Gary Parrish's Bracket
A terrific coach, great guards, experienced players and NBA talent are usually what it takes to win a national title. Houston checks every box considering Kelvin Sampson is a terrific coach, Jamal Shead and Marcus Sasser are great guards, four of Houston's top five scorers are non-freshmen, and Sasser and Jarace Walker should both be first-round NBA Draft picks. Am I concerned about Sasser's groin injury? Sure, a little. But assuming he's OK, I think Houston is better equipped than anybody else to win six games in this bracket and cut nets on the first Monday night in April.
Matt Norlander's Bracket
I'm going storybook. I'm going Houston to do what hasn't been done since 1972: a team winning the national championship in its home city (UCLA did it in '68 and '72). I'm going Houston to do this, with UH alumnus Jim Nantz on the mic for the final NCAA Tournament call of his Hall of Fame career. But I'm doing this, most of all, because Houston has rated as the best team in college basketball in every mainstream advanced analytic metric for months. The proof is in. It's no guarantee this team even reaches the Final Four, but it is the best candidate. And if Marcus Sasser's groin issue can subside, it means the Cougars will have a nasty three-guard attack, a future lottery pick (Jarace Walker) and a coach (Kelvin Sampson) who took this school to the biggest stage just two years ago. They have the pedigree, talent, size, strength and toughness to do this.As for Purdue, it's got the best player in college basketball. Painter is right up there with Sampson on the short list of best coaches in the game. I believe the Boilers end their March hex this year and finally break through to their first Final Four in 43 years, doing so with a heroic/dominant run from Zach Edey in the process.I'll keep it short on my other two Final Four teams: Gonzaga has the best offense in college hoops and has rated as the best team nationally for a month. Creighton has one of the 8-10 best starting fives in the sport and checks every box for what you want in a Final Four team: experience, defense, shooting, NBA athleticism, high-level point guard play, a really good coach. There will be a non-1/2/3 seed that breaks through. Why not Creighton?
Jerry Palm's Bracket
Alabama may not have been my choice for the overall No. 1 seed, but they certainly got a nice draw. The South Region features the weakest two and four seeds and a three seed that is struggling late in the season. Once they get to the Final Four, I expect Brandon Miller to take over and lead Bama to its first national title. Gonzaga did not have a regular season that lived up to the standards we are used to from them. After the loss at Saint Mary’s, things changed. The Zags backcourt play improved in particular and they are now on a roll entering the NCAA Tournament. I expect that roll to continue all the way to Houston.
Kyle Boone's Bracket
The health of star guard and leading scorer Marcus Sasser may cause doubt to creep into your mind about the Cougars' chances, but should he return at full strength, Houston should be regarded as the frontrunner until further notice. This Kelvin Sampson-led club is the toughest, most well-rounded team in the sport and the most grueling matchup for opposing teams to boot. They routinely rake on the offensive glass, thrive on second-chance opportunities and grind teams down with their methodical pace. With 31 wins to just three losses entering March Madness, this Houston team rates No. 1 across multiple analytics sites and has the requisite offensive/defensive balance you want from a contender as the only team in the sport with a top-11 offense and defense in adjusted efficiency ratings.
Chip Patterson's Bracket
I started filling out my bracket knowing how unlikely it is for schools to win a national championship and then run it back. I also know how unlikely it is for a program to win a national championship, lose most of the primary rotation players and then come back and compete for a national championship. But that's exactly what Kansas has done, notching a record 17 Quad 1 wins, another Big 12 regular season crown and earning the third No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I think the bracket breaks favorably, as UCLA is dealing with injury issues and Kansas can match styles with the likes of UConn or Gonzaga depending on what's needed. From there it's a fourth meeting with Texas, in Houston, which should be epic and then facing the winner of my chaos side which has Arizona out of the South and Duke out of the East. The Blue Devils have not been playing like a 5-seed over the last nine games, as they've gotten healthier and the blue chip freshmen have gotten even more comfortable in their roles. It's a bad draw for Purdue, made even worse by the Madison Square Garden setting -- a building Duke plays in every year -- for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
David Cobb's Bracket
Alabama struggled in its final four regular season games after revelations about star freshman Brandon Miller’s connection to a fatal shooting became public. But the Crimson Tide regained their composure at the SEC Tournament and beat three NCAA Tournament teams by double-digits on their way to a title. With veteran guards, elite wings/forwards and a rim protector down low in Charles Bediako, this team lacks nothing. While the program’s handling of an off-court scandal has clearly been questionable, the team has more talent than any in college basketball.
Dennis Dodd's Bracket
The Pac-12's rep isn't the best right now but did the world all the sudden forget Arizona is a loaded blueblood. The Wildcats just won the Pac-12 Tournament. They're coming off a 28-win season as a No. 2 seed. Tommy Lloyd is one of the best under-the-radar coaches in the country. The committee actually did UA a favor putting them in the South Region. The bracket is wide open. They get to play close to home (Sacramento) against an outmanned Princeton in the first round. Missouri or Utah State should be no problem in the second game. To get to the Final Four the Cats' toughest opponent would be third-seeded Baylor. Arizona would have a fortunate matchup against Alabama in the national semis and would face another No. 2 seed, Texas, for it all in Houston. The Longhorns are one of the deepest teams in the country having come off a Big 12 Tournament win over Kansas, which they've beaten five of the last seven times.
Josh Nagel's Bracket