SNIDER: Kentucky-Duke is your new bracket pick

Rick Snider
March 22, 2018 - 1:46 pm
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Your bracket was trashed in the early hours of the NCAA Tournament when Virginia lost. Then Arizona, Tennessee, Cincinnati, North Carolina and Xavier followed.

The Sweet 16 is dead to you unless you're a Duke or Kentucky fan. No more looking at your bracket, trying to wrangle more points for the office pool. It’s over.

That is, unless you start over with a new Sweet 16 pool. Sure, it’s not the same thing, but as horse racing fans know, watching the action is boring unless there's something riding on the outcome.

So, let's reload and rethink strategy. Cross out the first two rounds and hand out new brackets.

The new Final Four is Kentucky, Michigan, Villanova and Duke. Kentucky-Duke meet in the final and everyone thinks it's 1978, when Kentucky won the matchup in the national championship, or at least 1998 when the Wildcats bested the Blue Devils in the regional finals.

Strange how the blue bloods always seem to emerge no matter their seeding. Cinderellas like UMBC are good for a round or two, but they eventually go home. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago is the last long-shot standing and could beat No. 7 Nevada on Thursday, but then Kentucky will crush Loyola’s dream of a Final Four.

Kentucky seems in the Final Four without pause. It only needs to beat Kansas State, which looked horrible in outlasting UMBC and probably Loyola. That’s not a bracket, that’s a cakewalk.

Duke shouldn't have any problem with Syracuse, but upending No. 1 Kansas comes down to playing better defense. Kansas can score, but whether it has the heart to win a close one in March is yet to be seen.

Villanova can knock off West Virginia, but better hope Texas Tech beats Purdue, or else the latter advances to the Final Four. Purdue seems to be filled with giants in the paint. The edge is Villanova’s experience, but Villanova-Purdue would be one of the tournament's top games.

Michigan has perhaps the toughest route to the final weekend. It can beat No. 7 Texas A&M, which blasted North Carolina, and the Gonzaga-Florida State winner, but this is the gamble needed to win the pool.

Hopefully, your pool has Kentucky over Michigan and Duke besting Villanova in the semifinals. And when there can be only one, your Sweet 16 bracket should rely on Kentucky once more.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks