Patrick Stevens, USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports' bracket expert Patrick Stevens has your March Madness therapy.
BUY: Shaka Smart
The Virginia Commonwealth coach is 20-5 in his career in the postseason, be it in a conference tournament, the NCAA tournament or the CBI in his first season with the Rams. Smart's teams have never lost a tournament opener of any kind, so bank on VCU making at least a multi-round run.
The Tigers haven't won an NCAA tournament game in the three years since John Calipari left, and a limited resume (their only three top-50 wins came against Southern Mississippi) makes you wonder how much their 30-4 record reflects how viable they are to make a deep run.
COMPLETE BRACKET: Printable NCAA bracket
The Bulldogs have reached 16 consecutive NCAA tournaments, winning at least one game in each of the last four years. Even though they've been stuck plowing through the West Coast Conference schedule the last two months, this is a talented, deep, veteran team capable of reaching the program's first Final Four.
SELL: New Mexico, if you believe past performance is indicative of future results
Was there some bad Lobo mojo in the past? Perhaps. It's shocking to think New Mexico, long a solid program with a history of stellar support in Albuquerque, has never won consecutive NCAA tournament games. Six of New Mexico's last seven NCAA appearances have ended in the round of 32, but one thing is different now: This might be Steve Alford's best Lobos team, and certainly one of the finest in school history.
BUY: At least one 12 seed
Someone out of the group of No. 12 seeds will make it to the weekend; at least one No. 12 has advanced to the round of 32 in all but one of the last 12 years, with at least two of them moving along at least twice. That's the easiest place to look for an upset
SELL: Pac-12 powerhouses
In the last four NCAA tournaments, only three Pac-10/Pac-12 teams have escaped the first weekend: 2009 Arizona, 2010 Washington and 2011 Arizona. Of that group, both the '09 Wildcats (No. 12) and the '10 Huskies (No. 11) were double-digit seeds. That's not a great recent history for the likes of Arizona, Oregon and UCLA.
BUY: Coaches who have been there
Experience on the sideline counts. Each of the last five Final Fours has included at least three coaches who had reached that stage before. Just once in the last 13 years has a Final Four featured only one coach who had been there before (2006). That's not to say it's a certainty a Pitino, Krzyzewski, Donovan, Crean, Thompson, Larranaga, Self, Izzo, Matta or Boeheim will be around come the final weekend of the season. But one or two of that group probably will.
SELL: Power conference No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in the round of 32
Since 1997, No. 1 seeds are 35-3 against No. 8 and No. 9 seeds from power conferences in the round of 32. The exceptions to the rule: 2000 Wisconsin (against Arizona), 2002 UCLA (upending Cincinnati) and 2004 Alabama (handling Stanford). No. 8 and No. 9 seeds from outside the big six conferences are slightly better in the round of 32 against No. 1 seeds, going 4-22.
BUY: The Big East tournament champion
The last four Big East tournament winners were 2009 Louisville (Elite Eight), 2010 West Virginia (Final Four), 2011 Connecticut (national champions) and 2012 Louisville (Final Four). That's a good recent track record. Count on Louisville, which again won the Big East tournament, to make a deep run into March (and possibly April)
SELL: No. 16 seeds
A plethora of conference tournament upsets has created an even softer bottom of the field than usual, with six teams included with an RPI of 150 or worse. That includes one team with a losing record (Liberty), one that started its conference tournament with a losing record (North Carolina A&T) and one that entered its league tourney at .500 (Western Kentucky). This has been a year of parity, but it would still be a stunner if a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed for the first time.
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