Tom Sorensen

NCAA bracket selections: Relying on instinct, and teams nicknamed ‘Wildcats’

Can Kentucky coach John Calipari and his thanks-for-stopping-by roster win a national title?
Can Kentucky coach John Calipari and his thanks-for-stopping-by roster win a national title? AP

Look at my brackets. Look at how clean and pristine they are. Not bragging, but I bet they stay that way until Thursday afternoon.

When making picks in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, I rely more on instinct than research. In the olden days, I made my picks for the Charlotte Observer soon after the brackets were divulged.

One year, I picked numerous upsets, and, luckily, most came through. Several people told me they won their pools with my picks. They asked if they could do something for me. I asked them to make a donation to Crisis Assistance Ministry. I received four cards saying that a donation had been made in my name.

Man, would I love to replicate that. I don’t aim to pick upsets. I pick the teams I think will win.

I’ll start with my four finalists in each region.

EAST: Villanova, Virginia, Southern Methodist and Duke. Villanova beats Virginia and Duke beats SMU. Villanova beats Duke to make the Final Four.

BONUS PICK: Duke guard Grayson Allen goes through the tournament without doing anything terribly unethical or picking up a technical foul. He comes close to a technical against SMU, but teammates intercede.

WEST: Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Florida State and Arizona. Notre Dame beats Gonzaga and Arizona beats Florida State. Arizona beats the Fighting Irish to make the Final Four.

BONUS PICK: Connecticut wins the 2017 women’s NCAA basketball tournament.

MIDWEST: Kansas, Purdue, Oregon and Louisville. Kansas beats Purdue and Louisville beats Oregon. Louisville beats Kansas to advance to the Final Four.

BONUS PICK: The Jayhawks are remarkably upbeat after their 3-point loss to Louisville. “We usually gag way before this,” a Kansas reserve forward says.

SOUTH: North Carolina, Minnesota, UCLA and Kentucky. The Tar Heels beat the Golden Gophers and Kentucky outscores UCLA. The Wildcats beat North Carolina.

BONUS PICK: Before it wins the championship, the Connecticut women play a close game. “When our opponents pulled within 25 in the second half, I was worried how we’d react,” a Huskies’ guard says. Connecticut regains its composure and wins by 47.

FINAL FOUR: Villanova beats Arizona and, in the Kentucky version of North Carolina-Duke, Kentucky beats Louisville. Villanova and Kentucky play for the national championship.

Because Kentucky coach John Calipari is the master of the one season and thanks for stopping by recruit, some fans think he merely rolls out the ball and says, “Play.” Calipari can coach. He’ll prove it again in early April in Arizona.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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