First Four and First Round Predictions

So, instead of giving y’all the opportunity to ridicule me for picking Weber State to win it all this year, and so that if I get something wrong it won’t affect my predictions down the line, I won’t be posting brackets: I’ll be posting predictions for each round. After this round concludes Friday, I’ll post predictions for the Second Round on Saturday (and so on). Alright, fine, here’s my bracket. Don’t laugh too hard. Still giving you my predictions each week though.

printable-march-madness-bracket

Let the hate begin!

First Four

Florida Gulf Coast vs Fair Dickinson

Do you expect me to believe that Fair Dickinson stands a chance? They didn’t beat anybody good before their conference schedule. FGCU, while not as good as the 2013 squad that shocked the world of Men’s Basketball, is clearly the superior squad. Don’t expect this one to be close.

FGCU 71, FD 52

Vanderbilt vs Wichita State

The first of the “Huh?” teams arrive. Vanderbilt, which many including myself thought wouldn’t make it into the Tournament, gets a perplexing second chance to redeem itself this time against a fairly good Wichita State team. Potential spoiler alert: if Vanderbilt plays like they did against a bad Tennessee squad, they won’t get a third chance.

Wichita State 76, Vanderbilt 73

Holy Cross vs Southern University

Now, let me put it lightly: Southern doesn’t have an amazing squad. They’re a slow paced, not-so-high shooting squad. But, depending on which Holy Cross team wants to show up, Southern could wind up on a date with Oregon. Holy Cross is only here because of a miracle run through the Patriot League Tournament, and sub-par would be lenient for this team leading up to the Patriot League Tourney. I think, in the words of Metallica, “Luck runs out” for Holy Cross (maybe it’ll be a blessing in disguise: they won’t have to play against Oregon).

Southern 65, Holy Cross 60

Michigan vs Tulsa

Another game featuring a member from the “Huh?” Brigade: the ever perplexing Tulsa team. I don’t know what the committee was thinking here, and nothing other than a Sweet Sixteen appearance can make me think that the Committee was being a quiet genius picking Tulsa when there were plenty of other teams that perhaps had better resumes than Tulsa (Hello Monmouth). Aka they don’t stand a snowballs chance in Hell against Michigan.

Michigan 78, Tulsa 67

First Round

Duke vs UNCW

No, unfortunately it’s not Duke against North Carolina but rather it’s Duke against North Carolina at Wilmington. Bummer, right? Wrong, unless you’re a Duke fan. UNCW has nothing to lose and can create some matchup problems with Duke. I think Duke walks out the same way they walked out of their match with Lehigh a couple years ago: with a loss. This game will be entertaining to the very end, starting the First Round with a bang.

UNCW 70, Duke 68

Texas Tech vs Butler

Had you told me six years ago before Butler knocked off a #1 Syracuse squad that Butler would be a virtual staple of March Madness, I would have died of laughter and replied “Who?” Ask me how I feel about Butler today and I will tell you this team is always dangerous. Texas Tech right now is ice cold, giving Butler the perfect setup to make (yet another) deep run into the tournament.

Butler 81, Texas Tech 71

Colorado vs Connecticut

Connecticut gets a chance to prove that their impressive tour de force in the American Conference Tournament wasn’t a fluke by immediately battling with an improved Colorado squadron. Two seasons ago they made an impressive run to win the entire tournament. That makes them even more dangerous because their coaching staff now have experience. That is going to be the key difference in this game.

UConn 75, Colorado 67

Iowa State vs Iona

Iowa State has been inconsistent really. They’ll be good one game, poor the next. Iona is a decent squad with a lot to play for. Unfortunately for Iona, Iowa State has a lot to play for as well this year, and while it will be tough for both teams, I see Iowa State crawling out of the wreckage.

ISU 65, Iona 60

Baylor vs Yale

Baylor has some severe weaknesses, and Yale, making it’s first appearance in 54 years (aka the first time in my life and my parent’s lives) is particularly talented in the places Baylor is weak. I fully expect Yale to exploit these weaknesses excitedly, and with UNCW winning there is a path for Yale to make the Sweet Sixteen.

