Despite CBS's efforts to slowly divulge the brackets over the course of what felt like a fortnight, they're now live and in the public domain. I just got done filling out my first bracket of the year (of which I'm sure dozens will follow) but off the bat there are a few story lines that jump out to me:
Who can actually take down Kansas this year?
The Jayhawks have arguably the easiest path to the Final Four of any #1 seed, but my initial question is who is actually equipped to take this team down? They've gone toe to toe with Oklahoma a couple times this year, and it's looking like the first time they might be really challenged would be in a Final Four matchup with OU, Oregon or Texas A&M. Maryland is a sneaky pick to take them out, but I don't believe in them or Villanova enough to give KU a run for its money.
How should we look at Seton Hall?
The Pirates have been flying under the radar for the better part of the year, but had their coming out party in the Big East tournament this past weekend. Did you know they've only lost twice since February began? That includes two wins over Xavier and one over Villanova. If they can get by Michigan State you're looking at a team with a real shot at the Final Four.
What do you do with Oregon?
It seems like every year there is a #1 seed where you're like, "hmm, I haven't heard much about them this year." This year that team is Oregon, who stole one of the top seeds out from under the nose of Michigan State. This is strictly anecdotal, but I've noticed that when I have those reactions to a team they invariably end up not making it very far in the tournament (see recent examples: Pitt, Wichita State, St. Joseph's, and even Virginia). I guess I just don't trust them to handle the pressure of being a top seed. Same with Virginia, for that matter.
Who are the upset picks?
It was a good year for mid-majors taking down Power 5 teams, even if the best ones didn't make it into the tournament as at-larges (RIP, Monmouth), so we're sure to see some surprise upsets this year. People are already throwing out Hawaii as a popular pick, which I can get behind. I also really like Little Rock and Northern Iowa in the first round. And don't sleep on Iona, who has the MAAC player of the year, AJ English. He is simply tearing it up this year. Oh, and Yale is playing their first round game an hour and a half from their campus. And they're ranked 43rd in ESPN's RPI.
Who is coming out of the bottom half of the East?
Here you're led by the up-and-coming Xavier Musketeers, who don't have the notoriety of a standard #2 seed, and it's going to be a struggle for them to make it to the Elite Eight. They have an interesting matchup with Wisconsin if the chalk holds, while West Virginia could have its hands full early with Michigan, who showed some life in the Big Ten Tournament. Plus you got Stephen F. Austin (18-0 in the Southland) just kinda hanging out. Of any section of the bracket so far, this one seems to have a lot of potential for some weird happenings.