full-bracket-qualifierThe Seoulbeats March Madness Showdown is underway! For those readers that are having trouble filling out their bracket predictions survey, we’ve got the inside scoop you need to turn your bracket from bust to boom. See what our panel of experts have to say about their predictions for the competition and use their educated guesses to help guide yours.

This week, we specifically asked: What are some potentially intriguing matchups to watch out for? Which underdog is most likely to pull off a surprising upset? Who are the clear favorites to win the whole thing? Which idols are you betting on?

Gaya: I don’t blame anyone for thinking that Jaejoong has it in the bag, but I genuinely think that Junsu has a chance. Both are active with their drama and album respectively, and both are capable of winning out all four categories. Okay, three categories, but Jaejoong rhymed “fish” with “cash” so it has to go to Junsu. It’s only right. Dark horses are the BTS members: ARMY seems to grow in intensity with each passing day, and right now they seem the most likely to give JYJ fans a semblance of an even fight. I think Exo-L are in a lull right now (or it could just be the people I follow on Twitter).

As for the ladies, I think the winner on that side will likely be CL, though the equally matched Hyorin will give her a run for her money. I would love it if a female idol was crowned champion, but who could do it?

But, I think we all know the thing I care about most here is Minho. Yet another upside of Kris ditching SM (like better career prospects and more time to sleep) is that he is no longer eligible for SB March Madness. I love Wu Yifan, but him beating Minho in the first round last year hurt. A lot. Lee Joon is a still formidable, but more beatable, opponent.

20140113_seoulbeats_aoa_jiminMark: The clear favorites are likely the regional incumbents from last year but I have a few of them on upset alert. Hyori and Boa clearly won their respective regions last year based off of reputation alone, but they can only ride the reputation train for so long. That’s why I believe the Female Dance and Visual regions will be wide open this year. I can see Min KOing Boa and Nana or Suzy doing the same to Hyori, and then it’ll be anyone’s game from there.

As for some really long shots who may have a chance of pulling a Cinderella, I have to go with Jimin (AOA) because of her current run on Unpretty Rapstar. I can see her knocking out Bora with ease then overcoming Hyuna and eventually giving CL a run for her money. Also watch out for Amber who won the Female Variety region last year. She may seem rather disadvantaged in Rap this year, but she’s more popular now than ever, and I would be really happy if she eventually duked it out with Jimin in the regional final.

For the guys, the JYJ duo may very likely do it again but perhaps not with as much ease as expected. Junsu will be facing some very stiff competition in Vocals, and I’ll be rooting for a Changmin vs. Junsu matchup to take place in the regional final, the ultimate David vs. Goliath matchup with a bit of a twist and lots more drama. Don’t underestimate Lee Joon, either, who won the Male Variety region last year and may be an even stronger force this year in Visual. I see him as the biggest threat of knocking out Jaejoong early on in a rematch of last year’s Elite 8 matchup.

Leslie: So it’s been a couple of days, and I’ve been studying the bracket considerably. I’m not going to pretend that I have any idea how any of this is going to go down so I’m going to throw caution to the wind and place my bets.

seoulbeats_26122014_yoonmiraeOn the ladies’ side, I’m pulling for rap to come down to Yoon Mi-rae vs. CL for representation of that category. For the other categories, I can definitely see Taeyeon and Lee Hyori going hard, as everyone loves Taeyeon even if they’re not Sones, and Lee Hyori has already proven her strength. I’m curious to see how the dance bracket will turn out since many of these people haven’t promoted in some time so we’ll how many of their fans will rally in their support. I’d love to see Hyoyeon go far, but I also can’t deny love for queen Boa.

With regards to the gentlemen, I see the vocals being an intense competition. I can actually see Kyuhyun edging Changmin but losing to Jonghyun who will eventually come head to head with Junsu. Tablo is going to own the rap category. Even if there will be plenty of fans voting for their favorite idol rappers, no one can deny Tablo’s artistry. In dance, I’m curious to see how far Taemin will go, but I’m not sure how he’ll fare against Taeyang since I really don’t see either BTS member as enough competition for the popularity of Big Bang. Jaejoong may have won last year, but I’m hoping against a repeat, especially since Kai, Lee Joon and Minho can all provide ample competition for him early on.

Hania: It’s always hard to predict these sorts of things, seeing as every idol group has such passionate fans behind them, and many people belong to multiple fandoms. Therefore, I think we’ll have a mix of predictable winners as well as some surprising underdogs, and possibly some serious upsets!

I agree with Leslie for the male rap category, as there really is only one legend to choose from: Tablo. Taemin and Taeyang are the two most serious contenders for the dance category, as they’ve both recently promoted successful solos that have allowed them to showcase their skills. Jonghyun is likely to own the vocal category, once again because his brilliant solo debut is fresh in everyone’s minds (although my heart is heavily biased towards Chen in this category). Best visual is likely to go to Jaejoong again, as he holds a bit of a cult status in this regard.

20130210_seoulbeats_jonghyun_dreamgirlFor the ladies, there’s also some stiff competition! Yoon Mi-rae holds a legendary status in the rap category, but Amber and CL are also huge fan favourites due to their attitude and aura. Ultimately though, I think my money’s still on Yoon Mi-rae. Despite not promoting for a while, the dance category is still likely to go to Boa, as she is a queen in everyone’s hearts. For the vocal category, my heart belongs to only one woman: Solar. But in reality, I think AKMU‘s Soohyun will take the cake as she has a fresh, unique style. In the visual category, I think Nana will dominate, seeing as she was recently chosen to be world’s most beautiful woman on the Independent Critic’s List.

