Round of 64
Outside Pressure’s official NCAA tournament prediction is here!
I fill out a bracket (or ten) every year. I’m not about to publicly humiliate myself by posting that on the Internet. Instead, I’ll provide a round-by-round breakdown. The first round is March 15-16, and predictions are right below this.
The Round of 32 predictions will be up after the last game on the 16th.
The Sweet Sixteen predictions will be up after the last game on the 18th.
The Elite Eight predictions will be up after the last game on the 23rd.
The Final Four predictions will be up before after the last game on the 25th.
The National Championship preview will be up after the last Final Four game.
Here we go!
(1) Kentucky vs. (16) Mississippi Valley State/Western Kentucky
No one seed has ever lost an opening round game. Ever. I don’t expect it to happen this year.
(2) Duke vs. (15) Lehigh
I won’t bore you here, either. Duke is one of the ten best teams in the country this year. Unless Duke absolutely implodes, forgets how to shoot, and leaves the court with ten minutes remaining, they’ll win.
(3) Baylor vs. (14) South Dakota State
Baylor is one of the best teams in the country, and I think the three-seed is too low for them. If they had to stay in this bracket, I think Duke should have been the three. Regardless, Baylor will win this game.
(4) Indiana vs. (13) New Mexico State
Indiana was 145th in the nation in rebounding this year. New Mexico State was 6th in the nation. The only problem? New Mexico State did it in the WAC and Indiana did it in a very good Big Ten.
Indiana is led by Freshman Cody Zeller, who provides their only height that can compete with New Mexico’s big men. This game is going to be closer than people think, but I don’t think it will provide us with our first upset. I wouldn’t be surprised either way, though.
(5) Wichita State vs. (12) VCU
Wichita State played good basketball all year, but I don’t know if I would have made these guys a five-seed. I guess that doesn’t matter, though. They are. Wichita makes 48.5% of their shots, good for 13th in the country. It’s a good offensive team, but they lose games they should win. If there’s a 12-5 upset, this will be it. VCU isn’t as good, though, and they’ll have to catch fire to beat this team.
Winner: Wichita State
(6) UNLV vs. (11) Colorado
It’s starting to look like this bracket will work out just the way it’s supposed to. That happens, sometimes, and I don’t expect this to be any different. UNLV is the slightly more talented team here. Colorado won the Pac-12. Which is sort of like winning a contest full of untalented people. There is NBA-caliber talent on both sides of the ball, but UNLV has more of it and should be moving on to the Round of 32.
(7) Notre Dame vs. (10) Xavier
These teams look to be pretty evenly matched. Notre Dame doesn’t shoot the three-pointer very well, which is good because Xavier defends it as good as anyone. Notre Dame is 7-5 against RPI Top 50 teams this year. Xavier is 3-4. Notre Dame is the better team, and they’ll need to keep Xavier’s backcourt from taking over the game, and they should win this one.
Winner: Notre Dame
(8) Iowa State vs. (9) UConn
UConn is the defending national champion. Iowa state surprised everyone this year by tying for third in the Big-12. First-year coach Fred Hoiberg has done a great job turning the program around. It’s too bad they have to run into the very talented UConn team. I think the nine-seed is a little low for UConn and I think they’ll win this game handily. Experience goes a long way – especially against a team that hasn’t been to the dance since 2005.
(1)Michigan State vs. (16) LIU Brooklyn
Did I mention that no one seed has ever lost in the opening round?
Winner: Michigan State
(2) Missouri vs. (15) Norfolk State
Missouri had some injuries at the beginning of the year caused some concern, then Missouri won 14 games in a row and showed they’d still be a good team. Norfolk State has one win against a Top 75 RPI team, Drexel, and they’ve never been to the March Dance before. This West Bracket belongs to Michigan State, Missouri, and Marquette – everyone else is going to be fighting for a distance fourth out of the West.
(3) Marquette vs. (14) BYU/Iona
I mentioned that this bracket belongs to the top-three seeds. My opinion hasn’t changed in the last few minutes. Iona surprised some people when they got a bid, but I don’t think they’re as bad as you might think.
BYU will probably lose in their “Round of 68” game. If Marquette draws Iona, this one might be closer than it should be for the first half or so. However, Marquette is the better team, and the type of talent they’re bringing to the table wins in the early rounds.
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Davidson
If Louisville had been an at-large bid, I would be willing to pick Davidson. This Louisville team is weak offensively and strong defensively (a lot like the Louisville team who lost to Morehead State in the first round last year), and Davidson plays good basketball.
