30 Seconds To Mars, Arcade Fire Lead MTV’s Musical March Madness

Linkin Park and Foo Fighters also nab #1 seeds in our second annual tournament — vote for your favorite!

It’s finally here. After 12 solid months of endless debate, speculation, open campaigning and a whole lot of accusatory e-mails from Tokio Hotel fans, at long last, we have reached the tip-off of MTV’s 2011 Musical March Madness tournament. Get ready for a bit of band bracketology that pits the 64 acts that matter most in rock against one another, with ultimate glory (and a really nice trophy) on the line.

So, after a yearlong wait, which bands got their golden tickets punched and which were left hoping for a lousy NIT invite?

Check out our full Musical March Madness bracket here.

If your favorite band made the cut, it’s up to you to get them through to the next round by voting for them early and often. You can do that starting Monday afternoon (March 14), when voting on first-round matchups begins on the Newsroom blog. Polls will remain open until midnight on Sunday, when we’ll reveal which bands survived.

Vote for your favorite bands now over on the Newsroom blog.

But before you vote, you should probably acquaint yourself with the full field of 64 bands, which is why we brought in CSPN sports analysts Dick Bagwell and Vincent Twice (a.k.a. Ryland Blackinton and Alex Suarez from Cobra Starship) to break down the 2011 MMM tourney in their own, uh, unique way.

Much like the actual NCAA tournament, our Musical March Madness runs until April 5, when we’ll unveil our grand champion — and it probably would help if you campaigned for your favorite band on Twitter, using the hashtag #MMM.

Of course, if a band you love didn’t make the cut, we hope you’ll still vote anyway. Or, at the very least, air your grievances in the comments below. And so, without further ado, let the Madness begin. Here’s a look at the 64 bands competing for the 2011 MMM title:

The #1 Seeds
Foo Fighters: Time-tested progenitors of meat-and-potatoes alt rock, the Foos land the #1 seed in the equally meaty (and potato-y) Midwest region. Dormant for a few years, they’ve returned with Wasting Light,, a take-no-prisoners missive that, they hope, will help them recapture past glories. With their long and storied history, the Foos are sort of the Musical March Madness equivalent of UCLA, which means Dave Grohl is MMM’s John Wooden. Can they add another championship banner to the rafters?

30 Seconds to Mars: Jared Leto and company grab the #1 seed in the West region thanks in no small part to the slow-burn success of their This Is War album, which, despite being released nearly 16 months ago, continues to churn out rock-radio staples. Angered by their controversial overtime loss to My Chemical Romance in last year’s Sweet 16 — and buoyed by a fanatic fanbase — 30STM enter the 2011 MMM with a sizable chip on their shoulders, making them capable of beating anyone, anywhere. They’re a bit of a hybrid band, adept at pounding the ball down low but more comfortable in the open court, which makes them like John Calipari’s old slash-and-burn Memphis squads, or San Diego State this year. Could this be the year they take the title?

Arcade Fire: Big-boned balladeers who bullied their way to a #1 seed in the erudite East region, the Arcade Fire enter the 2011 tournament as perhaps the nation’s hottest band, riding a winning streak that saw them score a #1 debut with The Suburbs and shock the world by snagging the Album of the Year Grammy from Eminem and Lady Gaga. Simply put, they’ve forgotten how to lose, a fact that, when coupled with their insane bench depth (since there are, like, eight people in the band), could make them the toughest out in the tourney. They most definitely run the Princeton offense, just in case you were wondering.

Linkin Park: Former bruising nu-metallers now reinvented as sonically adventurous artistes, Linkin Park nab the #1 seed in the South region (for reasons unclear, the Selection Committee decided to make them leave their West Coast enclave). Though they’ve certainly got the power and the championship pedigree , LP seem too frequently plagued by inconsistency — check the mixed reaction to A Thousand Suns — which is certainly a byproduct of their brave decision to remake themselves. Of course, it makes them like those old Bob Huggins-coached Cincinnati squads, or UConn this year. If they can put it all together, this is a dangerous band indeed.

Midwest
The so-called “flyover states” get a bracket positively brimming with rock-radio heavyweights bands, including the Foos, #4 the Black Keys, #5 Neon Trees, #7 Avenged Sevenfold and #9 Disturbed (broad generalizations are sort of par for the course in MMM). Last year’s champs, Coheed and Cambria, end up here as a shocking #6, and they’ll face a tough first-round test in #11 Crystal Bowersox. Other potential barn-burners include #4 Rise Against versus #13 Pete Wentz, and the Trees vs. #12 Patrick Stump, the results of which could lead to a second-round death match between two former Fall Out Boy mates. Not sure how Taylor Swift ended up as a #10, but she’s got her work cut out for her against Avenged Sevenfold. Possible sleepers? We like #3 Vampire Weekend, a band no one is talking about, even though they probably should be.

