16 March 2016

2016 NCAA Tournament Predictions: 1st Round

The 2016 NCAA Tournament is under way but as we all know, the real fun kicks off tomorrow at noon with the start of the 1st Round. With action all day tomorrow and on Friday, the true madness will commence.

Which teams will keep their hopes and dreams of cutting down the nets in Houston alive, and who will depart from the tournament early? Here are my predictions for the Thursday and Friday 1st Round action.


Bracket

Thursday, March 17th
4 Duke vs. 13 UNC Wilmington - Providence - CBS, 12:00
Duke Blue Devils (1978 - Pres)NC-Wilmington Seahawks (2015 - Pres)
Will we be getting our Thursday started off with an upset? I say yes. I don't have a whole lot of confidence in the Dukies because they have been inconsistent all season long and they're not very deep. Look for the Seahawks to wear them down with their physicality and prevent the Blue Devils from catching fire from the perimeter.
Pick: UNC Wilmington

8 Texas Tech vs. 9 Butler - Raleigh - truTV, 12:30
Texas Tech Red Raiders (2000 - Pres)Butler Bulldogs (2015 - Pres)
Tubby Smith has gotten his Red Raiders to overachieve this season and while they are a balanced club offensively, they lack the go-to guy to get a bucket when they need it. Butler has the stronger offense that will power them through to the round of 64.
Pick: Butler

8 Colorado vs. 9 Connecticut - Des Moines - TNT, 1:00
Colorado Buffaloes (1980 - 1984)UConn Huskies (1996 - 2012)
If it wasn't for that bonkers game against Cincinnati, the Huskies would not be here right now so they're essentially playing with house money here. I'm not that high on the Buffaloes since they don't shoot that well inside and they turn the ball over a lot. Daniel Hamilton will power UConn through.
Pick: Connecticut

4 Iowa State vs. 13 Iona - Denver - TBS, 1:30
Iowa State Cyclones (1983 - 1994)Iona  Gaels (1982 - 2002)
The Cyclones have been a little all over the place over the past couple of months so this could be another solid upset opportunity, considering that Iona is not only hot but they score at will. That said, Iowa State just has too much talent on their roster to fall this early.
Pick: Iowa State

5 Baylor vs. 12 Yale - Providence - CBS, 2:30
Baylor Bears (2005 - Pres)Yale Bulldogs (1998 - Pres)
Baylor is a solid team but they are also coached by Scott Drew, which always makes them vulnerable to an early upset. The Bears' advantage on the boards are negated but Yale's ability to crash the glass. And I'll tell you, this is a very solid Bulldogs team on both ends of the floor and I like them to win here in Providence.
Pick: Yale

1 Virginia vs. 16 Hampton - Raleigh - truTV, 3:00
Virginia Cavaliers (1984 - 1993)Hampton Pirates (2007 - Pres)
I feel relatively confident that this will not be the first time that a 16 seed defeats a one seed. Sorry, Pirates fans.
Pick: Virginia

1 Kansas vs. 16 Austin Peay - Des Moines - TNT, 3:50
Kansas Jayhawks (1923 - 1928)Austin Peay Governors (2014 - Pres)
Ditto here. Kansas has a case that they're the best team in America while Austin Peay only got above .500 by winning the OVC Tournament.
Pick: Kansas

5 Purdue vs. 12 Little Rock - Denver - TBS, 4:20
Purdue Boilermakers (1983 - 1995)Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (1997 - 2014)
Another 5-12 upset? Why not? It's not as if Purdue is not a solid team because they absolutely are, but the Trojans don't turn the ball over often due to their methodical pace, they have a deep bench and they are one of the finest defensive teams in the country. Besides, who doesn't love the 5-12 upsets?
Pick: Little Rock

3 Miami vs. 14 Buffalo - Providence - TNT, 6:45
Miami Hurricanes (2000 - Pres)
The Bulls have more talent than their regular season showed and they are balanced on the offensive end but they also are not very experienced and struggle to shoot from the perimeter. The grinding style of the Hurricanes will wear down Buffalo early.

