The NCAA Tournament pairings were announced Sunday and people across the country will be filling out their brackets before play begins on Thursday. Different strategies will be put to the test, from basketball logic picking the teams most likely to win, going with all higher seeds until forced to make a tough call, choosing teams by mascots, or picking the teams with the most vowels in their names. There really is no wrong way to fill out a bracket as long as you are having fun with it, but here’s one more useless strategy for you to consider.
Who would win the tournament if you picked teams based on how the schools would fare on the football field? With such a strategy, you are bound to have an interesting bracket and may have a No. 1 seed or two (or three or four) struggle just to get out of the first weekend. When you have teams like Kansas and Virginia locking down No. 1 seeds, it is inevitable. And what about those other No. 1 seeds, Villanova and Xavier? Xavier has no football team to fend for itself, and Villanova would have quite a challenge ahead of them in Week 2.
Let’s dig through each region and predict who would come out on top based purely on non-relevant football supremacy and see how our Final Four would look.
East Region: Villanova gets rolled by Tide
The Villanova Wildcats may be the odds-on favorite to win it all this year, but the FCS school would be no match for Alabama in Round 2. After the top 25-caliber FCS program gets a win in the first round, they would have to take on Nick Saban’s juggernaut after Alabama takes care of business against Virginia Tech. There is not much standing in the way of Alabama in the East region, although a Sweet 16 matchup with West Virginia could be interesting to see.
The East would serve up some good matchups as well. Florida and UCLA in the first round and Arkansas vs. Purdue in the second round gives fans some good power conference matchups. We would even get an in-state rivalry game between West Virginia and Marshall in the second round, with the Mountaineers advancing to the Sweet 16 to face Alabama. Texas Tech would come out on top of FCS Stephen F. Austin, but that game could turn into a bit of a shootout.
If you are looking for an upset pick in the East Region, your best bet may fall on Chip Kelly coaching 11 seed over Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators in the first round. But the bottom line is nobody is going to block Alabama’s path to the Final Four. There isn’t a single team in the region built to stop them right now.
Midwest Region: Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma highlight the best region
Kansas proves once again why they are a basketball school in this region, although the lowly Jayhawks do manage to get out of the first round after drawing the FCS Penn Quakers of the Ivy League. Even when Penn is at its best, Kansas should win that game. But enjoy the ride while it lasts, because it won’t last long for Kansas. NC State would take them out in the second round, but the Wolfpack are in the toughest bracket this tournament has to offer.
Clemson, Auburn, and Oklahoma are all in the field, as well as Michigan State and TCU. And the way this bracket is organized, we would get Clemson and Auburn in the second round! That is a heck of a matchup, but the edge will go to Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers, who would then get to the Sweet 16 after topping ACC Division rival NC State in a real battle.
In the bottom half of the bracket, Oklahoma can waltz into the Sweet 16 with wins over FCS Rhode Island and Duke, but a matchup with TCU or Michigan State awaits. Even the play-in game is mildly intriguing with Arizona State and Syracuse playing for the chance to face TCU in the first round. Neither is prepared for a Cinderella run in this field, although TCU and Michigan State would be teams to watch closely. But we’ll advance the Sooners and look forward to a regional final between Clemson and Oklahoma. That’s not a matchup Oklahoma fans are looking forward to after the last time the two teams met. The Tigers get set for a Final Four matchup against Alabama.
That sounds familiar.
South Region: All about The U
The No. 1 seed in the entire tournament may have been dealt a challenging bracket from the selection committee, but the Cavaliers have a puncher’s chance to do some damage if we’re basing this on football pedigree. And considering where Virginia is as a program, that says something. But there are some serious threats as well.
Virginia would get Kansas State in the second round, which is not the best draw but also not an automatic loss. It may depend on where this game is played. But as of now, Kansas State would show Virginia an early exit from the tournament in a toss-up game. The Wildcats would then face either Kentucky or Arizona in the Sweet 16. This feels like yet another toss-up so you can play it safe and just say the Wildcats move on. But I’m going to sign up for the Khalil Tate show with Kevin Sumlin calling the shots and ride with Arizona into the Elite Eight. But who would they face?
The bottom half of the bracket is highlighted by the Miami Hurricanes, who take down Tennessee in the second round and face Texas in the Sweet 16. Currently, Texas still has some building to do, and Miami gets the win. And in a matchup against the Arizona Wildcats, Miami can book that trip to San Antonio for the Final Four. The U is back!
West Region: Ohio State vs. Michigan for the Final Four?
The West Region may not be the strongest lineup of teams from top to bottom, but that’s great news for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State has a very favorable path to the Final Four after getting a matchup with South Dakota State in the first round and what is essentially a bye in the second round (Gonzaga and UNC Greensboro don’t play football at all). All Ohio State has to do is hold off either Florida State or Missouri to get to the Regional Final, and guess who they might be playing?
How about the Michigan Wolverines?
The bottom half of the bracket seems favorable for Michigan, even without an offense. The Wolverines get FCS Montana in the first round and then face a good Group of 5 threat from Houston or San Diego State. (I’m giving the slight edge to the Aztecs in this experiment.) From there, Michigan would have to get by Texas A&M, who will have just dispatched North Carolina.
Jim Harbaugh vs. Jimbo Fisher? That sounds entertaining, and it’s a bit of a toss-up. Michigan’s defense gets the job done just enough for the offense to figure something out, setting up the ultimate rivalry game with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Meyer’s Buckeyes still have a decided edge and move on.
In one Final Four matchup, we have the all-too-familiar matchup of Alabama and Clemson. On the other side, it would be Ohio State and Miami. This is a sexy College Football Playoff matchup as well, and would be a ratings dream for the CFB Playoff if it were to happen this way. But who would win?
In this field, Alabama is still the clear favorite, although Clemson is very familiar with Alabama. But last January’s playoff matchup stained this one too much to suggest Clemson has enough to take down Alabama here. The Tide advances to face Ohio State, who are too well balanced and deep compared to Miami. And this year, Ohio State may have what it takes to give Alabama a run for the national title.
Ohio State stunned Alabama in the College Football Playoff a few years ago, but it doesn’t happen again in this hypothetical rundown. It’s a heck of a battle, but Alabama reigns supreme.