Last year, my WIFE and I faced off in a bracket challenge, which I won – earning me the epic prize of a latte from our local coffee shop.  It’s time for more NCAA Tournament picks.

Seriously, folks, in our household, caffeinated beverages are as good as gold.

Since the NCAA  tournament is back, our challenge is back. This year, we’re upping the game, picking both the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments. The men’s bracket came out first, so we’re going with that first. For each of us, I’ll list the winners from each phase of the tournament, along with needed commentary along the way. I’m starting with mine, because my WIFE’s picks and rationale are worth the wait.

Darrell’s NCAA Tournament Picks

First Four: Wichita State, Michigan, FGCU, Southern

So many teams have better cases to make than Tulsa, so Tulsa will probably make it to the Final Four. I’m picking against them on principle, though.

South Region

First Round: Kansas, UConn, Maryland, Hawaii, Wichita State, Miami, Iowa, Villanova

Second Round: Kansas, Maryland, Miami, Iowa

Regional Semifinals: Kansas, Iowa

Regional Final: Kansas

Kansas is the real deal. While Iowa faded a bit, I don’t have a ton of faith in Villanova, and I really do think several B1G teams are poised to make a deep run.

West Region

First Round: Oregon, Saint Joe’s, Baylor, Duke, Northern Iowa, Texas A&M, VCU, Oklahoma

Second Round: Oregon, Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma

Regional Semifinals: Baylor, Oklahoma

Regional Final: Oklahoma

I realize Oklahoma faded a little down the stretch, but … I’m going with my gut here. Also, despite my irrational fondness for Duke (I have no connections to the school at all), I think Baylor will run the three remaining healthy Blue Devils into the ground. Also, I’ll always take a Missouri Valley school to make a little noise.

East Region

First Round: North Carolina, Providence, Indiana, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Stephen F. Austin, Wisconsin, Xavier

Second Round: North Carolina, Indiana, Notre Dame, Xavier

Regional Semifinals: Indiana, Xavier

Regional Final: Indiana

I’m thinking the upset loss in the B1G tournament may have helped Indiana, who got a little extra rest in preparation for the NCAA tournament. That IU-UK game is a massive second-round game, and I’m taking IU to get out of the region despite facing the Wildcats.

Midwest Region

First Round: Virginia, Butler, Purdue, Iona, Gonzaga, Utah, Dayton, Michigan State

Second Round: Virginia, Purdue, Gonzaga, Michigan State

Regional Semifinals: Virginia, Michigan State

Regional Final: Michigan State

The temptation to pick Butler to defeat Virginia is strong, but I may be giving Butler credit for teams past, and I think the Cavaliers deserve more credit than a second-round loss. I don’t see anyone in that bracket defeating Michigan State, though. The Spartans are built for March (and early April).

Final Four

National Semifinals: Oklahoma, Michigan State

National Championship: Michigan State

Oklahoma finally gets the best of Kansas, and Michigan State wins the battle of B1G regular-season and tournament champs. In the final, I think the Spartans find a way to win.

I would like to apologize to all the schools I picked above for any and all curses that I have placed on your teams.  That said, let’s move on to my WIFE’s picks!

Darrell’s WIFE’s NCAA Tournament Picks

First Four: Wichita State, Tulsa, Fairleigh Dickinson, Holy Cross

My WIFE picked Wichita State because their mascot is a shock of wheat. Wheat has a small bit of standing in our family lore, including a key role in an intense game of Apples to Apples. She picked Tulsa because Michigan just isn’t her style. Full disclosure: My WIFE attended Michigan State, but her give-a-crap level for sports couldn’t have been lower, so this isn’t a sports-related opinion.

wichita state mascot

Darrell’s wife reminds us to not mess with a shock of wheat

South Region

First Round: Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota State, Hawaii, Wichita State, Buffalo, Iowa, Villanova

Second Round: Kansas, Hawaii, Wichita State, Iowa

Regional Semifinals: Kansas, Iowa

Regional Final: Kansas

The power of wheat carried the Shockers to the Sweet 16. My WIFE picked South Dakota State because she isn’t sure if there’s anything else to do in South Dakota in March. One of my WIFE’s co-workers attended Iowa, a fact which will help the Hawkeyes to the regional final.

West Region

First Round: Oregon, Cincinnati, Yale, Duke, Northern Iowa, Texas A&M, VCU, Cal-Bakersfield

Second Round: Oregon, Yale, Texas A&M, VCU

Regional Semifinals: Oregon, Texas A&M

Regional Final: Texas A&M

My WIFE is actively cheering against Baylor, based on their stance on same-sex relationships. As for Texas A&M, she was impressed that they nearly beat Kentucky in the SEC championship, so she’s sold on them.

East Region

First Round: North Carolina, USC, Indiana, Stony Brook, Tulsa, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Xavier

Second Round: North Carolina, Indiana, Tulsa, Wisconsin

Regional Semifinals: North Carolina, Wisconsin

Regional Final: Wisconsin

Why Wisconsin? Easy – BADGERS! My WIFE thinks badgers are great. Also, given her active avoidance of nature, animals that she can’t identify are usually labeled as either bobcats or badgers. She wanted to pick an upset, and Kentucky is the odd team out. If she’s right, the Lexington police scanner should be a great listen this weekend.

Midwest Region

First Round: Virginia, Butler, Purdue, Iona, Gonzaga, Utah, Syracuse, Michigan State

Second Round: Butler, Purdue, Utah, Michigan State

Regional Semifinals: Butler, Michigan State

Regional Final: Michigan State

In picking Butler to make a deep run, my WIFE has courage that I don’t. Also, she went there for a Matt Nathanson concert once, and she remembers the name. Her car broke down in Fort Wayne, but she’s not holding that against Butler. As for Michigan State, she feels some sense of vague obligation to pick them. “Go Green, or something.”

Final Four

National Semifinals: Kansas, Michigan State

National Championship: Michigan State

Go White, or something.

That’s where we stand. I’m reasonably confident that I’m going to – oh, no. That’s a lie. I’m vaguely hopeful that a few of the teams I picked will find a way to win enough games to make this work for me. Once again, we’re dueling over the latte of the winner’s choice.