-No real surprises in the games yesterday other than perhaps VCUs win over Duke, but VCU is a very good team and many were picking them to win that game in an upset, including myself, so I cant say Im all that surprised. They ended up winning a 79-77 thriller after trailing for most of the game, but keeping it close all throughout.
-Another great game was Xavier vs BYU. The Musketeers trailed BYU by as many as nine in the second half, but managed to attack the glass and adjust to BYUs zone defense, which are two things the Muskies havent done all that well all season. The lead seesawed back and forth but Xavier got control of the game in the last 30 secs and held on to win a 79-77 thriller. That sets up a showdown between Xavier and Ohio State, who is coached by former XU coach Thad Matta, so there is a nice side story to that game.
-Eastern Kentucky came from 20+ down against North Carolina to cut the lead to four, but never got any closer than that.
-Penn also came from pretty far down to tie Texas A&M at 41-41, but were never able to get the lead after that either.
-The pace of the game between Maryland and Davidson was very fast, and Davidson built up an eight point lead in the second half, but just didnt have enough gas in the tank to stay with Maryland down the stretch. The Terps ended up winning and will face Butler in the second round.
-Other than that, the games went pretty much as expected.
-I ended up going 12-4 with my picks yesterday, which makes me 13-4 overall.
FRIDAY, MARCH 16TH
-13. ALBANY VS 4. VIRGINIA (pick-Albany). This would be a big upset, but Albany certainly has the personnel to pull it off if they play up to their potential. Virginia has been streaky down the stretch, and Albany finished the season on a high note by beating a very good Vermont team on the road in their conference tournament. They will also be playing with confidence since so many players were on the team last year that took a 12 point second half lead against Connecticut. If UVA overlooks them they will probably be going home early.
-10. GEORGIA TECH VS 7. UNLV (pick-UNLV). Im a little surprised that UNLV is seeded as a #7. Georgia Tech has some big wins, but nearly all of them have come at home. They have not beaten anyone as good as UNLV at a road or neutral site. Not only do I like UNLVs chances in this game, I believe they could potentially win another game or two after this.
-15. NORTH TEXAS VS 2. MEMPHIS (pick-Memphis). This is a pretty big mismatch. Memphis is a very good team and should cruise through this one. In looking at their profile its a little surprising that North Texas didnt get a #16 seed.
-11. WINTHROP VS 6. NOTRE DAME (pick-Winthrop). Winthrop didnt play in a tough conference, and that limited their chances to get some statement wins, but they are a very good team that could end up winning a few games in this tournament. Notre Dame looked pretty good in their two Big East Tournament games, but they could be in for a surprise in this one. Winthrop has come close for two straight years and really wants to win an NCAA Tournament game. Everyone in the tournament plays with a purpose, but these guys are coming into this one extra motivated. In addition to that, theyre a very good team.
-12. LONG BEACH STATE VS 5. TENNESSEE (pick-Long Beach State). This game should be a track meet since both teams love to push the tempo. Both teams also press, are explosive, and can score points in a hurry. Im taking Long Beach in the upset because I just havent been all that impressed with Tennessee as of late. Long Beach, on the other hand, dominated the latter part of the season. Granted they were playing in the Big West, but one can still look at them and see that they are a good team. I thought theyd be seeded a little worse than this due to their resume, but I think theyre seed is consistent with their ability level as a team.
-15. TX A&M CORPUS CHRISTI VS 2. WISCONSIN (pick-Wisconsin). Its been a landmark season for TAMUCC considering they didnt even have a basketball team eight years ago, but Wisconsins defense is just going to be way too much for them to handle. Come to think of it, theyll have quite a bit of trouble handling their offense as well.
-10. CREIGHTON VS 7. NEVADA (pick-Creighton). There have been times when Creighton hasnt played up to their potential, but theyve looked very good in the last stretch run of the season and blew through the Missouri Valley Tournament. They strike me as a team that is underseeded, and I think theyll prove that in their game today. Nevada is a good team as well, but hasnt beaten anyone as good as Creighton all year, and I dont think theyll do it today. Creighton just appears to have more weapons.
-14. MIAMI, OH VS 3. OREGON (pick-Oregon). Miami is a team that has scared some top notch programs this year, and they really played well down the stretch, but they just dont appear to have any advantage against Oregon. The Ducks rolled through the Pac Ten Tournament and arent likely to slow down today.
-12. ILLINOIS VS 5. VIRGINIA TECH (pick-Virginia Tech). Despite this being a 12 vs 5 game, I still believe it is a tossup. One never knows what Virginia Tech is going to do. They can win at North Carolina one day, and be blown out by North Carolina State the next. Illinois is more consistent and their defense has really been tough down the stretch. Still, if VA Tech shows up for this game (which they dont always do) I think theyll beat the Illini.
-17. NIAGARA VS 1. KANSAS (pick-Kansas). Niagara is technically a #17 seed because they were the lowest team on the S Curve and had to win the opening round game against Florida A&M to get here. They dont look to be the worst team in the field at all. In fact, if I had to pick the most likely 1 vs 16 upset, it would be this game. That being said, I still think there is a better chance of me winning the lottery than Niagara winning today. Kansas is one of the best teams in the country and looked very tough in the Big Twelve Tournament.
-9. PURDUE VS 8. ARIZONA (pick-Arizona). Purdue had played some very good basketball down the stretch, and I wouldnt be at all surprised to see them win this game. Still, Arizona just strikes me as a team that has more weapons and can play at a very high level when they want to. Hopefully theyll want to seeing as how this is the NCAA Tournament.
-13. NEW MEXICO STATE VS 4. TEXAS (pick-Texas). New Mexico State is a team Ive been very impressed with this season, and I had them in mind as being a team that could pull an upset
until I saw them matched against Texas. Texas is just playing outstanding basketball right now and in my mind could advance deep into this tournament. NMSU should be able to give them a game, but Id be surprised to see them pull off the upset. Still, its been a great year for New Mexico State. That is a program that is definitely moving in the right direction under Coach Reggie Theus
-9. VILLANOVA VS 8. KENTUCKY (pick-Villanova). Villanova has some nice wins against big time competition, those are few and far between. Still, Kentucky doesnt really have any wins. Nova has just looked better on a more consistent basis and I believe theyll get it done today.
-13. HOLY CROSS VS 4. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (pick-Southern Illinois). This is an interesting match-up. Southern Illinois plays excellent defense and is probably the best defensive team in the country. Still, Holy Cross runs a good half court offense and shoots the ball very well. They may be able to shoot over the Saluki defense and keep themselves in the game. In the end, SIU is just a better team and will most likely win this game.
-16. JACKSON STATE VS 1. FLORIDA (pick-Florida). Florida is playing like the best team in the country right now, and they are my pick to win the entire tournament so long as they stay healthy. They should be able to sleepwalk and win this game today.
-12. ARKANSAS VS 5. USC (pick-USC). Arkansas played extremely well in the SEC Tournament to give themselves the opportunity to make the NCAAs, but USC is really hot right now as well and has proven themselves to be a better team. I believe that all Arkansass run in the SEC Tourney will get them is a nice door prize. USC should move on to the second round.