROUND OF 32

Quarterfinal 1

  • BB4: Kentucky
  • SAX: Kentucky
  • BT: Kentucky
  • KP: Kentucky (90.7% over Cincinnati)

Kentucky cruises through to the Sweet Sixteen.

Quarterfinal 2

  • BB4: West Virginia
  • SAX: Maryland
  • BT: West Virginia
  • KP: West Virginia (54.7% over Maryland)

Saxon picked against the stats!?! Saxon picked against the stats.

Quarterfinal 3

  • BB4: Butler
  • SAX: Notre Dame
  • BT: Texas
  • KP: Notre Dame (60.4% over Texas)

Nobody knows what to make of this slot, but BB4 and BT are riding their upset picks into the Sweet Sixteen.

Quarterfinal 4

  • BB4: Kansas
  • SAX: Wichita State
  • BT: Kansas
  • KP: Kansas (52% over Wichita State)

It’s the battle of Kansas! This game is almost certain to happen, and it should be a classic.

The West Region

ROUND OF 64

#1 Wisconsin vs. #16 Coastal Carolina

  • BB4: Wisconsin
  • SAX: Wisconsin
  • BT: Wisconsin
  • KP: Wisconsin (95.6%)

The Chanticleers are the next victim for Bo Ryan and the Buzzcuts.

#8 Oregon vs. #9 Oklahoma St.

  • BB4: Oregon
  • SAX: Oklahoma State
  • BT: Oklahoma State
  • KP: Oklahoma State (52.7%)

Oregon parlayed another stunning upset over Utah into a top-half seed, but KenPom projects a 9-over-8 upset here.

#5 Arkansas vs. #12 Wofford

  • BB4: Wofford
  • SAX: Arkansas
  • BT: Wofford
  • KP: Arkansas (73.1%)

BB4 and BT are both calling the upset here, but the quants say Bobby Portis won’t let that happen to the Razorbacks.

#4 North Carolina vs. #13 Harvard

  • BB4: North Carolina
  • SAX: North Carolina
  • BT: North Carolina
  • KP: North Carolina (79.3%)

This was supposed to be Yale’s spot, Harvard, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way.

#6 Xavier vs. #11 BYU

  • BB4: Xavier
  • SAX: BYU
  • BT: Xavier
  • KP: Xavier (52.4%)

Saxon may be letting his surroundings go to his head here — although fellow Salt Laker KenPom just barely has Xavier pulling out the win over the Cougs.

#3 Baylor vs. #14 Georgia State

  • BB4: Baylor
  • SAX: Baylor
  • BT: Baylor
  • KP: Baylor (77.3%)

Anyone know if Art Briles thought Baylor deserved a 1 seed here too?

#7 VCU vs. #10 Ohio State

  • BB4: VCU
  • SAX: Ohio State
  • BT: Ohio State
  • KP: Ohio State (55.6%)

BB4 either has a lot of faith in Shaka Smart or is still hurting from the Sugar Bowl. KenPom calls a big upset here.

#2 Arizona vs. #15 Texas Southern

  • BB4: Arizona
  • SAX: Arizona
  • BT: Arizona
  • KP: Arizona (97.7%)

Texas Southern has no business being in the tournament — only Hampton ranked lower in the KenPom ratings — but they are the SWAC champion, so have fun against Arizona, fellas!

ROUND OF 32

Quarterfinal 1

  • BB4: Wisconsin
  • SAX: Wisconsin
  • BT: Wisconsin
  • KP: Wisconsin (85.1% over Oklahoma State)

The Badgers are a near-lock for the Sweet Sixteen.

Quarterfinal 2

  • BB4: North Carolina
  • SAX: Arkansas
  • BT: North Carolina
  • KP: North Carolina (63.4% over Arkansas)

Is Saxon smoking this good stuff? Probably, because the Tar Heels may just have too much oomph for the woeful Arkansas D.

Quarterfinal 3

  • BB4: Baylor
  • SAX: Baylor
  • BT: Baylor
  • KP: Baylor (62% over Xavier)

The Bears are better on both ends of the floor, and should cruise over whoever makes it out of the Xavier/BYU/Ole Miss cluster.

Quarterfinal 4

  • BB4: Arizona
  • SAX: Arizona
  • BT: Arizona
  • KP: Arizona (81.9% over Ohio State)

Arizona has one of the easier roads into the Sweet Sixteen.

The East Region

ROUND OF 64

#1 Villanova vs. #16 Lafayette

  • BB4: Villanova
  • SAX: Villanova
  • BT: Villanova
  • KP: Villanova (96.8%)

The East is one heck of a region, but ‘Nova shouldn’t have any issues with the lowly leopards.

#8 N.C .State vs. #9 LSU

  • BB4: LSU
  • SAX: LSU
  • BT: LSU
  • KP: N.C. State (51.7%)

ESS EEE CEE, ESS EEE CEE!

#5 Northern Iowa vs. #12 Wyoming

  • BB4: Wyoming
  • SAX: Northern Iowa
  • BT: Northern Iowa
  • KP: Northern Iowa (84.9%)

BB4 picks another massive upset here — perhaps our lead basketball guru does not believe in the Tuttle?

