We have liftoff! Thursday we buckle up for the best roller-coaster ride in all of sports.

Winning the water cooler conversation and winning a large pool requires different strategies when filling out a brackets.To win a large pool, one must look for a disparity between probability and public perception. For example, picking Kentucky to win the championship in a large pool holds limited value because a large percentage of the pool will also have the ‘Cats.

Teamrankings.com estimates Kentucky with a 40.7 percent chance of winning the title, however over 50 percent of current brackets have Kentucky circled as champion. Conversely, the public undervalues Villanova, giving it only a 2.6 percent chance to win the title, when most computer models indicate they should have an 11.6 percent chance.

 

Watch Out For

North Carolina

The Tar Heels have been streaky all season long and have been plagued with not closing out games strong. Head coach Roy Williams was in position to beat Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame before watching the victories slip away. Now the 'Heels find a favorable draw with the ability to match up to West powers Wisconsin and Arizona.

North Carolina has a legitimate inside-out attack. When clicking, they are a dynamic scoring team with a go-to-guy in Marcus Paige, a post game with Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, and an ascending talent in former McDonald’s All-American Game MVP, Justin Jackson. Jackson has scored in double figures in eight of the last nine games.

North Carolina is the sleeper to watch in the West Bracket.

 

Underdog To Watch

Texas

The Longhorns might not deserve to be in the field of 68 but they are dancing nonetheless. This team has the weapons and size to make a Sweet 16 run through Butler and Notre Dame. Isaiah Taylor is a dynamic point guard campaigning for the NBA Draft’s first round. Senior Jonathan Holmes is healthy again with the ability to stretch the defense. Cameron Ridley can change the game on the glass as well as defensively. The X-factor is 6-foot-11-inch Myles Turner. Turner‘s freshman campaign in Austin hasn’t lived up to the billing. Turner has shown game-changing ability, blocking shots, hitting “3s” and flashing an array of scoring moves.

 

Player To Know

Monte Morris, Iowa State

The Cyclones just captured the Big XII conference championship in thrilling fashion, winning nail-biters against Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The engine is the 6-foot-2-inch sophomore guard from Flint, Michigan. Morris leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at an outstanding 4.91 assists per turnover, but that’s not all. He’s one of the better perimeter defenders in the country and he’s developed into a clutch scorer.

Iowa State can make a run through the South bracket with it’s dynamic floor general.

 

Upset To Watch For

Valparaiso over Maryland

The Crusaders are a defensive minded team that shoots the 3-point shot well.

Sophomore Alec Peters at 6-foot-10-inches presents a matchup problem with an effective shooting percentage at 59.2 percent.

The Crusaders have done a great job this season containing big time guards. They shut down Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes three times this season, including in the conference tournament championship.

Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Vashil Fernandez may very well be the key to the game. He is a rim protector who averages three blocks per game, six rebounds and provides some interior scoring punch.

 

Final Four Picks

Kentucky over North Carolina

Iowa State over Villanova

Kentucky over Iowa State