A complete first round preview by members of the Sports Wave team. Enjoy!
West Region Preview
Round of 64: By Xaiver Aguiar
No 1. Gonzaga vs. No 16. Fairleigh Dickinson
The Bulldogs are a number 1 seed for a reason. Rui Hachimara was undoubtedly a top 10 college basketball player this year and solidified Gonzaga as one of the best teams in the country. No need to explain much further, the Zags will win by at minimum 20. Winner: Gonzaga.
No 8. Syracuse vs. No 9. Baylor
Jim Boeheim is a March legend. It has never mattered how well has team played entered March because the Syracuse zone is nearly impossible to prepare for. Tyus Battle is indeed coming back from injury for the ‘Cuse and will be without a question the best player on the floor. Add this to Buddy Boheims recent knockdown scoring and senior guards Frank Howard’s recent scoring success, and I expect the Orange to win big. WInner: Syracuse.
No 5. Marquette vs. No. 12 Murray State
The Golden Eagles were one of the best college basketball teams all season long but seemingly collapsed at the finish line. Marquette guard Markus Howard has been very streaky as of late, and he will have to face one of the best all-around players in the country Ja Morant. Both squads are run through their elite guards, and their success is extremely reliant on how well they play. This is one of the hardest games to pick in the first round, but I will go with the underdog and the best player in the game. Winner: Murray State.
No 4. Florida State vs. No 13. Vermont
This games intriguing storyline is that star FSU star guard David Nichols is a transfer from Vermont’s biggest rival Albany. Although FSU is loaded, Vermont may just, in fact, have the best player on the court in forwarding Anthony Lamb. Lamb is an X-Factor on the offensive end and the Catamounts defense was amongst the best in the AEC. This is a potential trap game, but I think FSU has too much length and firepower to be a first-round exit. WInner: Florida State.
No 6. Buffalo vs. No.11 St.Johns/Arizona State
No 3. Texas Tech vs. No 14. Northern Kentucky
I think the Red Raiders are one of the most overrated teams in the tournament. They may have a fantastic record, but you have to take into account how awful the Big 12 was as a whole this season, and the plethora of injuries some of the other teams faced. Northern Kentucky can really shoot it, and it should be a fun game. Tech has the better defense, and all around athletes so I think they pull it out in the end. Winner: Texas Tech.
No 7. Nevada vs. No 10. Florida
The pressure of living up to expectations can really crumble teams. Nevada just has not been the all-around excellent two-way team they were last reason despite what their record reflects. Florida might not have won the SEC tournament, but they have been surging as of late. A surging team against a team that has too high of expectations marks for an easy upset pick. Winner: Florida.
No 2. Michigan vs. No 15. Montana
So Michigan is playing a team that is NOT Michigan State. Well, that means they have a pretty damn good chance to win. Sorry Montana, maybe another year. Winner: Michigan.
East Region Preview: By Jason
The East Region is set and here are my predictions:
No.1 Duke vs No.16 ND State
The Blue Devils are one of the most talented teams in all of college basketball and are extremely fun to watch. Along with the talent they bring to the court, one negative attribute to watch out for is the depth of the team throughout Duke’s run in the tournament. They have five amazing starters but the bench is not comparable to the starters at all. Zion Williamson is my key player to watch during the tournament for Duke. ND State doesn’t stand a chance against Hall of Fame Coach, Coach K. I see Duke heading to the Final Four. Pick: Duke
No.8 VCU vs No.9 UCF
VCU is great inside the arc offensive team but their three-point shooting is horrific and could cost them a first-round loss. Although UCF is bad in the rebounding and free throw categories, they are ranked top 45 in offensive and defensive efficiency. I see UCF getting into the round of 32 and losing to a good Duke team. Pick: UCF
No.5 Mississippi State vs No.12 Liberty
Mississippi State has a wonderfully balanced offensive team but the one problem they face is that they turn the ball over way too much. Meanwhile, Liberty also has a good offensive team but they don’t get to the free throw line enough. If Mississippi State turns the ball over, Liberty might take advantage of that and get to the line more often adding points to the scoreboard. I see Liberty winning this high scoring, offensive game and losing in the round of 32. Pick: Liberty
No.4 Virginia Tech vs No.13 Saint Louis
Virginia Teach’s amazing three-point team allows them to put up a lot of points against opponents. Although they are a horrible rebounding team, they should come out on top against a bad offensive Saint Louis team. I see Virginia Tech meeting up with Duke in the sweet 16. Pick: Virginia Tech
No.6 Maryland vs No.11 Belmont
Maryland has one of the youngest starting five in all of college basketball and they are very good on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The problem that the Terps run into is that they have no depth to go along with this very young starting five. Belmont is a good team but I see Maryland moving on to the round of 32. Pick: Maryland
No.3 LSU vs No.14 Yale
While LSU will compete in the tournament without head coach Will Wade, LSU is a very explosive offensive and defensive team that can lead them far into at least the sweet 16, if not further. On the other hand, Yale won the Ivey league conference giving them an auto-bid into the madness. Yale has a good offense but they lack second-chance opportunities and going up against a good defensive LSU team, Yale won’t be going past the first round. Pick: LSU
No.7 Louisville vs No.10 Minnesota
Louisville averages 75 points per game and is a great free throw shooting team which can help them a lot throughout this tournament. Minnesota has a couple of injuries and they were very inconsistent during the season. I think Louisville will have the upper hand in this game and move on. They won’t be going much further than the Round of 32 though. Pick: Louisville
No.2 Michigan State vs No.15 Bradley
Michigan State is a very well rounded team that has great potential to meet up with Duke in the Elite 8. They are really good on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and are capable of outrebounding any team that they face. Michigan State will cruise to the Sweet Sixteen and then they will battle the rest of the way. Bradley won’t win this matchup. Pick: Michigan State
Overall, the East Region is full of amazing games and a whole lot of fun will be brought to viewers at home this year!