Lo: I have learned a valuable lesson from last year: I suck at predicting things like this. Only Todd in the Shadows is worse. Therefore, I shall be enjoying all the bloodshed with popcorn and schadenfreude. But if shall still toss out some guesses that I sincerely doubt will happen: Jay Park will take the male crown, with B.I. a close second, and Solar will sweep through the ladies.

Camiele: Rap: Based on reputation and skill alone, Tasha and Miryo should duke it out, and Tasha should take it. However, since I doubt most of the voters listen to hip-hop (as opposed to “idol rappers”), we’re most likely going to see either Amber or CL crawl out of that bracket. The rap category is the only one where it’s ensured reputation and skill aren’t going to be the deciding factor. As for the guys, skill and reputation holding true, Tablo and Tiger JK should make it to the end, with JK edging Tablo based on mileage. However, we may end up with a young’in (Zico and/or Rap Monster) and a “veteran” going at it. In that regard, I think Tablo is closer to taking that crown based on his awareness in people’s minds. After all, Shoebox was a MONSTER album last year, and featuring so many up and coming artists probably propelled Tablo to the forefront.

Visual: Jaejoong will most likely make it to the final four. How much further he’ll go, I’m not sure. Though his status in the K-pop world alone would suggest he’d sweep the category (and possibly the whole thing) again, people like rooting for an underdog and don’t so much have a lot of love for those who always win. I think he’ll face tough competition from Lee Joon and possibly Jaehyo (Block B‘s popularity is soaring right now). For the ladies, I’m gonna go ahead and say Nana takes it.

20130717_seoulbeats_jyj_junsu2Vocals: For the girls, I’d think Ailee is the obvious choice. I’m not the biggest fan of her or who everyone else believes is another shoe-in, Taeyeon. I think they’re both kind of overrated, but Ailee has a fuller sound, more versatility, and sustains better in my mind. If we’re talking just sheer bigness of voice, though, we have to make room for both Bohyung and Solar. It sucks they’re going against each other in the first round because both carry vocally so much better than anyone else. As far as the fellas, Junsu could very well take it again, especially if people are still dying over his first single. I’d like to see a DBSK throwdown in the vocal semis. Unlike Jaejoong who I think has a tricky path after the quarters, I see Junsu being able to get through that bracket with some competition from Jonghyun and possibly Changmin, but making it nonetheless.

Dance: Jay Park has a good chance of getting through his bracket pretty easily; however, he’s got some stiff competition from Taemin and Taeyang. I’d like to see Yunho get far, but I think we have to look out for Jackson. Being ever present because of Roommate and his popularity such as it is, he could be a surprise to get out of that bracket. For the ladies, most would say Boa would reign, but Min has a damn good shot at dethroning her. A definite dark horse is HA:TFELT. “Ain’t Nobody” definitely surprised everyone and exhibited Yenny’s lines to a ridiculous degree. For her uniqueness alone she may sneak through.

As far as who takes it all, I can’t deny Jaejoong has the fanbase to edge it out again. He also has much more than visuals going for him, which is something even those who aren’t fans point out. It’s either him or Tablo (yeah, I said it) making it out of the guys’ half. I think this year for the ladies is tough because so many more were added this year, meaning there’s a chance for some upsets we don’t expect. Who do I want to see win? Tasha is queen, in my mind. Who will win? Both CL and Eunji, (A Pink has had a great year, thrusting Eunji back in the spotlight) have a chance. My dark horse, though, is Amber. Her solo album was definitely something most people were waiting for, and as fresh as it is in people’s minds, it may pull her through.

20150206_seoulbeats_haniWillis: Like Lo, I learned how awful I am at predicting a winner from last year’s March Madness (my pick was eliminated in Round 1). I love the addition of the rap category and would wager that both Tablo and Yoon Mi-rae can make it far in the competition. However, this year I will fully acknowledge the power of Jaejoong and place all my bets that he’ll repeat as champion.

As for dark horses, I think Jackson from Got7 can make some noise on the male half of the bracket. He has been very active in variety shows and has shown charisma both on and off the dance floor. As for the females, EXID‘s Hani has my pick. She is known for being talented and quirky in addition to being a stunning visual.

Andy: I will go ahead and put it all on Jaejoong. His sheer force is pretty undeniable, and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a repeat champion. The final lady he matches up again would likely be Hyorin, though I’m hoping Ailee actually wins that category.

That being said, here are my personal picks (which are based on talent and preference):

Rap: Tiger JK and Yoon Mi-rae. You can’t beat the royal family of Korean hip-hop. However, I think Tablo may end up winning, not that it would be upsetting. Anybody other than Queen Tasha coming out of the female rap category would be based on popularity.

Dance: This is a difficult bracket. For the males, it’ll likely come down to Taeyang and Jay Park, both deserving. I choose Jay Park simply for his b-boy skills, which are an added perk. The ladies, Boa and Hyoyeon would be the final two, with Boa victorious.

20130315_seoulbeats_jaejoongVocals: Junsu. He has the voice of angel, if you ask me, and he’s a perennial favorite among professional judges when it comes to idol singers. I could see Changmin coming through that bracket like a dark horse, though. I pick Ailee, out of the girls, because I find her range impressive and her tone rich. I know Hyorin or Taeyeon would probably be the two biggest contenders.

Visuals: I see the final two males as Jaejoong and T.O.P. Although I personally prefer T.O.P, Jaejoong will likely win this, and that’s perfectly okay. He’s gorgeous. Lee Joon has a shot due to his growing popularity. The female bracket may come down to Nana and Yoona, with Nana coming out ahead. I’ll still hold out on Lee Hyori as my dark horse, just like last year.

(Images via FNC Entertainment, Feel Ghood Music, SM Entertainment, C-Jes Entertainment, and Yedang Entertainment)