Yale 77, Baylor 63

Virginia vs Hampton

Virginia might be the weakest #1 seed, but they catch a break having to duke it out with Hampton. It was nice knowing ya, Hampton.

Virginia 83, Hampton 61

Kansas vs Austin Peay

If you pull this off Austin Peay, it’ll be one for all the history books ever. I’ll talk about you until I die. But, until I see you with the lead as the buzzer sounds, I won’t believe in you. RIP.

Kansas 89, Austin Peay 67

Purdue vs Arkansas Little-Rock

I wanna see Arkansas Little-Rock win this game. I just do. They have all the pieces to be able to pull of the upset, I just don’t think that they’ll be able to piece them together by the time Thursday rolls around. It’ll still be a good game though.

Purdue 76, ALR 70

Miami (Florida) vs Buffalo

I have a serious question to the Committee: did you somehow see the teams I said I’ll be pulling for and purposefully place them against teams that have an advantage over them? This one is perhaps the second most winnable for any of the teams I said I’ll be cheering for, but it’s still going to be tough for Buffalo to do it. Anything is possible though, right? Right?

Miami 78, Buffalo 65

Indiana vs Chattanooga

Talk about under the radar games and this would be right up there. Nobody has any expectations for Chattanooga against Indiana. I actually had to think long and hard about this one, because their stats are almost carbon copies of each other. Their strengths clash with each others strengths. This will perhaps be the most entertaining game (Disclaimer: I have no evidence that it will actually be entertaining. If it isn’t please change the channel) on the slate for Thursday, and I will be disappointed if it isn’t. I think Indiana wins it on a last second three pointer.

Indiana 67, Chattanooga 66

North Carolina vs FGCU

North Carolina claims the sacrificial lamb sent to them by the Committee.

North Carolina 85, FGCU 61

Utah vs Fresno State

I’ve been hearing in the winds that this game has the word “upset” written all over it. My reply to that is “I’ll smoke whatever they’re smoking.” because these two just aren’t comparable to each other. One nearly won a very strong PAC-12 Championship. One nearly lost a mediocre Mountain West Tournament (and if you think Utah is still in the Mountain West, howdy there! How’s it going back in 2007?). The Utes will roll over Fresno State, that’s just the sad truth.

Utah 78, Fresno State 66

Arizona vs Wichita State

Arizona is a mere shell of what they used to be two years ago, or even last year. At least they’re nowhere near Wisconsin in the bracket this year right? Wichita State will test Arizona immediately. If Arizona blows them out, they’ll be good to make a deep push again this year. If they barely win (1-6 point victory), which is more likely, they probably won’t get past Miami despite Miami’s flaws. If they lose, it’s fairly obvious to say “They won’t be going far.” The scary part? Any one of these scenarios wouldn’t surprise me. I’ll take the 1-6 point victory though.

Arizona 71, Wichita State 68

Kentucky vs Stony Brook

Rev up your upset alert buttons: this one should be a doozie. Because if there’s any team in ranked 10-16 that can match up well with Kentucky, it’s Stony Brook. Stony Brook is deep, and Kentucky can be deep too on good days. It’ll be a struggle for Kentucky to escape this game alive, and perhaps we could get an overtime extravaganza here too, but they’ll manage to do so. By the skin of their teeth.

Kentucky 82, Stony Brook 78 OT

USC vs Providence

The University of Southern California isn’t known for it’s basketball prowess, and perhaps that’s why they’re underdogs against Providence, but USC is a sneaky good team. They beat teams like Wichita State, Monmouth and Yale. Providence is no pushover, but they tend to lose games they should win, like against DePaul or Marquette. Will this be a good game? Who knows. But expect USC to pull one out against an inconsistant Providence.

USC 76, Providence 73

Seton Hall vs Gonzaga

Seton Hall is having a season to remember. Gonzaga, despite making the Tournament, is having a season to forget. This is a mismatch, and fully expect Seton Hall to exploit it.

