It's bracket time baby!

(photo courtesy of BYU's Jimmer Fredrette leads the nation in scoring, but can he lead his team to a national championship?

(photo courtesy of BYU’s Jimmer Fredrette leads the nation in scoring, but can he lead his team to a national championship?

(photo courtesy of BYU's Jimmer Fredrette leads the nation in scoring, but can he lead his team to a national championship?

The culmination of four and a half months of college basketball is finally here. Tourney time gives us the ability to finally pull out the pen and pencil, run off a few copies of the NCAA tournament bracket on the printers at our work (or dorm room) and compare matchups on the more complex statistics of the sport: RPI, SOS (strength of schedule) and their overall record.
I’m just glad that I no longer have to hear about what ESPN’s Joe Lunardi thinks in his newest version of “Bracketology 101” or who the “last four in and first four out” are. Predictions and talking sports heads can wear on the average college basketball fan after a while. But now that tournament time is near, that means it’s time for us to be the experts of our own bracket. Seeking to conquer the office or dorm hall pool, here are my predictions in a wild tournament. May they help you in your decision-making. One final word of advice: don’t get too serious. Sometimes the brackets picked on the merits of a team’s mascot turn out better than anything the experts could have ever predicted. After all, it’s college basketball.

This fourth of the bracket should provide fans with a few interesting matchups late in the tournament including the likes of Ohio State (1), Kentucky (4), Syracuse (3) and North Carolina (2). I like the Buckeyes to advance to the final four as they’ll get the easiest matchups in the first two games before facing Kentucky (most likely) in the Sweet Sixteen. Looking for an upset? Georgia could possibly get by Washington in their opening-round matchup to take on UNC in the second round, a team that was pummeled in the ACC Championship by Duke.

Perhaps this is my favorite part of the bracket this year due to the mixture of big name schools and lesser-known teams matching up. Of course Duke (1), UConn (3) and Texas (4) lead the odds in this bracket, but I have the Aztecs of San Diego State advancing to the Final Four. Sure a Mountain West team hasn’t been seeded this high (#2 seed) in years, but they’re 32-2 and the best story in college basketball this year. It will be hard to see the Aztecs fall before at least the Elite Eight this March. An upset from this end looks unlikely, but I do like the 4-13 matchup when Texas faces a pesky Oakland squad in the opening round. The Golden Grizzlies are fresh out of their title run in the Summit League and could give the Longhorns all they want to handle.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk. Kansas (1) looks to advance in a section of the bracket that may contain the most upsets this year. Vanderbilt (5) versus Richmond (12) is gaining momentum as the first-round upset favorite, but another matchup to keep an eye on is Louisville (4) and Morehead State (13). Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried is another feel-good story of 2011 as he leads his team against a Cardinal squad with a nearly identical record.

Do I have Jimmer-fever? Yes, I like BYU and their multitalented guard that leads the country in scoring. He’ll be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft. I have a hard time seeing BYU advance, though, past the Sweet Sixteen when they could take on Florida (2) and then possibly Pittsburgh (1) before getting out of their respective quarter. Instead, I’m predicting a big run by Kansas State (5). They’re very talented, and despite an early exit in the Big XII tournament to Colorado they can play with anyone in the country. Don’t overlook the other team from Kansas this year.

May your brackets succeed and if you lose more than half of your opening round games, don’t worry. There’s always the Women’s NCAA bracket, or the NIT bracket, or the CBI bracket, for that matter.