(1) Foo Fighters vs. (16) The Damned Things
(2) The Black Keys vs. (15) Bret Michaels
(3) Vampire Weekend vs. (14) Bright Eyes
(4) Rise Against vs. (13) Pete Wentz
(5) Neon Trees vs. (12) Patrick Stump
(6) Coheed and Cambria vs. (11) Crystal Bowersox
(7) Avenged Sevenfold vs. (10) Taylor Swift
(8) Dave Matthews Band vs. (9) Disturbed

West
A bracket loaded with talent (for the second straight year, it’s probably the toughest field in the entire tournament), topped by 30STM but also featuring titans like #2 Blink-182, #3 Green Day, #6 U2 and #7 the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Panic! at the Disco/ Avril Lavigne matchup has all the markings of a classic, as does the 8/9 contest, which pits Pearl Jam against Train. Oh, and don’t sleep on #14 Adam Lambert, who proved in last year’s tournament that his fans definitely get out and vote. We actually like him as the favorite against Green Day. Other under-the-radar acts that could do well here, like #4 Florence and the Machine and #11 Ke$ha, both of whom are looking to win one for the ladies.

(1) 30 Seconds to Mars vs. (16) Yellowcard
(2) Blink-182 vs. (15) All Time Low
(3) Green Day vs. (14) Adam Lambert
(4) Florence and the Machine vs. (13) Brandon Flowers
(5) Panic! at the Disco vs. (12) Avril Lavigne
(6) U2 vs. (11) Ke$ha
(7) Red Hot Chili Peppers vs. (10) Death Cab for Cutie
(8) Pearl Jam vs. (9) Train

East
Last year, I described the East as “the intellectual enclave,” and in 2011, it still features plenty of bands that make the blogs go buzz — Arcade Fire, #2 Radiohead, #4 the Strokes, #14 Panda Bear and #15 TV on the Radio. But, for the first time, the East has also been inundated with brawling, rock-radio bruisers, including #3 My Chemical Romance (playing close to their spiritual home of New Jersey), #6 Cage the Elephant and #11 Rage Against the Machine. Who will come out on top? Our money’s on MCR, who made it to the championship game last year , though #12 Phish also advanced deep last year, and you’d be foolish to overlook the power of #8 Coldplay or the chart-topping prowess of #9 Cake or #10 the Decemberists too. Also, the Arcade Fire/ Sum 41 matchup — we’re dubbing it “The Battle for Canada” — should be an absolute barn-burner. Or whatever they call a barn in Canada.

(1) Arcade Fire vs. (16) Sum 41
(2) Radiohead vs. (15) TV on the Radio
(3) My Chemical Romance vs. (14) Panda Bear
(4) The Strokes vs. (13) MGMT
(5) Phoenix vs. (12) Phish
(6) Cage the Elephant vs. (11) Rage Against the Machine
(7) Owl City vs. (10) the Decemberists
(8) Coldplay vs. (9) Cake

South
An odd mix of bands actually from the South — the 4/13 matchup, which pits the Kings of Leon against Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, is basically the battle for Southern supremacy — bands who probably should be from the South (#6 Kid Rock, #3 Mumford & Sons), and bands that have absolutely no affiliation to the region whatsoever (pretty much everyone else). Still, the Selection Committee had to put them somewhere and, in doing so, has created a bushel-load of intriguing first-round matchups, including #2 Muse vs. #15 Cobra Starship, Mumford vs. #14 Tokio Hotel (our apologies in advance to Mr. Mumford and his Sons), Kid Rock vs. #11 Adele and #5 Paramore vs. #12 No Doubt. We honestly have no idea how this bracket is going to shake out, and we can’t wait to watch the carnage unfold.

(1) Linkin Park vs. (16) Sleigh Bells
(2) Muse vs. (15) Cobra Starship
(3) Mumford & Sons vs. (14) Tokio Hotel
(4) Kings of Leon vs. (13) Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
(5) Paramore vs. (12) No Doubt
(6) Kid Rock vs. (11) Adele
(7) Weezer vs. (10) My Morning Jacket
(8) R.E.M. vs. (9) Hinder

Did your favorites make the cut? Sound off about the bracket in the comments below!

MTV’s Musical March Madness Tournament is back! Voting on all first-round matchups begins this afternoon on the Newsroom blog and continues until Sunday. All winners are determined by your votes, so if your favorite act made the cut, it’ll be up to you to guide them to glory. You can rally the troops on Twitter using the hashtag #MMM — but get ready, it’s gonna be a war.