Seton Hall 74, Gonzaga 63

Dayton vs Syracuse

Finally we make it to the final member of the “Huh?” Brigade with Syracuse. Now Syracuse wasn’t a bad team this year. They just weren’t particularly good either, while Dayton did a pretty good job kicking ass and chewing bubble gum while being all out of gum. I don’t expect this to be close, and I expect that people will start asking why the committee put in Vanderbilt, Tulsa and Syracuse if there were teams with better resumes and the “Huh?” Brigade fails to win a single game.

Dayton 75, Syracuse 62

Villanova vs UNC Asheville

#15 seeds are a fan favorite dark horse to take out a powerhouse team, and UNC Asheville won’t be any different in that sense. They’ll also suffer the same fate most #15’s suffer: a quick exit. While Villanova is inconsistent and doesn’t look like it’ll go real deep into the Tourney, UNC Asheville doesn’t have the capability to take down Villanova.

Villanova 79, UNCA 59

Oregon State vs VCU

Oregon State has a feel good story, but feel good stories have to have a tough edge to them in order to survive in the Madness that is March, which VCU absolutely has. Their defensive strategy of “Havoc” has gotten them places in March, and while they’re now without Shaka Smart as Head Coach, they’re still a force to be reckoned with during this month. Unfortunately for Oregon State, they have to deal with that force first.

VCU 79, Oregon State 72

California vs Hawaii

Remember Indiana and Chattanooga being carbon copies of each other? Same story here, only this time California and Hawaii have the same strengths and weaknesses to compliment each other. In other words: welcome to trench warfare. This won’t be a high scoring affair, and either team could win this game. I’ll pick the team that battled tough teams throughout the regular season though.

California 49, Hawaii 47

Michigan State vs Middle Tennessee

Woe to the person that thought Michigan State was only a #2 seed.

Michigan State 87, Middle Tennessee 52

Iowa vs Temple

Temple has been consistently good throughout the entire season. Iowa has started slipping after an incredible start. What we get depends on the kind of Iowa we get: are we getting an amazing performance? Or we will we get a bad loss and a chance to observe how far Iowa fell from grace? We’ll see this Friday, but right now I’m hedging my bets on “loss”.

Temple 75, Iowa 74

Oklahoma vs CSU Bakersfield

It was a fun run, CSU Bakersfield. You were too good for the world.

Oklahoma 78, CSUB 57

Maryland vs South Dakota State

*insert air raid siren here* Talk about upset potential here. Maryland hasn’t made it to the Second Round in over a decade, and it’s not looking like that streak will be broken anytime soon with how South Dakota State matches up with them tic for tac. It’ll be an interesting game to say the least.

South Dakota State 69, Maryland 67

Wisconsin vs Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has trouble shooting and good rebounding, Wisconsin has trouble rebounding and good rebounding. Oh boy. Strength vs Strength is a good thing, weakness vs weakness generally turns into a snooze fest or a land of absolute jaw droppingly bad plays. Hopefully for our entertainment it’s the latter.

Pittsburgh 57, Wisconsin 54

West Virginia vs Stephen F. Austin

“Hi, we’re Stephen F. Austin. You probably haven’t heard of us because we didn’t really play anyone tough this year, and when we did, we got manhandled. If you do, you probably remember the Baylor game where we got creamed by 42 points. How did we even make the Tournament? Simple: we’re in the Southland Conference, where no good teams exist.”

West Virginia 97, SFA 52

Texas A&M vs Green Bay

I feel bad for Green Bay here. Texas A&M sounds like a fairly simple task if you’re just tuning into the season here. Usually they’re not very good, let alone Tournament worthy. This year is an entirely different story though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see A&M in the Final Four. Will it happen? Probably not. I still wouldn’t be surprised though.

TAMU 81, Green Bay 64

Oregon vs Southern

Normally I’d make a joke at the expense of the #16 seed, but not this time.

Oregon 97, Southern 48

Xavier vs Weber State

Weber State is a good team. They have a couple flaws here and there, but they’re a well rounded, deep group of guys. Unfortunately that won’t save them against the awesome power of Xavier.

Xavier 82, Weber State 64

Notre Dame vs Michigan

Every year since the inception of the 68 team bracket, one team at least from that first round of four games goes on to beat the next team they play. This year that team will be Michigan: they match up well with Notre Dame, and anything can happen in a rivalry matchup. Notre Dame hates Michigan, Michigan hates Notre Dame. Notre Dame will hate Michigan more after this game.

