March Madness predictions: Every 1st-round game examined
So now that we know the map of the NCAA Tournament, the question is who can stay on the road. And if the future seems a little murky, no wonder, since 21 conference No. 1 seeds just lost in their league tournaments.
Not to mention the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament have an all-time high of 23 losses.
So let’s look at the travelers, with 36 thoughts on 36 First Four and first round games.
|MARCH MADNESS ON SOCIAL MEDIA|
JOIN THE TEAM.
Wichita State vs. Vanderbilt. The Shockers started the season ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, the Commodores No. 18. Four months ago, who saw this First Four game coming?
Michigan vs. Tulsa. The Wolverines are here on the grace of a 3-pointer against Indiana by Kameron Chatman, who had hit seven all winter. Tulsa lost twice to Memphis in 13 recent days, by 10 and 22. A lot of people will ask what Tulsa did to have this spot over, say, Monmouth.
Florida Gulf Coast vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. The Dunk City replays from 2013 are already showing.
Holy Cross vs. Southern. Holy Cross, from 0-9 on the road in league play to winning four road games to win the Patriot tournament, are one of the charmers of the field.
Kansas vs. Austin Peay. Not to depress Austin Peay in its moment of exult, but the Jayhawks haven’t lost since Jan. 25. Included in their 14-game winning streak are eight ranked opponents. They’re the No. 1 overall seed for a reason.
Colorado vs. Connecticut. The Huskies went from bubble team to conference tournament champion in one gritty weekend. Sound familiar? Cue up the tape from 2011.
Maryland vs. South Dakota State. It’ll be a real fireworks show of talent if it’s Maryland vs. California in the second round.
California vs. Hawaii. See above.
Arizona vs. Vanderbilt/Wichita State winner. Either way, Arizona can’t afford to bring the B game.
Miami vs. Buffalo. No, this is not an AFC East Monday night game.
Iowa vs. Temple. The Hawkeyes, once ranked No. 3, have lost six of eight. Last chance to fix whatever is wrong.
Villanova vs. UNC Asheville. Villanova’s recent tournament woes – no survival past the first weekend since 2009 – won’t be discussion fodder until the Wildcats, if they win here, play Iowa or Temple in the second round.
|MARCH MADNESS SHOP|
Oregon vs. Holy Cross/Southern winner. The Ducks are winners of 14 of 16, are 28-6, their best record through 34 games since the 1939 team won the first NCAA Tournament.
Saint Joseph’s vs. Cincinnati. Last year, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin had to watch the Bearcats’ tournament ride from afar, because of health.
Baylor vs. Yale. It’ll be Yale’s first tournament game since 1962. The Bulldogs have never won one.
Duke vs. UNC Wilmington. Here’s a bit of hopeful history for UNC Wilmington. The young and thin Blue Devils have 10 defeats. The only double digit loss teams Mike Krzyzewski ever took into the tournament lost to Eastern Michigan and VCU in the first round.
Texas vs. Northern Iowa. Arguably the best first round game. Texas has lost five of nine, but that deserves an asterisk. All five opponents were ranked. Northern Iowa has won 12 of its last 13, and is 3-0 this season against ranked opponents. Including North Carolina.
Texas A&M vs. Green Bay. Green Bay coach Linc Darner, who led Florida Southern to the Division II national championship last year, has won 13 consecutive games in March.
Oregon State vs. VCU. No Shaka Smart, no Havoc. But the Rams are back in the field, anyway.
Oklahoma vs. CSU Bakersfield. Welcome to Oklahoma City, Roadrunners. Don’t expect much in the way of crowd support.
North Carolina vs. Florida Gulf Coast/Fairleigh Dickinson winner. The six Tar Heel losses were by a combined 22 points. They have held 23 consecutive opponents under 45 percent shooting. They have four players with more than 100 assists, which hasn’t happened since 1973. They . . . well, you get the picture.
USC vs. Providence. Who’s found second wind? USC has gone 3-7 the past 10, Providence finished 6-7 in the last 13 games.