What the hell! Davidson has the offensive talent to beat Louisville. And they will
(5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach State
The Lobos run a very deep rotation, with ten guys seeing around ten minutes a game. They can keep constant pressure on a team because they’re always rested. That pressure resulted in opponents averaging 58 points against them this year. Long Beach was 0-4 against Top 50 RPI teams this year and they don’t shoot the ball well at the charity stripe. The 49ers belong in the tourney, and their seniors will probably play an extraordinarily tough game, but I don’t think it will be enough.
Winner: New Mexico
(6) Murray State vs. (11) Colorado State
Murray State was the last undefeated team in the country this year. They shoot well from long range, and they lack size. They went 3-0 against Top 25 RPI teams this year. Colorado State shoots the ball well too, and they don’t have a ton of size. Unfortunately for them, Murray State plays the small game better and has a deeper rotation. Colorado State is a good team, but they pulled a bad draw in the first round.
Winner: Murray State
(7) Florida vs. (10) Virginia
Both of these teams are pretty bad against teams in the top 25 of RPI, only winning one game apiece against those squads. Florida lives and dies by the three-point shot, and it might prove to be their demise. They have a young center who doesn’t rebound as well as he should. Virginia is a great defensive team, only allowing 53 points a game. They defend the perimeter well. If they can keep Florida from getting hot from beyond the arc, they could pull this win out. I just don’t think they’ll be able to do it. Florida’s guard play is too good.
(8) Memphis vs. (9) Saint Louis
I’m not sure how Memphis fell to the world of the eight-seed. They are littered with NBA talent and should be able to score on just about anyone. Saint Louis plays great defense and was great down the stretch, winning 11 of their last 13 games. However, Memphis is the better team offensively and they should find a way to score more points than Saint Louis, which is really all that matters. The upset will come if Saint Louis can get hot from beyond the arc.
(1) Syracuse vs. (16) UNC-Asheville
Do I even need to say it?
(2) Ohio State vs. (15) Loyola (MD)
It’s not very often that we see a 15-seed upset a two-seed. It won’t happen here either. When we get deeper into the tournament, Jared Sullinger will have to play better than he did during the regular season for the Buckeyes to keep advancing. However, Sullinger should control the floor on both ends against Loyola. If he can’t do that, Ohio State has much better perimeter players than Loyola, and they can win the game that way.
Winner: Ohio State
(3) Florida State vs. (14) St. Bonaventure
If you asked me to pick a seed outside the one’s and two’s who could win the national championship, my pick would be Florida State. They are a stout defensive team with great experience and six seniors. Their offense won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s good enough to compliment their defense. They’ve won big games all season, knocking off North Carolina and Duke twice each. St. Bonaventure won’t provide much a problem, as the Seminoles will roll to the round of 32.
Winner: Florida State
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Montana
Wisconsin has the top-ranked defense in the country. Montana plays good defense, too. Montana has the luxury of a talented backcourt and a seven-footer inside. It’s too bad that Derek Selvig doesn’t rebound well, averaging only six per game. Wisconsin is going to be too much for Montana to handle here.
(5) Vanderbilt vs. (12) Harvard
Vanderbilt has been upset in the first round by 12 and 13-seeds in the last two seasons. They didn’t exactly draw an easy matchup this year. Harvard won its first Ivy League championship in decades and they are playing with a chip on their shoulder. They were ranked in the top-25 earlier this season and they were 3-1 against top 75 RPI teams. The only think that makes me weary about picking Harvard is the fact that Vandy just beat Kentucky to take the SEC tournament championship. Vandy is obviously better than they were last season, and they should win this game.
But I don’t think they will.
(6) Cincinnati vs. (11) Texas
Texas almost missed the tournament until they made a late season run at some ranked teams. J’Covan Brown deserves much of the credit for keeping Texas in the mix for the tourney, but he probably won’t be enough to get them to a first round upset. The Bearcats are the better perimeter team and inside team. Cincy’s lack of depth could come back to haunt them in later rounds, but in this round they face a team with the same problem.
(7) Gonzaga vs. (10) West Virginia
Kevin Pangos is a great first-year guard for Gonzaga and the have a great duo under the rim. As a team, they average seven more rebounds a game than their opponent and they were an impressive 6-3 against teams in the top 75 RPI. West Virginia seems to be everyone’s favorite upset pick, but I don’t see why. They don’t play great defense and Gonzaga is the better rebounding team. West Virginia’s stars, Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant, will have to play their best games of the season to knock of the Zags. I don’t see it.