#4 Louisville vs. #13 UC Irvine

  • BB4: Louisville
  • SAX: Louisville
  • BT: Louisville
  • KP: Louisville (78.7%)

This isn’t the Louisville of two years ago, but Rick Pitino leads another strong team into the tournament.

#6 Providence vs. #11 Dayton

  • BB4: Providence
  • SAX: Providence
  • BT: Providence
  • KP: Providence (56.4%)

Dayton’s cinderella run ends before it can start.

#3 Oklahoma vs. #14 Albany

  • BB4: Oklahoma
  • SAX: Oklahoma
  • BT: Oklahoma
  • KP: Oklahoma (89.1%)

The Sooners have the highest win expectancy for a 3 seed in the first round.

#7 Michigan State vs. #10 Georgia

  • BB4: Michigan State
  • SAX: Georgia
  • BT: Michigan State
  • KP: Michigan State (61.7%)

Apparently Saxon’s the only one feeling SEC fever, as everyone else has the Spartans into Round 2.

#2 Virginia vs. #15 Belmont

  • BB4: Virginia
  • SAX: Virginia
  • BT: Virginia
  • KP: Virginia (95.3%)

Virginia just missed out on a top seed after an unexpected loss in the ACC tourney, but look for that stifling defense to carry them deep in the tournament.

ROUND OF 32

Quarterfinal 1

  • BB4: Villanova
  • SAX: Villanova
  • BT: Villanova
  • KP: Villanova (83.9% over N.C. State)

No love for LSU here, as #1 seeds rarely lose to #9s.

Quarterfinal 2

  • BB4: Louisville
  • SAX: Northern Iowa
  • BT: Louisville
  • KP: Northern Iowa (58.4% over Louisville)

Saxon believes in the Tuttle! This may be where Northern Iowa’s run stops, however.

Quarterfinal 3

  • BB4: Oklahoma
  • SAX: Oklahoma
  • BT: Oklahoma
  • KP: Oklahoma (66.2% over Providence)

The Sooners are a unanimous choice for the Sweet Sixteen.

Quarterfinal 4

  • BB4: Michigan State
  • SAX: Virginia
  • BT: Virginia
  • KP: Virginia (76.2% over Michigan State)

Nevermind, THIS is a massive upset pick by BB4, who apparently worships at the Church of Izzo.

The South Region

ROUND OF 64

#1 Duke vs. #16 North Florida

  • BB4: Duke
  • SAX: Duke
  • BT: Duke
  • KP: Duke (91.9%)

So… Duke loses in the ACC tournament semifinals, but gets a #1 seed? Smells interesting!

#8 San Diego State vs. #9 St. John’s

  • BB4: St. John’s
  • SAX: San Diego State
  • BT: San Diego State
  • KP: San Diego State (57.7%)

Another 9-over-8 pick for BB4, but the rest of the field has the MWC runner-ups.

#5 Utah vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin

  • BB4: Utah
  • SAX: Utah
  • BT: Utah
  • KP: Utah (74%)

No upsets here, as Utah should cruise through to the next round.

#4 Georgetown vs. #13 Eastern Washington

  • BB4: Eastern Washington
  • SAX: Georgetown
  • BT: Georgetown
  • KP: Georgetown (83.6%)

This one may not work out so well for BB4, as Georgetown is a big favorite over EWU.

#6 SMU vs. #11 UCLA

  • BB4: SMU
  • SAX: SMU
  • BT: UCLA
  • KP: SMU (62.5%)

Apparently that late Tide escape in 2014 made an impression on BT, as he’s got the Bruins over the American champs. You know Larry Brown’s got a natty to his name, right BT?

#3 Iowa State vs. #14 UAB

  • BB4: Iowa State
  • SAX: Iowa State
  • BT: Iowa State
  • KP: Iowa State (86.5%)

Everyone’s on board with the Big-12 Champs here.

#7 Iowa vs. #10 Davidson

  • BB4: Davidson
  • SAX: Iowa
  • BT: Iowa
  • KP: Iowa (55.3%)

Iowa should move on to set up a potential all-Iowa showdown in the Sweet Sixteen.

#2 Gonzaga vs. #15 North Dakota State

  • BB4: Gonzaga
  • SAX: Gonzaga
  • BT: Gonzaga
  • KP: Gonzaga (93.4%)

Gonzaga blitzed through the WCC tourney, and could be primed for another deep tourney run.

ROUND OF 32

Quarterfinal 1

  • BB4: Duke
  • SAX: Duke
  • BT: Duke
  • KP: Duke (73.8% over San Diego State)

If SDSU makes it through, they could push the Blue Devils, but Krzyzewski should pilot them through to the Sweet Sixteen.

Quarterfinal 2

  • BB4: Utah
  • SAX: Utah
  • BT: Utah
  • KP: Utah (66.2% over Georgetown)

Those losses to Oregon may have dropped the Utes a bit far in the minds of the committee, as they are probably through to the Sweet Sixteen.

Quarterfinal 3

  • BB4: Iowa State
  • SAX: Iowa State
  • BT: UCLA
  • KP: Iowa State (57.9% over SMU)

You know John Wooden doesn’t still coach the Bruins, right BT?

