The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tourney is finally here
Following the thrilling, double OT win from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first four, our field of 64 was set. After one day of exciting action, We’ve had a 15 (St Peters) take down a 2 (Kentucky). We’ve also had two 5 seeds go down (Iowa and UCONN). Meanwhile, UCLA and Arkansas were tested early but ultimately came out on top in the end.
As Friday is now upon us, the second half of the opening NCAA Tourney games will surely have us on the edge of our seat for another 13 hours of pure chaos.
Loyola Chicago vs Ohio State PK
This matchup looks great for brackets, because people see Loyola Chicago and remember Cameron Krutwig being the key axel in that machine. With Krutwig gone and some key starters back for Ohio State, this may not be the obvious 10 over 7 upset everyone thinks it is. I’m trusting the suddenly healthy Buckeyes erase everyone’s bad memories from a year ago.
Jacksonville St vs Auburn -15
The Auburn Tigers looked very lame down the stretch. After fluttering out of the SEC Tourney, we have a lot of questions for this Auburn team. Fortunately, they have a coach who has a habit of winning big in the opening rounds. Auburn has certainly slipped a lot since their Mid season top form, but they have better players at every position. Auburn is 10th on KenPom while Jacksonville St is way down at 143rd. Jacksonville St is a decent squad, but the talent of Auburn is too much.
Montana State vs Texas Tech -15
The Big 12 has looked impressive thus far. As the season progressed, we saw Texas Tech duking it out with the best teams in the nation. Tech has been extremely impressive in many of their wins. They’ve beaten a handful of Big 12 teams by more than 15 points, so we should expect the high-effort Red Raiders to keep pushing their pace, even if the shots aren’t falling.
Yale +16 vs Purdue
Yale may not have the interior the Boilermakers have (2 amazing bigs), but they move the ball and shoot it so well. Purdue has had a number of games this year where they look great, and others where they look like a disjointed mess. With the organization and ball movement of Yale, expect them to hang around against a much more talented Purdue team.
Delaware vs Villanova -15.5
As much as I’m down on the Big East following the awful losses of Marquette and UCONN, Creighton and Providence were able to salvage an otherwise ugly day. Three of the four were higher seeded, but lower seeded Creighton was able to rally. Now, the hopes for conference success shift to Villanova. The 12th ranked KenPom team (Nova) is slated for a matchup against KenPom’s #145. I trust that trio of guards and Jay Wright when it comes to March.
Miami vs USC -2
The ACC has been crap this season. There’s no pretty way of spinning it. USC has the much better defense, while Miami has a slightly better offense. At this point, I am going with KenPom’s ranking and hoping it comes to fruition. USC is 40th while Miami is 58th. It’s that simple. If you’d like, the Miami ML would be a nice way to settle a near coin-flip matchup with a bit of good juice.
Notre Dame vs Alabama -4
Alabama has been bad down the stretch of the season. We know they’re a tremendous offensive team, but they’ve struggled mightily on defense and face an organized Notre Dame team in the opener. The big rub here is the fact Notre Dame just finished a double overtime game vs Rutgers less than 48 hours from this game’s tip. I don’t like tired legs against a team who loves to run the floor. I like Alabama for that reason.
Virginia Tech +1 vs Texas
This might be a trap, but I’m curious either way. Virginia Tech has been playing some of the best basketball in the country lately, and Texas has tumbled down the KenPom list for weeks now. After winning the ACC Tournament, the Hokies will be carrying a lot of solid chemistry into this game. Forget the +1 and just take Virginia Tech outright in this game.
Chattanooga +8 vs Illinois
Chattanooga has some talent on their team. Malachi Smith is the Talisman of the offense, averaging a whopping 20.1 PPG on 50.5% shooting. They also have Silvio De Sousa down low (formerly of Kansas) averaging 11 pts and 7 rebounds per game. They are winners of five straight and the Southern tourney. Even so, this spread seems too close. With such a suspiciously close line, I feel good about the Mocs.
Cal State Fullerton vs Duke -18.5
At some point this year, Duke HAS to look good, right? They’ve definitely had their moments, but this Duke team likely has five players who will hear their names called in this upcoming NBA Draft. Normally, I’d be much more cautious of such a lofty spread, but forget this is Duke for a second and just think about their best five players. Duke is 11th on KenPom and CSUF is 149th on KenPom. Don’t overthink this one.
Iowa State vs LSU -4
This may be my pick of the first round. Everyone has rightfully been down on LSU coming into this week. They have lost four of their last seven (as well as losing their coach less than a week ago). This team looks mildly hopeless heading into the postseason, but they DO have insanely great athletes. For as bad as they’ve been, Iowa State has been worse. The Cyclones were blown-out by OK St, beaten by Baylor, and trounced by 31 against Texas Tech. I’ll go with the better KenPom team, again (18th vs 44th).
Wright St vs Arizona -21.5
The Arizona Wildcats are my pick to win the whole thing, and Wright St is the lowest ranked team remaining in the tourney, according to KenPom (175th). Arizona is better at every position and on-fire as a team. After blowing through the PAC 12 Tourney, Arizona has shown extremely high levels of energy so far. We expect it to continue in a major way when they face Wright St.
UAB vs Houston -8.5
Houston has been great in this tourney in recent years. Despite that, they have their poor playing days. This season, the Cougars absolutely rolled through the American Tourney, avenging the two prior losses to Memphis by knocking them off in the conference title game. With their demons exercised, Houston will have a tough matchup against a very frisky UAB squad. I like Houston’s defense (#3 in KenPom) in this matchup against the nation’s #7 scoring offense.
Davidson +1 vs Michigan State
Davidson failed to stop Richmond in the conference finals, but have a potentially strong matchup against a disappointing Michigan State team. The Spartans are just not good offensively (160th in scoring) and simply decent on the glass (107th). Davidson has the shooters to keep them in a low scoring game, even if the defense is cranked-up. Davidson is a terrible rebounding team, but their offensive efficiency does it for me in this one.
Colgate vs Wisconsin -8
As much as I am tempted to lean Colgate here, the KenPom rankings are very far away. Wisconsin is 32nd overall while Colgate is way down at 119. Wisconsin is better on both sides of the ball and has both talent (Johnny Davis) and experience (Brad Davison) on their side. As intriguing as Joe Lunardi’s prediction of a Colgate upset is, I simply think Wisconsin will pull away in the second half. Expect it to be a dogfight early, but Wisconsin just has too much.
TCU pk vs Seton Hall
The TCU Horned Frogs have beaten Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas over the last few weeks. They survived a murderers row of teams over the past month and now have a shot to un-seat another top seed in the round of 32 (potentially). Seton Hall plays in the Big East and as we stated earlier, we aren’t high on that conference. I like the battle-tested TCU Horned Frogs to get their shot at a top seed in the next round.