Charles Barkley has had worse luck in NCAA tournament brackets than some of his trips to Las Vegas, where he’s admitted to losing some massive amounts on occasion.
“It’s definitely a different animal,” Barkley told USA TODAY Sports. “This is one-and-done, which makes it extremely hard. I’ve never won a bracket. I do one every year and it just hasn’t happened.”
Barkley, a Turner Sports basketball analyst who will provide commentary from the studio for the NCAA tournament, has Villanova, Louisville, North Carolina and Arizona in the Final Four with Arizona winning it all.
“I live there,” Barkley quipped. “I love Arizona. I really like their team and that have it all with that Allonzo Trier kid back after he missed nearly 20 games.”
Neither of CBS analysts Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis even have Arizona making the Final Four. But Kellogg and Davis each have 32-1 Gonzaga, the west’s top seed, finally making the Final Four.
“If you keep banging on the door, eventually you are going to break through,” Davis said. “The questions remains will they do it this time? They have probably have the most complete team in the county and the only team that can check all the boxes, including a big (center) in Przemek Karnowski, who is one most skilled players in the country. They have great guards and a lot of NBA-level talent and a great culture. This could be the one that makes the Final Four.”
Barkley and Davis have Conference USA tournament champions Middle Tennessee as one of their sleepers. Middle Tennessee is a 12th seed in the south and faces No. 5 Minnesota in the first round on Thursday.
“They are pretty much the same team that beat Michigan State (in the first round) last year,” Davis said. “They have a favorable draw and the 5-12 games have some of the most frequent upsets in the first round.”
Kellogg had a tip for those struggling to fill out the bracket: pick teams with solid guard play, something that has proven to be more valuable than size alone over recent tournaments.
“It’s started to go that way,” Kellogg said. “There more of an importance now on three-point shooting and versatility. You need the playmaking guys, the small-ball engineers.”
Kellogg has Villanova repeating as champs. Davis predicts that Duke will win its sixth national title, something that Grant Hill --- who will call the Final Four with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson --- can appreciate; Hill was on Duke’s first two title teams in 1991 and 1992.
Hill, however, told USA TODAY Sports he hasn’t picked his Blue Devils to claim the title, at least not yet.
“Duke has a chance, but Arizona looks good,” Hill said. “It’s a challenge this year because there’s no one team that has stuck out and been dominant all season. There are a lot of teams capable of making it to the Final Four. It’s going to make for an interesting tournament.”
Hill admits that Duke has been good to him when he’s picked them in the past, including in 2010 when he won the players pool as a member of the Phoenix Suns as Duke edged out Butler for the title.
“I was the only guy who picked Duke, so I won that little pool,” Hill said.
Knowing how NBA players like to like to wager on poker, among other things, Hill wouldn’t say exactly how “little” his winning bracket earned him.
“It’s all relative,” Hill joked.