Quarterfinal 4

  • BB4: Gonzaga
  • SAX: Gonzaga
  • BT: Gonzaga
  • KP: Gonzaga (73.4% over Iowa)

Gonzaga should prevent the all-Iowa regional semifinal handily.

The Sweet Sixteen

Midwest Semifinal 1

  • BB4: Kentucky
  • SAX: Kentucky
  • BT: Kentucky
  • KP: Kentucky (88.7% over West Virginia)

Look, a Kentucky that isn’t at least 90% for the ‘Cats!

Midwest Semifinal 2

  • BB4: Butler
  • SAX: Wichita State
  • BT: Kansas
  • KP: Notre Dame (50.5% over Kansas)

Nobody agrees with anybody about what’s happening here, but if KenPom picks this region right, this is your game of the tournament. Notre Dame and Kansas 10 and 11 in the KenPom rankings, respectively.

West Semifinal 1

  • BB4: Wisconsin
  • SAX: Wisconsin
  • BT: North Carolina
  • KP: Wisconsin (73.1% over North Carolina)

BT stubbornly holds with the Tar Heels, but it says right here Wisconsin’s cruising through to the Elite Eight.

West Semifinal 2

  • BB4: Baylor
  • SAX: Arizona
  • BT: Baylor
  • KP: Arizona (76% over Baylor)

This game is almost assuredly Arizona-Baylor given the draw, and Arizona almost assuredly moves on.

East Semifinal 1

  • BB4: Villanova
  • SAX: Villanova
  • BT: Louisville
  • KP: Villanova (69.3% over Northern Iowa)

Northern Iowa’s Final Four hopes die here, assuming they even get past Louisville.

East Semifinal 2

  • BB4: Oklahoma
  • SAX: Virginia
  • BT: Virginia
  • KP: Virginia (68.3% over Oklahoma)

BB4 has to pick Oklahoma here because he thinks Virginia is going to lose before the Final Four. They aren’t.

South Semifinal 1

  • BB4: Duke
  • SAX: Duke
  • BT: Duke
  • KP: Duke (54.8% over Utah)

Duke’s going to have a heck of a time with the Utes, but the talent is just too deep to keep the Blue Devils out of the Elite Eight.

South Semifinal 2

  • BB4: Iowa State
  • SAX: Gonzaga
  • BT: Gonzaga
  • KP: Gonzaga (64% over Iowa State)

BB4’s got the Big-12 champs down for the Elite Eight, but Gonzaga’s going to be a tough out for the Cyclones.

The Elite Eight

Midwest Final

  • BB4: Kentucky
  • SAX: Kentucky
  • BT: Kentucky
  • KP: Kentucky (81.5% over Notre Dame)

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west; Kentucky beats whoever they face here and head to the Final Four.

West Final

  • BB4: Wisconsin
  • SAX: Arizona
  • BT: North Carolina
  • KP: Arizona (54.3% over Wisconsin)

BT must be a closet Tar Heel fan, because the field’s got this as Arizona-Wisconsin, and it should be a heck of a tilt.

East Final

  • BB4: Villanova
  • SAX: Virginia
  • BT: Virginia
  • KP: Virginia (51% over Villanova)

I hope Villanova-Virginia happens, what an awesome game that would be.

  • BB4: Duke
  • SAX: Gonzaga
  • BT: Duke
  • KP: Gonzaga (52% over Duke)

The last three games should give you a pretty clear indication of how ridiculous Kentucky is. 81.5% for the ‘Cats in their Elite 8 game, barely over 50% for everyone else.

The Final Four

National Semifinal 1

  • BB4: Kentucky
  • SAX: Kentucky
  • BT: Kentucky
  • KP: Kentucky (60.7% over Arizona)

And welcome to your first true test of the season, Kentucky. Unless, say, Wofford slips through the West, this game will likely pit the ‘Cats against Arizona, Wisconsin, or North Carolina. Any of those three will be a tough out, but your prognosticators are unanimous in their love for the ‘Cats. Five games down, one to go.

National Semifinal 2

  • BB4: Duke
  • SAX: Virginia
  • BT: Virginia
  • KP: Virginia (57.9% over Gonzaga)

In what might be an all-ACC final between Virginia and Duke, the likely choice is Virginia, despite what BB4 seems to think about Michigan State. They were the clear #2 team all year, and may be the only team capable of slowing down Kentucky.

And after 66 games, we have…

The Final

  • BB4: Kentucky
  • SAX: Kentucky
  • BT: Kentucky
  • KP: Kentucky (66.4% over Virginia)

Or maybe not. The Cavaliers’ woes of late have dropped them down to 4th in the KenPom ratings, and according to that metric the Hoos would have a lower chance of beating Kentucky on a neutral floor than would Arizona or Wisconsin. Kentucky and Virginia seemed like the clear top two all season, so that potential finals matchup would not be a huge surprise. It’d probably be win #40 for Kentucky though, capping the season of what might be the best college team of all-time.

So what do YOU think? Can anyone beat Kentucky? Who’s your national title winner? Let us know in the comments!

ROLL TIDE