5 Indiana vs. 12 Chattanooga - Des Moines - CBS, 7:00
Indiana Hoosiers (2002 - Pres)Chattanooga Mocs (2001 - 2007)
This is a game that I've gone back-and-forth on a little bit because the Mocs have not only been very good this season, they have also skinned some teams from bigger conferences. But Indiana is better than they showed in the Big Ten Tournament and their perimeter shooting will be the difference.
Pick: Indiana

1 North Carolina vs. 16 Florida Gulf Coast - Raleigh - TBS, 7:15
North Carolina Tar Heels (2015 - Pres)Florida Gulf Coast  Eagles (2002 - Pres)
The Eagles do have a track record of pulling the big upset in the NCAA Tournament but Georgetown in 2013 and North Carolina in 2016 are different animals. Maybe they could make it interesting early but let's not kid ourselves here.
Pick: North Carolina

3 Utah vs. 14 Fresno State - Denver - truTV, 7:15
Utah Utes (2001 - Pres)Fresno State Bulldogs (2006 - Pres)
Even after they got truly rocked by Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, Utah has been playing very well down the stretch. Although, the Bulldogs are also really hot as well right now and they don't turn the ball over, while the Utes don't force turnovers. That said, the combination of size and shooting ability will power Utah through.
Pick: Utah

6 Arizona vs. 11 Wichita State - Providence - TNT, 9:15
Arizona Wildcats (1983 - 2002)Wichita State Shockers (2010 - Pres)
This was a game I was waiting to pick because it was solely reliant on the winner of Wichita State-Vanderbilt on Tuesday night in the First Four. Now that, as I predicted, the Shockers won in Dayton, I think they'll go on and win here too. They'll have the edge with guard play and I think they will have enough success from the perimeter to pull off the win.
Pick: Wichita State

4 Kentucky vs. 13 Stony Brook - Des Moines - CBS, 9:30
Kentucky Wildcats (2016 - Pres)Stony Brook Seawolves (2008 - Pres)
No, Kentucky as a four seed doesn't make much sense to me either but in the end, is it a big deal? The Seawolves are a solid rebounding team so the Wildcats may not obliterate them on the boards but a far stronger backcourt of Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray will be the difference.
Pick: Kentucky

8 USC vs. 9 Providence - Raleigh - TBS, 9:45
Southern California Trojans (1993 - Pres)Providence Friars (2000 - Pres)
As the season went on, the Trojans stumbled some in conference play down the stretch and they didn't make much of an impact in the Pac-12 Tournament. Plus, their inexperience could also be a problem as well as their struggles from the charity stripe. A deep, veteran-laden Providence team will survive and advance.
Pick: Providence

6 Seton Hall vs. 11 Gonzaga - Denver - truTV, 9:55
Seton Hall Pirates (1998 - Pres)Gonzaga Bulldogs (1998 - Pres)
Perhaps no team in America enters the tournament hotter than do the Pirates of Seton Hall after they won the Big East Tournament. Isaiah Whitehead is terrific while the team is also very effective scoring in the paint. This is one of the weaker Gonzaga teams that we've seen of late and even their strong forwards will not be enough to carry them in Denver.
Pick: Seton Hall

Friday, March 18th
7 Dayton vs. 10 Syracuse - St. Louis - CBS, 12:00
Dayton Flyers (2014 - Pres)Syracuse Orange (0 - 1992)
The Orange struggled down the stretch and really shouldn't have gotten a bid at all but they do have themselves a good matchup here with the Flyers. Dayton is bad at shooting the three and considering how well Syracuse defends the three, they may have to get creative to get points.
Pick: Syracuse

2 Villanova vs. 15 UNC Asheville - Brooklyn - truTV, 12:30
Villanova Wildcats (1996 - 2003)North Carolina/Asheville Bulldogs (2006 - Pres)
We all know that the Wildcats have struggled with 15 seeds before but Asheville, with how small and inexperienced they are, shouldn't give them too much trouble.
Pick: Villanova

7 Oregon State vs. 10 VCU - Oklahoma City - TNT, 1:00
Oregon State Beavers (2013 - Pres)Virginia Commonwealth Rams (1989 - 1997)
The Havoc style for the Rams is always dangerous for whomever they face, particularly so in March. The best way to defeat it and find success is if you've got a capable and confident point guard running the show. For the Beavers, I think Gary Payton II applies.
Pick: Oregon State

California vs. 13 Hawaii - Spokane - TBS, 1:30
California Golden Bears (1992 - 2012)Hawaii Warriors (1998 - Pres)
The Golden Bears are one of the more talented teams in the country but they aren't very experienced and are atrocious at the free throw line. Therefore, they could be vulnerable for an upset. Hawaii won't be afraid and do quality work defensively but they're awful defensively too. I'm not picking an upset, but wouldn't rule it out either.
Pick: California

Michigan State vs. 15 Middle Tennessee - St. Louis - CBS, 2:30
Michigan State Spartans (1983 - Pres)Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (2007 - Pres)
Seeing the Spartans getting a two seed was a little stunning but let's not act like they wouldn't like the extra motivation, eh? Get to know Giddy Potts of the Blue Raiders because he's lights out from the perimeter but unless he truly goes ham, this'll be over quickly.
Pick: Michigan State