MORE: March Madness hub
Indiana vs. Chattanooga. If the Hoosiers win here, it could be Indiana-Kentucky in the second round, and how good would that be, since they won’t play one another during the season? One possible issue. Chattanooga has won 16 of 18, and is 14-1 in games settled by single digits – including wins over Dayton, Georgia and Illinois.
Kentucky vs. Stony Brook. While we’re on the subject of possible pests in the way of an Indiana-Kentucky showdown, Stony Brook has won 22 of 24. Its top player, Jameel Warney, has managed to score 2,000 career points without ever attempting a 3-pointer.
Notre Dame vs. the Michigan/Tulsa winner. If it’s Tulsa, the Irish haven’t played the Hurricane in 61 years.
West Virginia vs. Stephen F. Austin. The Mountaineers’ pressure defense aims at the nation’s longest winning streak, at 20 games.
Wisconsin vs. Pittsburgh. Two March regulars. Wisconsin is in the field for the 18th consecutive year, Pitt for the 13th time in 15 seasons. And there was a time not long ago when neither of these teams was supposed to make the field.
Xavier vs. Weber State. The Musketeers have never been seeded this high, or had so much expected of them.
Virginia vs. Hampton. Do you realize the Cavaliers are a No. 1 seed and 242nd in the nation in scoring?
Texas Tech vs. Butler. Tubby Smith joins Lon Kruger as the only men to take five different teams into the tournament.
Purdue vs. Little Rock. Purdue is physical and playing well, but at 29-4, Little Rock owns the nation’s best record outside of Lawrence, Kansas. It’s been quite the rapid rebuild for first-year coach Chris Beard. This time last season, the Trojans were 13-18.
Iowa State vs. Iona. Iowa State was 5-7 its last 12 games and 1-6 against its last seven ranked opponents. Iona has won 12 of 13, and the Gaels are the buzz-killers who knocked the Monmouth bench out of the tournament.
Seton Hall vs. Gonzaga. Seton Hall has won 12 of 14 and stormed to its first Big East tournament title in 23 years. There were some who actually thought Gonzaga might miss its first NCAA Tournament since 1998. Silly us.
Utah vs. Fresno State. The last time Fresno State was in the field was 2001, with a coach named Jerry Tarkanian.
Dayton vs. Syracuse. That 1-5 slide at the end for Syracuse, fluke or fade? Dayton will find out.
Michigan State vs. Middle Tennessee. The Spartans have won 13 of their last 14 and three of their five defeats were by one point. They swear they are not miffed at not being a No. 1 seed. "We can control what we can control," Denzel Valentine said Sunday. But Middle Tennessee might find out differently. One Blue Raider plus: They’re 10-1 in games decided by three points or less, or overtime.
-- Possible second round matchups with a little extra juice:
Indiana vs. Kentucky. The NCAA could do what their athletic directors cannot.
Texas vs. Texas A&M. They’d be meeting for the 224th time. The 223rd was an A&M 84-73 victory in November.
California vs. Maryland. The NBA scouts will fill up two sections.
Baylor vs. Duke. The Bears would be a major challenge for Duke’s six-man rotation.
Villanova vs. Temple. A Philadelphia Big 5 game, in Brooklyn
-- Toughest road for a Power-5 season conference champion:
If the Hoosiers get past one of the top underdog threats, Chattanooga, they may well face surging Kentucky, in a brawl between neighbors. And if they survive that, next could well be No. 1 North Carolina. That’s called heavy lifting.
-- Conspicuous by their absence:
LSU. Ben Simmons, we hardly knew you.
Monmouth. Beat Notre Dame, USC, UCLA and Georgetown. Went 27-7, despite playing 23 of 34 games away from home. Not enough.
Neither was Saint Mary’s 27-5 record, or Valparaiso and UAB both at 26-6 and 16-2 in their leagues.
-- Trends that mean nothing at all.
Kansas will likely be ranked No. 1. Only twice in the past 20 years has the top-ranked team ended up national champion; Kentucky in 2012 and Duke in 2001.
Seventeen of the past 18 national champions were from the Eastern time zone, Kansas the lone exception. There have been only six from west of the Mississippi River in 40 years.
Just in case Oregon was wondering.