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It is finally here. The greatest postseason event in all of sports. Here is your Thursday, March 15th preview.
Thursday, March 15th:
(10) Oklahoma vs. (7) Rhode Island 12:15 p.m. CBS
Oklahoma’s bid was a bit controversial to say the least. Going 4-11 in your last 15 games tends to do that. However, they’re in and they have the most hyped player in college basketball,
Kristian Doolittle Trae Young, leading the way. Rhode Island held one of the longest winning streaks in the country (16) earlier in the season, before losing 3 of their last 5 regular season games. The key matchup to lookout for is Jared Terrell’s defensive skills vs Trae Young’s arsenal of moves. We like head coach Dan Hurley’s defensive gameplan to stop Trae Young. We’ll take the Rams here in a close one.
(14) Wright State vs. (3) Tennessee 12:40 p.m. truTV
The surprising Volunteers won a share of the SEC regular season title on the strength of their defense (they were 4th in the country in Adjusted Defense). The Raiders weren’t too shabby themselves, as they were 54th in the country in Adjusted Defense. SEC player of the year Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield lead Tennessee’s attack, and will be too much to handle for Wright St. Neither team plays at a high tempo, so points will be at a premium. The game over/under total is the lowest in the opening round. The Vols are never overly tested in this ugly game, as they win by 10.
(13) UNCG vs. (4) Gonzaga 1:30 p.m. TNT
The Zags will be out for revenge on some sort of UNC, as they lost to the Tar Heels in last year’s championship game. The Zags are one of the hottest teams in the country, winners of 14 in a row. Led by marksman Killian Tillie, who went 106-106* from the field in the WCC conference tournament, the Bulldogs are a well-balanced team. UNCG has UNC in their name and their nickname is the Spartans, a la Michigan St. Are they some sort of super hybrid team??? Our sources say no. Gonzaga begins their march toward redemption with an easy W.
* – all numbers approximate
(16) Penn vs. (1) Kansas 2 p.m. TBS
Winners of the Ivy league, Penn got a bit of a raw deal in drawing Kansas, as they were probably a bit underseeded. Sophomore guard Ryan Bently leads a balanced Quaker attack that sees 4 players averaging double figures. Kansas will win the game. Do-everything Big 12 player of the year Devonte Graham will ensure that. The biggest question mark for the Jayhawks will be is Udoka Azubuike healthy, as they have much bigger aspirations than beating Penn in the first round. That will be the key for Kansas going forward, but shouldn’t be a factor in this matchup.
(15) Iona vs. (2) Duke 2:45 p.m. CBS
Congratulations, Iona! You’ve just won the MEAC conference tournament! What are you going to do now? We’re going to <del>Disney World</del> play the most talented team in the country! *sound of record scratching, as the smiles fall off their faces* While at times this year Duke has lost games they shouldn’t have, it’s impossible to question their talent. Marvin Bagley will be a Top 5 lottery pick. It’s hard to think the Gaels have a chance. After all, when has Duke ever underestimated a lower seeded opponent? *cough*Mercer*cough*
(11) Loyola-Chicago vs. (6) Miami (Fla.) 3:10 p.m. truTV
The Hurricanes only went 7-5 down the stretch, after they lost Bruce Brown. However, that win did include a win on the road at Chapel Hill against the Tar Heels. So not all hope is lost. However, they’ll be going up against a tough and experienced Ramblers team (cool nickname) that won’t be at all intimidated. Junior guard Clayton Custer leads the well-balanced Loyola attack (all five starters in double figures). They have a strong defense and like to push the tempo. The Ramblers (+2) is good value, as they will win outright over their ACC opponent.
(12) South Dakota State vs. (5) Ohio State 4 p.m. TNT
After the abnormal dates for the B1G tournament this year, the Buckeyes will have had almost 2 full weeks off at tip. It will be interesting to see if they’re rusty. Keita Bates-Diop can drain the peach, as the kids say, averaging north of 19 pts/gm. They are in the top 30 in both Adjusted Offense and Adjusted Defense. South Dakota St has their work cut out for them. However, not only do the Jackrabbits have a great logo, they also Mike Daum. He’s like a sexy Biff Tannen. Daum is 6’9″ (nice!) and can step out and hit the 3 (42.1% 3PM). He’s averaging 23.8 pts & 10.4 rips per game. He will be a match-up problem for Ohio St. SDSU (+4) is intriguing, as we have them possibly winning outright. This is by no means a gimmee for the Buckeyes.
