Entering the Sweet Sixteen, I have to say that my bracket is looking pretty good. It helps that I had Kentucky going out a little early, picked Clemson over Baylor, and primarily went with the favorites up until this point.

And I would like to think that my current success was due to the countless hours of work I have put in preparing for this tournament. Researching rosters to identify upperclassmen, checking player minutes to establish team depth, and scouting free throw percentages as games get tight at the end of March.

I prefer strong guard play, note a team’s pace of play, always check the location of the game, and I am big on Adjusted Defensive Efficiency even though I’m not sure what it is.

And then there is Vegas.

Every game has a point spread, every game offers a win probability percentage, every game tells you who the betting favorite is, and when it comes to filling out a bracket and your team is a double-digit favorite, you never need to cover that number to move on.

Is it skill? Is it luck? Or is it simply that there is more chalk on my bracket than a blackboard – and that seems to be working?

The Sweet Sixteen should answer this question as many of the games to come are considered a coin flip.

So, let’s predict – against a coin flip. Just give me a second as in our world of Venmo, Apple Pay, and Cash App, finding a quarter may take a bit.

Clemson Tigers (23-11) vs Arizona Wildcats (27-8) – The Wildcats have had some questionable losses this season (USC, Oregon State, Stanford), but Oumar Ballo is a 7’0 beast, Pelle Larrson shoots 44% from 3-pt range, and Caleb Love is hard to handle. Just too much for PJ Hall and Ian (Chef) Schieffelin.

The quarter disagreed with me and picked Clemson, rolling with the ACC.

Credit via The Spun

San Diego State Aztecs (26-10) vs UConn Huskies (33-3) – Jaedon LeDee (21.5 ppg/8.4 reb) is the best player you probably haven’t heard of. But UConn is favored by 11.5 points with an 86.4% win probability. It’s hard to bet on anyone taking down the Huskies. Especially a team that finished fifth in the Mountain West.

The quarter has the Huskies as well. But the Aztecs should feel good that the win probability fell all the way down to 50.0%.

Credit via Wikipedia

Alabama Crimson Tide (23-11) vs North Carolina Tar Heels (29-7) – The Crimson Tide averaged 90.7 ppg this season with Mark Sears (21.5 ppg) leading the way. But the Tar Heels trio of RJ Davis, Armando Bacot, and Harrison Ingram are just too good to start wiping away all that chalk that’s been happening.

The quarter also has the Tar Heels. On a side note, I found the quarter in a jar underneath the kitchen sink. The quarter had been there so long that it remembers when Armando Bacot was a freshman.

Illinois Fighting Illini (28-2) vs Iowa State Cyclones (29-7) – With Terrence Shannon Jr. (23.3 ppg), Marcus Domask, and Coleman Hawkins, I am so ready to call the slight upset over a Cyclones team that has quite a bit of youth. But isn’t this where the Illini exit the tournament every year?

In a true coin flip game, the quarter disagrees with me and likes Illinois. That dude on the side of the coin is Washington, not Lincoln, right?

Credit via Marquette University Athletics

NC State Wolfpack (24-14) vs Marquette Golden Eagles (27-9) – DJ Burns Jr. (12.8 ppg/4.1 reb/2.7 assists) has been the best individual player I’ve seen in the Wolfpack’s remarkable run. But Marquette’s Tyler Kolek (15.3 ppg/4.8 reb/7.9 assists) is right behind him. The difference in this game is that Kolek has the ball in his hands the entire game. DJ Burns Jr. needs someone to get it to him.

The quarter is going with the upset and picked the Wolfpack. Probably still mad about the Venmo comment I made earlier.

Credit via Wikipedia

Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-7) vs Purdue Boilermakers (31-4) – Many experts thought that Gonzaga was overseeded coming into the tournament, but since adjusting their lineup by adding Ben Gregg (6’10 – 230 lbs.) back in January, the Bulldogs have been on a roll. This Purdue team is more than just Zach Edey (24.5 ppg/12.1 reb), but styles make fights and I’m calling the upset.

The quarter likes Purdue in this one. I guess it’s In Zach We Trust.

Duke Blue Devils (26-8) vs Houston Cougars (32-4) – Duke has looked tremendous in the first few rounds and it’s hard to think of the Blue Devils leaving us so soon. But Houston plays a kind of defense that is going to frustrate any team they play. Especially a team that starts four underclassmen.

The quarter agreed with my pick and took Houston. Then questioned why Liberty didn’t make the Big Dance.

Creighton Bulldogs (25-9) vs Tennessee Volunteers (26-8) – Tennessee has never made a Final Four and despite the play of Dalton Knecht (21.1 ppg), I expect that trend to continue. Creighton has Baylor Scheirman, Trey Alexander, Ryan Kalkbrenner, and an 85-66 win over UConn on their resume.

The quarter likes Creighton as well. Although, it rolled off my desk and went missing for a while. Kind of like what Tennessee tends to do around this time of year.

Anyway, back to the grind. Maybe a nap later, watch some game film on Thursday, some more on Friday. Heck, I’ll probably be working all weekend.

Images via usatoday, Wikipedia, thespun, marquetteuniversityathletics

Alan Tapley is an educator, author, and blogger who has lived just outside of Boulder for the last twenty years.  His published work includes two novels, two children’s books, a series of cartoons in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and multiple sports related articles. His love for family and the state of Colorado is only matched by one thing, his passion for sports.  The first baseball game he ever attended was at Wrigley Field, before there were lights.  At the final Bronco game at the old Mile High, he allegedly cut out a piece of his seat in the South stands.  But regardless of being here for the Avalanche’s last Stanley Cup, the Rockies only World Series appearance, and all the Broncos’ Super Bowl Victories, his wife never fails to remind him that he wasn’t at the University of Colorado in 1990, like she was.  The year the Buffs football team won the National Championship