Check out Marcus' bracket above, with 16 tough decisions numbered, and follow along.
1. My daughter and everyone else is going with the most popular 5-12 upset: Middle Tennessee over the Gophers. The rationale seems to be Middle Tennessee beating Michigan State in the 2-15 matchup last year. Sure, at least two 12 seeds have won first-round games four of the past five years, but only four times in NCAA tournament history has a double-digit seed repeated an upset the following year. Advantage: Gophers.
2. Daddy’s girl fell in love with the 15-2 upsets, picking both North Dakota over Arizona and Northern Kentucky to take out in-state powerhouse Kentucky. Only once has two 15 seeds won in the same year, when Lehigh upset Duke and Norfolk State beat Missouri in 2012. What did those teams have in common? A future NBA player: Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum (Trail Blazers) and Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn (Knicks). No such talent among 15 seeds this year.
3. In a dance off, pick Miami’s Jim “Whip Nae Nae” Larranaga over Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. On the court, we’re doing the same: the battle-tested Hurricanes over the young Spartans.
4. The hottest mid-major coaching name right now? That would be Kevin Keatts of North Carolina-Wilmington. Keatts, a former Louisville assistant under Rick Pitino, could be the next Cinderella team coach, guiding an offense that ranks 18th nationally in efficiency.
5. Purdue will make it two years in a row that the Big Ten’s highest-seeded team loses in the first two rounds. Iowa State can’t overlook Nevada, but the Cyclones’ guards won’t fear Purdue’s backcourt in Round 2. Monte Morris, one of the game’s best leaders, should take Boilermakers freshman Carsen Edwards to school.
6. Arizona is 13-2 since Allonzo Trier returned Jan. 21 in a victory over UCLA. Trier is averaging 22.1 points in his last seven games, which included 23 points to win the Pac 12 tournament final and MVP honors. Put ’em in the Final Four.
7. If there’s one Badgers hater at home, it’s my son, who never hesitates to sing, “When you say Wisconsin, you say it’s the worst team of all.” But he showed his mama’s boy side (my wife is a Badger) in his bracket, putting Wisconsin in the Final Four. He was onto something — but not quite that far for me. Yes, their seniors have played in two Final Fours, which is why I see the Badgers proving their No. 8 seed was too low by knocking off No. 1 overall Villanova. But the Elite Eight is the farthest any Big Ten will go this year.
8. The selection committee, just by coincidence — wink, wink — placed Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in a spot where he might coach against his former point guard, Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski. Coach K over Wojo here, leaving just one impossible-to-spell name.
9. My son picked the Zags to lose to Northwestern. He thinks the Wildcats being new to the tourney will actually help them make a run. I see the opposite: a happy-to-just-be-here mentality. Gonzaga gets by ... until the Irish make it three Elite Eight trips in a row. Remember the name Bonzie Colson.
10. Rick Pitino, surely glad to avoid coaching against his son, will avenge a loss the Gophers suffered to Michigan in the Big Ten semifinals by beating the Wolverines. The elder Pitino scouted them when he watched the Gophers beat Michigan at the Barn on Feb. 19.
11. And the battle of the one-and-done freshmen-led teams goes to ... UCLA, again. The Bruins beat Kentucky earlier this season and, led by Lonzo Ball and his Jason Kidd-type passing display, they will do it again reach the Elite Eight.
12. A rematch of the “Tyus Jones Game” in the Elite Eight again goes to the Blue Devils, led by talented youngsters Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson. This is an even deeper squad for Coach K than the 2014 national champions.
13. There has never been a Final Four with three No. 2 seeds. Duke and Arizona, after winning their conference tournaments, get my vote. Let’s add a No. 1: Kansas, with a future Hall of Fame coach in Bill Self and arguably the national MVP in Frank Mason III, tops Louisville in K.C.
14. It’s hard to go wrong with a Wildcats mascot when wanting to impress kids. Something about the teeth and the claws. Definitely ferocious. And memorable. My son remembers an Arizona game he saw and said the ’Cats “had one of the best offensive teams.” Good memory. The scoring tandem of Trier outside and Lauri Markkanen inside gets Arizona coach Sean Miller needs to get to his first Final Four — right near home in Phoenix.
15. Injuries kept Duke from hitting lofty expectations for most of the season. But the Blue Devils are healthy now, and confident after beating Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame in the ACC tournament. Grayson Allen resisting cheap shots and playing like he did as a freshman will put this team over the top.
16. UCLA and Duke haven’t met in the championship game since 1964 — the first of 10 national titles during a 12-year period for the legendary John Wooden. No doubt Bill Walton walks around half-naked during the broadcast, showing off his chest hair like it’s the 1960s. That might distract the TV audience a bit, but the Blue Devils will be a team on a mission to give Coack K, who’s tied with Wooden at 12 Final Four appearances, his sixth NCAA crown.