This week starts the March Madness equivalent for esports, or for you non-college basketball fans, Heroes of the Dorm top 64. Teams have previously been battling out in their regional groups for a spot in the single elimination bracket and that bracket starts today. Split into four quadrants, I’ll look to highlight who I think will make it from each one and which teams people could be sleeping on, so make sure you keep an eye out for them.
In the top left quadrant we have the number one seeded team but it’s arguably the most stacked portion of the bracket. UCI (1) are the only undefeated team up until this point but have to battle pass a number of tough opponent to make the final four in Burbank. Their first test will come in the Ro16 vs UQTR (16) who are the second best Canadian team in the bracket and to be honest the 16th seed is a little harsh on them and it’s not the only harsh seed in this quadrant either. IUPUI (9) are an outsider bet to make the final four having had a some tough RNG in the national swiss stage. This team would be the next test to face either UCI or UQTR in the Ro8, deciding who makes it to the live finals. This part of the bracket has been the hardest to predict for me, and in the my personal version of the bracket I have IUPUI making it out over UQTR in the Ro8.
In the top right, we have who people would argue, is the best team in tournament. Laval (2) are the strongest team in Canada and have the easiest road to the finals. The only teams that could pose any kind of threat are UConn (10) and Minnesota (7) who they would only face in the Ro8. But even then, I expect a very clean series from Laval with them 100% being in the final four, no doubt. Although it’s pretty clear who should make it out of this quadrant, there are still some great match-ups to be had. Both ASU (31) vs Toronto (34) and Waterloo (23) and WPI (41) in the first round should provide us with some entertaining series’.
Moving down to the bottom left, there are a number of teams that could cause an upset. Both UBC (12) and Notre Dame (21) could make it further than their seed suggests with Notre Dame taking IUPUI through a gut wrenching series in swiss which could have gone either way. But the Ro8 game that I expect to see to decide who goes to LAN is UNT (4) against Cal Poly (5). Honestly, from what I’ve seen, both teams have shown a lot of promise and this series could be a real scrap. I’m honestly split. This was the toughest match up for me to decide but in the end I went with UNT in a 60/40 split.
And the final quadrant two teams who made it to the final four last year in Vegas; Kentucky (4) and LSU (5). These are the two teams I expect to make it to the Ro8 with not much standing in the way of them. Cal (11) would pose the greatest threat to LSU in the Ro16 but even then it should be a pretty easy win for the higher seed. LSU’s only loss of the tournament so far was handed to them by Kentucky so they’re looking for revenge. My bracket has LSU coming out on top in what I expect to be a full three game series.
So my final four include IUPUI vs UNT and Laval vs LSU. As of right now, my head says we’ll see a IUPUI/Laval finals but my heart says UNT/LSU. Overall, I think that any four of eight teams that could make it to the finals at the Blizzard Arena and any three of those could take the crown.
Finally, as the action starts today, I’ll finish by highlighting a few upsets that are likely to happen in the first round of play. ASU (31) vs Toronto (34) are extremely close in seeding and this is where the upsets are most likely to happen. I expect to see Toronto coming out on top in this affair. RMU (24) vs Missouri (41) are a little further apart and honestly this one could swing either way. Missouri made it further in their region than RMU did in theirs so that certainly carries some weight. They have have lower deaths per game showing some discipline when it comes to playing so we could see Robert Morris fall early on this year. A final upset I’ll highlight is George Mason (19) vs Texas A&M (46). Since the start of the tournament, I’ve actually seen some improvement from A&M after their slow start meaning a seed this low isn’t that reflective of their strength. This is a match-up I could see them taking if they show up on the day to their full ability.
The games begin tonight over on twitch.tv/blizzheroes at 5PM PST with four great match-ups followed by four more on Thursday at the same time. My picks to watch out for on stream are ASU vs Toronto, Fullerton vs Houston and Utah Valley vs Carleton.