(8) Kansas State vs. (9) Southern Miss
Southern Miss is a solid team with significant depth. They have some fatal flaws, though. They only average 11 assists per night and they shoot 41 percent from the field. That won’t be good enough to beat the very physical and aggressive rebounding/defense of Kansas State. This 8-9 matchup will probably be the “least close.”
Winner: Kansas State
(1)North Carolina vs. (16) Lamar/Vermont
I won’t say it.
Winner: North Carolina
(2) Kansas vs. (15) Detroit
If you’re still reading this, I applaud you. I won’t waste your time analyzing a game that won’t even be close.
(3) Georgetown vs. (14) Belmont
Interesting matchup statistic number one: Belmont scores 81 points a night and Georgetown plays amazing defense, only allowing 27 percent shooting from three.
That means that something will have to give. Georgetown has put together another great team that has all the right pieces. They can score, rebound, play defense, and they have good depth. There is not a dominant offensive force for a team to focus on defensively. That’s what going to give. There’s too much talent for Belmont to handle, and they won’t be able to put up 81 points against G-Town.
(4) Michigan vs. (13) Ohio
Michigan has some of the best guards in the country. They lack a serious big man, evident by their inability to outrebound teams. Ohio finished third in the Mid-American Conference, and they won’t be much of a match for the Wolverines. They played Louisville well, and if they can come up with a blueprint similar to that one, they might give the Wolverines a run for their money – but I wouldn’t bet any of your money on it.
(5) Temple vs. (12) California/South Florida
First, I expect Cal to beat South Florida in the play-in game. Temple is a good five-seed who can shoot the three pointer well. They don’t play very good defense, though. The Pac-12 gets very little respect nationally because it was terrible this year. I don’t expect the level of respect to change. If Cal can pull off the win against South Florida, they’ll have a shot to beat Temple because of their perimeter game. I’m sticking with Temple because they look like the better team on paper, but don’t be surprised if I’m wrong.
(6) San Diego State vs. (11) NC State
San Diego State won its first ever tournament game last season and look to make it two years in a row with a victory. North Carolina State was well on their way to the NIT when they decided to win four of their last five games and nearly beat North Carolina in the ACC tournament. If C.J. Leslie can have a big game in the paint, San Diego could be in trouble. Could be. San Diego is a terrible three-point team and they’ll have to find a way to score under the rim. If NC State had a little more depth, I’d pick them to upset the Aztecs, but they don’t, and they won’t.
Winner: San Diego State
(7) Saint Mary’s vs. (10) Purdue
Saint Mary’s is led by a six-foot-six, 240 pound monster named Rob Jones. He rebounds as good as anyone in the field and scored 14 points a night. If Saint Mary’s can find a way to keep Jones active in the paint and play a fast-paced game, they’ll come out on top. Purdue slows down the game and plays good basketball – most of the time. They lost 65-45 to Penn State earlier in the year, and they’ve had some similarly bad games since. They don’t have enough speed or talent to keep up with Saint Mary’s, and they’ll be tired from the Big Ten beating all season.
Winner: Saint Mary’s
(8) Creighton vs. (9) Alabama
This is the hardest game to pick in the first round. Creighton doesn’t try to beat teams with defense, and they make no secret about it. They shoot 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc. Alabama plays great defense (yes, I’m talking about their basketball team, football season is over), but their mediocre on the offensive side of the ball. If Creighton hits a dry spell, Alabama might be able to pull away; however, I don’t think Alabama can keep pace in this game.
For those of you keeping score at home, I listed my “move on” teams below. I’ll keep track of how many I can get right throughout the tournament for your enjoyment. We’ll set the over/under at 33 out of a possible 63. For the record, I like this field to be relatively upset-free. I don’t see any potential VCU-Cinderally types this year….but I’ve been wrong before.
After the first round, I’ll throw my Round of 32 Preview together. Look for it!
Moving on in the South Bracket: (1) Kentucky, (2) Duke, (3) Baylor, (4) Indiana, (5) Wichita State, (6) UNLV, (7) Notre Dame, (9) UConn
Moving on in the West Bracket: (1) Michigan State, (2) Missouri, (3) Marquette, (5) New Mexico, (6) Murray State, (7) Florida, (8) Memphis, (13) Davidson
Moving on in the East Bracket: (1) Syracuse, (2) Ohio State, (3) Florida State, (4) Wisconsin, (6), Cincinnati, (7) Gonzaga, (8) Kansas State, (12) Harvard
Moving on in the Midwest Bracket: (1) North Carolina, (2) Kansas, (3) Georgetown, (4) Michigan, (5) Temple, (6) San Diego State, (7) Saint Mary’s, (8) Creighton