Iowa vs. 10 Temple - Brooklyn - truTV, 3:00
Iowa Hawkeyes (1979 - Pres)Temple Owls (1996 - Pres)
Fran Dunphy is a very good coach but it's long been a recurring them that his teams just fail to get it done come tournament time. You know that he and his Owls would love to get a crack at Big 5 rival Villanova and they could pull the upset thanks to some quality ball management and solid defense but it will be the talent of the Hawkeyes, led by Jarrod Uthoff, that will lead them to victory.
Pick: Iowa

Oklahoma vs. 15 Cal State Bakersfield - Oklahoma City - TNT, 3:50
Oklahoma Sooners (1952 - 1966)CSU Bakersfield  Roadrunners (2006 - Pres)
The Roadrunners are fun to watch defensively with their consistent pressure despite being undersized but they don't have much of an answer for Buddy Hield and the rest of the Sooner brigade.
Pick: Oklahoma

Maryland vs. 12 South Dakota State - Spokane - TBS, 4:20
Maryland Terrapins (2001 - 2011)South Dakota State Jackrabbits (2008 - Pres)
The Terps have the talent to make a deep run, potentially all the way to Houston, but they have battled inconsistency big league of late as they have only gone 7-5 in their last 12 games. They should be able to power by the Jackrabbits thanks to their sheer talent edge but if they continue to be sloppy with the basketball, they probably won't make it out of Spokane.
Pick: Maryland

Wisconsin vs. 10 Pittsburgh - St. Louis - TNT, 6:45
Wisconsin Badgers (1970 - 2001)Pittsburgh Panthers (1997 - Pres)
Bo Ryan's retirement was really bizarre but under Greg Gard, the Badgers have recovered to win 11 of their last 13 in the regular season (they did lose to a bad Nebraska team in the Big Ten Tournament, though). Their defense will keep them in any game and considering that Pitt doesn't shoot it well at all, that should be the difference.
Pick: Wisconsin

West Virginia vs. 14 Stephen F. Austin - Brooklyn - CBS, 7:00
West Virginia Mountaineers (1980 - Pres)Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (2012 - Pres)
I've always enjoyed watching a quality Bob Huggins club and this team is no different with how strong they are defensively. The methodical style of Lumberjacks should be easy to exploit as well as how bad SFA is on the glass.
Pick: West Virginia

Texas A&M vs. 14 Green Bay - Oklahoma City - TBS, 7:15
Texas A&M Aggies (1972 - 1980)Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix (2007 - Pres)
The Phoenix have scored more than anybody else this season and their aggressive defensive style is a key reason why. However, the Aggies are sound enough defensively to keep them at bay and balanced enough offensively to be overwhelmed by Green Bay's style.
Pick: Texas A&M

Oregon vs. 16 Holy Cross - Spokane - truTV, 7:15
Oregon Ducks (1999 - Pres)Holy Cross Crusaders (2014 - Pres)
Regardless of who wins the First Four contest going on right now, who actually thinks they will to travel all the way to Spokane and then take out the Ducks? That's what I thought.
Pick: Oregon

Xavier vs. 15 Weber State - St. Louis - TNT, 9:15
Xavier Musketeers (1995 - 2007)Weber State Wildcats (1997 - 2011)
Weber State is hot right now and if they take care of the basketball, they may have a shot at making it interesting. Unfortunately for them, they have struggled to do that all season long and I don't see that changing on Friday night.
Pick: Xavier

Notre Dame vs. 11 Michigan - Brooklyn - CBS, 9:30
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1994 - Pres)Michigan Wolverines (2012 - Pres)
While this is not exactly the same Notre Dame team from a year ago, they should be good enough to sail by either the Wolverines or the Golden Hurricane, neither of whom have any business being in this tournament.
Pick: Notre Dame

Texas vs. 11 Northern Iowa - Oklahoma City - TBS, 9:45
Texas Longhorns (1966 - 1976)Northern Iowa Panthers (2001 - 2001)
Shaka Smart, remember that guy? Of course you do and especially his iconic defensive style which helped the Longhorns manage one of the toughest schedules of anybody. And now with Cameron Ridley back, Texas could be dangerous. UNI made it to the dance thanks to a wild buzzer beater to win Arch Madness so they're on house money but I don't think is a good matchup for them.
Pick: Texas

Saint Joseph's vs. 9 Cincinnati - Spokane - truTV, 9:55
St. Joseph's Hawks (2001 - Pres)Cincinnati Bearcats (2006 - Pres)
The Bearcats are strong defensively, but you knew that already. However, the Hawks will be ready for that thanks to how good they are at taking care of the ball and they have got a terrific 1-2 combo of DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles. I think this Hawks team has a good chance at getting to the Sweet Sixteen.
Pick: Saint Joseph's

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