(9) NC State vs. (8) Seton Hall 4:30 p.m. TBS
Seton Hall received great news when they found out that Desi Rodriguez will be able to play in the tourney, after injuring his leg a few weeks ago. At 6’6″, 220 lbs, he’s a wide body that can carve out space down low, as well as the Pirates’ leading scorer. They have played some tough games against top teams this year, but still haven’t gotten that signature, season-defining win. Could it be their game vs the Wolfpack? As far as NC State goes, everyone knows head coach Kevin Keatts is a winner. The Wolfpack has gotten steady guard play from Torin Dorn and Allerik Freeman, along with solid play down low from Omer Yurtseven. But it won’t be enough, as Seton Hall is a tough match-up for them. The Pirates by 8.
(16) Radford vs. (1) Villanova 6:45 p.m. TNT
The fighting Marty Smith’s have had a magical season. History tells us no number one seed has EVER lost to a 16 seed. Well folks… Nova is going to win by 30. The Wildcats have too much firepower and are well coached to not overlook this game.
(12) Davidson vs. (5) Kentucky 7:10 p.m. CBS
Davidson stole a bid getting into the tournament, when they made a great run in the A10 conference tournament. However, the Wildcats aren’t satisfied just being in the Dance. They believe they can win. Peyton Aldridge, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, & freshman Kellan Grady can light it up. If they’re hitting from outside, the Wildcats can absolutely beat the Wildcats. Meanwhile, the Wildcats of Kentucky are humming, after winning the SEC. Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have the athleticism to run with anyone in the country. Davidson will try and take the air out of the ball and slow the pace of the game way down. They will have to shoot a good %, as they won’t be able to rebound with Kentucky’s height. Looks like the writing is on the wall – the Wildcats are the pick. Kentucky that is.
(11) San Diego State vs. (6) Houston 7:20 p.m. TBS
If you are fan of man buns, this is your game of the night. Houston’s Rob Gray has beautiful man bun to go with his scrappy game. Houston has won 10 of 12 while San Diego State has reeled off 9 straight wins. This is not your typical Aztec squad as this group is averaging 77.7 points a game and actually have offensive firepower to go with their historically good defense. But Houston is coming off a gut wrenching loss to Cincy, in which they held a late four point lead and just couldn’t hold on. Kelvin Sampson will have his team ready to go and the Cougars win a close one to advance to the Round of 32.
(14) Stephen F. Austin vs. (3) Texas Tech 7:27 p.m. truTV
The Red Raiders finished the season about as smooth as Roy Williams trying to tear a sport coat. Stephen F. Austin has been a popular upset pick given their past tournament success and the lack of sexiness surrounding the Red Raiders. Texas Tech will have the best player on the court in Keenan Evans, and he has the game to will Texas Tech into the 2nd round.
(9) Alabama vs. (8) Virginia Tech 9:20 p.m. TNT
It is easy to get caught up in the greatness of Alabama’s Collin Sexton, but do not sleep on this Virginia Tech squad. This should be the game of the day with two equally matched teams fighting for the privilege to play Villanova. Virginia Tech blew a 21 point 2H lead the last time they were on a basketball court, and a shorthanded Alabama was run off the court by Kentucky. Tough call, but Donta Hall (concussion) will be the deciding factor here. If he is healthy and plays, Alabama wins.
(13) Buffalo vs. (4) Arizona 9:40 p.m. CBS
Arizona enters the tourney as one of the teams that most experts believe were snubbed by their seeding. Most of the conversation about the Wildcats have been about their off-court accusations, and their potential 2nd round matchup with Kentucky. Seems like a recipe for a trap here against a very talented, and hungry Buffalo squad. PAC12 player of the year Deandre Ayton should be enough for Arizona to advance and keep Buffalo winless in their history in the NCAA tournament.
(14) Montana vs. (3) Michigan 9:50 p.m. TBS
Next to Virginia, Michigan maybe the hottest team in the country with their improbable run winning the B1G tournament. Montana is no slouch having won 19 of their last 21 games. But this Michigan team is in a whole different weight class than the Grizzlies. Wagner, Rahkman and Robinson should have big games to keep Michigan rolling.
(11) St. Bonaventure vs. (6) Florida 9:55 p.m. truTV
St Bonaventure is coming fresh off an emotional win over UCLA in the First Four Tuesday night. Florida finished the season on a tear, but hit a speed bump in the SEC tourney vs Arkansas. The guard play in this game will be outstanding with Jaylen Adams leading the Bonnies and Chris Chiozza for the Gators. We like Florida’s experience in the tourney here to squeak out a close win.