The first round of the NCAA Tourney easily topped all expectations heading into to last Thursday’s games. A major upset by Middle Tennessee over Michigan State is the 4th largest point-spread defeat in tournament history. Also, it was the first time a 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, & 15 seed advanced to the Round of 32. Not to mention the numerous buzzer-beating and drama-filled finishes. Now we set our sights on the Sweet 16 and potential Elite 8 Matchups.
The South Region
#1 Kansas vs. #5 Maryland: Expect Maryland’s leader Melo Trimble to have a standout performance after several games in which he has struggled. It won’t be enough to get past a Kansas team that is performing on all cylinders. This will be a competitive contest with the Jayhawks closing the door in the last 10 minutes.
The Pick: Kansas wins with guard and swingman depth.
#2 Villanova vs. #3 Miami: Nova finally advanced past the first weekend after failing to do so as a heavy favorite in the last two years. Miami earned a hard-fought battle versus Wichita State in round 2. Villanova features a heavy guard system with a fairly decent big on the inside. Miami is built in a similar way with the Hurricanes having a better point guard and center to patrol the paint.
The Pick: The Hurricanes win a tight ball game in the closing minutes.
#1 Oregon vs. #4 Duke: Oregon is long and lanky across all positions on the floor but aren’t necessarily great at closing games out. Duke has the talent edge but their lack of bench players may finally come home to roost. Just how good is this Ducks team having played in a down Pac-12? We know Duke isn’t their normal self this year but still have the players and coaching to move on to the Elite 8.
The Pick: Duke wins in overtime.
#2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Texas A&M: This tornado alley matchup is very interesting to say the least. On paper along with quality opponents the Sooners are a clear favorite. But Oklahoma has a tendency to let teams stay in games and play to their opponent’s level. Both are led by guards, Sooners have Buddy Heild and the Aggies have Danuel House. Down-low in the post the combination of Splanger and Lattin supersedes A&M’s center Tyler Davis.
The Pick: Outside shooting and rebounding are the keys to a Sooner win.
#1 North Carolina vs. #5 Indiana: North Carolina has been on a tear heading into the tourney and their intensity stayed the same through 2 rounds. Indiana prefers to push the ball up the court at a fast pace. The problem for the Hoosiers, that’s the exact same way the Tarheels are built to operate. The inside presence of Bryce Johnson & Co. will be too much to handle for the talented but your big man from Indiana. The Hoosiers saving grace is three-point shooting and that fact that at times UNC gets lazy on defense.
The Pick: North Carolina wins in a high tempo affair.
#6 Notre Dame vs. #7 Wisconsin: One could make the case that neither team deserves to be in the Sweet 16. Bottom line is there are and this matchup is sure to be a grinder. Don’t have too much rhyme or reason or should I say X’s and O’s to breakdown for this one. The badgers have won too many key games in their hot stretch to fail now.
The Pick: Wisconsin wins in double overtime.
#1 Virginia vs. #4 Iowa State: A clash of styles in this marquee matchup with the Cavs sporting the best defense left in the field and a Cyclones squad that can light up the scoreboard. Both teams have experience but I would lean to Iowa State just barely in that category. Virginia may not score a ton of points but there are very efficient from the field, rarely settling for bad shots.
The Pick: Virginia clamps down on Iowa State and gets the job done.
#10 Syracuse vs. #11 Gonzaga: High seeds but well known programs make this a random but fun east coast vs. west coast tilt. Gonzaga’s injury issue saw a stretch of 5-5 in mid-season whereas Syracuse was a young team that needed to grow and improved by year’s end. The Zags Kyle Wilter will be a key clog in the middle to deal with the Orangeman’s sniffling zone defense.
The Pick: Gonzaga finds another gear after early issues to pull away in victory.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio
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