Michigan 75, Notre Dame 73

Texas vs Northern Iowa

Can Shaka Smart use his experience at VCU to help Texas make a deep run into the Tournament? That depends on how well he does against a team who made it to the Round of 32 last year and is looking to improve on that. Texas has battled against tough teams all year. They should be able to win this game, as long as they never count UNI out.

Texas 76, UNI 72

St. Josephs vs Cincinnati

We end an interesting First Round with perhaps one of the most intriguing matchups, up there with Indiana/Chattanooga and California/Hawaii. These are two rough and tumble teams sure to give each other waking nightmares at some point or another in the game as the momentum swings from team to team. This one will definitely be close, and I think Cincinnati does just enough to sneak out with a victory.

Until next time, take care y’all.

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First Four and First Round Predictions

Under The Radar: Alabama Men’s Basketball

I haven’t followed every NCAA basketball team this season. How can I? I am but a single man who has basic cable in a student apartment who has other duties outside of watching every basketball game. There’s just been one question, nagging at me as the season has gone on:

Where is the love for Alabama Basketball?

If you’re just a casual fan, this may come as a bit of a shock. Alabama has a basketball team? Indeed they do, and they are by far one of the most underrated teams in the sport right now. Sure, it doesn’t matter right now considering Conference play is just around the corner. It just irks me that such a good team is being overlooked by the nation, especially by the AP Poll.

Now, I have to address my Alabama bias. Yes, I love the Crimson Tide. I go to school here at the University of Alabama, and I’ll bleed Crimson until the day I die. With that being said, I want to assure whoever is reading this that what I’m saying is based on statistical evidence. I’m trying hard to not let my bias interfere with this, and for people in schools that are being overlooked like Alabama this is about you too. This same argument can be applied to your team as well. With that out of the way:

As of this post, the AP Poll currently has Kentucky at number 4. Now, that’s likely to change given that Kentucky lost to Ohio State, but they’re still probably going to be ranked. They have the same amount of losses as Alabama at the time of this post (2). Let’s compare the two losses: Kentucky has lost to UCLA and Ohio State. Both respectable teams to be sure, this is not a knock against a Kentucky team expected to be rebuilding. But if we compare that to Alabama’s losses (Xavier and Dayton), you can see that Alabama’s losses are stronger than Kentucky’s losses. Xavier is a top ten team, and Dayton is on the threshold of the top 25, while UCLA is also on that threshold and Ohio State is mere cannon fodder this season.

“Well, okay” you might say. “But what about the teams they’ve beaten? Surely Kentucky has that nailed.” Well, the schedule says otherwise. Alabama has beaten two powerhouse teams away from home (Wichita State and Notre Dame, both of which got votes by the AP Poll last week) and Kentucky beat Duke at home. Duke is pretty good, but that’s the only solid, good team they beat. And while Notre Dame isn’t solidly good, there’s a reason many experts expected them to go dancing before the season began.

My point isn’t to disparage Kentucky. They’re absolutely an amazing team that deserves the recognition for their good. My point is that there are teams that are good, like really really good. Teams like South Carolina, who thrash the teams they’re supposed to thrash (They’re 10-0 by the way. That’s not something you see non-Top 25 teams do.) They’re ranked 30th in the FPI. Guess who’s behind them? Duke. There are teams like Alabama, who are actually good but don’t get the recognition they deserve. Alabama is ranked 22nd in the FPI, but they haven’t received a single vote in either the AP or USA Today Polls. At least South Carolina is ranked in the USA Today Poll and has several votes in the AP Poll.

Alabama at least deserves some recognition for the gauntlet that they’ve run through this season so far. Avery Johnson deserves a ton of credit for how far he’s brought this team in only a year, from NIT nobodies to contenders for March Madness. It’s in the stats: this is a worthy team that deserves to dance far more than some teams that the people in the AP Poll are voting for. And if this team somehow manages to knock off Kentucky January 9th, everyone else might be shocked, but I wouldn’t be. They’re that good this season.

Under The Radar: Alabama Men’s Basketball