Sorry, Duke Blue Devils fans. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but because your team could not surpass the pesky South Carolina Gamecocks, your 2017 March Madness brackets have officially been busted. I am not trying to call out my Sports Editor Brian Dunn, who picked the Blue Devils to win it all, but more or less am here to make you feel better as we gather to watch the Sweet 16 on Thursday and Friday.

As I take a look at my bracket, I smile. I usually go into March with a sense of satisfaction. I prepare mentally and physically for the tournament. The effort I put forth to complete the perfect bracket is remarkable. With six cups of coffee and a strong workout prior to sitting down and penciling my selections is far from ordinary. Yet, I’ll be honest, I am hanging by a thread here. This tournament has had its share of upsets and a mix of close calls. Let’s take a look at my studs and duds as we get into the nitty, gritty stages of the NCAA Tournament.

Studs: Kansas, UNC, Michigan, UCLA and Wisconsin. These aren’t my Final Four, but the teams I feel that are on fire. UNC and Kansas are safe picks to get to Phoenix and, although his father is annoying with the media, Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Bruins will have a good bid at taking down a young Kentucky team. Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks had Michigan State on their tails in the first half of their last game, but found their way, led by star freshman Josh Jackson. Sorry Ms. Jackson, but Josh Jackson is for real and primed for a deep tournament run. If he continues to dominate down low and from beyond the arc, I expect the Jayhawks to win it all for the first time since they beat Memphis in 2008. Somewhere, Paul Pierce is smiling.

Duds: Gonzaga, Purdue, Baylor and Arizona. These teams have finally surpassed their first round demons and although I do believe Arizona could sneak into the Final Four, I think Xavier could give them a go at it. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will look to silence their doubters and they have played like a team destined to win it all, but I’m not buying it. Somewhere, Adam Morrison is crying, again. I left them out of the Final Four for a reason and that is because West Virginia will beat them in the Sweet 16.

Under the Radar: Florida, West Virginia, Oregon and South Carolina. If you are a Gamecocks fan, well then, a round of applause to you! Except, I don’t know if they find a way past Baylor. The Bears finally found their stride and are too big down low for South Carolina. This is one of those toss up games for me and I am glad I can witness watching them. Moving forward, the Oregon Ducks narrowly escaped a collapse to the Rhode Island Rams to make it to the Sweet 16, while the Florida Gators handled Virginia easily in their second round contest. It is called March Madness for a reason.

No Nawnsense Elite Eight: I told you that Kansas will continue to have its eyes on the prize and I will stay with “Rock Chalk”, but here are the rest of the teams I feel that will move on to the regional finals: Florida, Baylor, West Virginia, Arizona, UNC, Kentucky, Michigan and Kansas.

No Nawnsense Final Four: Wisconsin’s a sneaky pick if they can get by Florida but I don’t see it. Baylor will be tough to knock off but I like this Florida Gators bunch and I expect them to be dancing all the way to Phoenix, alongside Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona.

Enjoy the games, Wildcats!

Executive Editor