South Region Preview: By Raul
It’s the best month of the year for college basketball fans across the country, and basketball fans in general. As opposed to the NBA, college basketball tends to have much more parity and room for upsets. With 68 teams in the fold who are often meeting for the first time, the NCAA tournament leaves fans at a loss as they try to do the impossible and pick the winners from the first round to the championship game. Here is a preview of the South region led by powerhouses Virginia and Tennessee.
1 Virginia vs 16 Gardner-Webb
With Virginia once again earning itself a one seed in the tournament, last year’s upset will be brought up every second, but history will not be repeated. Virginia was pegged as a one seed for a reason and is undoubtedly one of the top teams in the country. For their short tournament run last year they were without DeAndre Hunter who is now seen as a consensus top ten pick in this year’s draft. The Virginia Cavaliers will be returning much of the same squad from last season’s one seed with the same defensive identity. This season they have limited teams to an average of 55.1 PPG which is best in the country. Virginia should have no problem getting past Gardner-Webb who has made their way into the tournament for the first time in school history by way of winning the Big South. Pick: Virginia
8 Ole Miss vs 9 Oklahoma
Eight vs nine matchups are always hard to pick. Historically, eight and nine seeds have split their 136 matchups dead even. This matchup should be no different as each middling team comes in with a few impressive wins into their average records. Both teams come into the game with bad momentum as Ole Miss has lost four of their last five and the Sooners are 4-8 over their last twelve games. Ole Miss should be able to do just enough to come away with this one as Oklahoma will have a tough time finding offense, and Ole Miss’s good free throw shooting will help them come away with a close one. Pick: Ole Miss
5 Wisconsin vs 12 Oregon
This may be the most intriguing matchup of the region. Many people are taking the Ducks as their team to complete the 5-12 upset. Oregon comes into this matchup as one of the hottest teams in the tournament and winners of their last eight games. Oregon got into the tournament by winning four games in as many days in the Pac 12 tournament and taking down top-seeded Washington. Though the Ducks are playing their best basketball at the right time I like Wisconsin in this matchup. Wisconsin takes care of the ball, and is stout defensively. Wisconsin turns it over at a clip of just 9.5 TO a game while allowing only 61.4 PPG. The Badgers had a tough a draw against a rolling Ducks squad but should be able to slow the tempo, and get their big man Ethan Happ going on the way to a win. Pick: Wisconsin
4 Kansas St vs 13 UC Irvine
It finally happened, Kansas’ grasp over the Big 12 for fourteen years was snapped as Kansas St. and Texas Tech each won a share of the regular season title. For their tournament run Kansas St. looks to be once again without one of their top scorers Dean Wade. With Dean Wade out, this has become the sexy pick throughout college basketball for a big-time upset. UC Irvine will present a tough task for the undermanned Kansas St. as they have a top defense in the country. The Anteaters should be able to hold Kansas St. in check en route to a monster upset and spot in the second round. Pick: UC Irvine
6 Villanova vs 11 Saint Mary’s
The defending champs struggled a ton throughout the year, finding themselves unranked on a number of occasions, with puzzling losses against Penn and Furman. Nonetheless, Nova still has championship pedigree as they have won two of the last three titles and have the looks of a “Cinderella”. Saint Mary’s got into the dance with a major upset over Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference and are a riding the momentum from that win. Six seeds have have not done well in the past three years losing eight of twelve over the last three years, but Villanova should be able to advance backed by a favorable crowd in Hartford, Connecticut and experienced coach Jay Wright. Pick: Villanova
3 Purdue vs 14 Old Dominion
Purdue lost Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas from the prior season and seemed to be in for a down the year but surprised the nation when they won a share of the regular season big ten title in a loaded BIG Ten conference. Purdue rode the scoring of Carsen Edwards throughout the year and will look to do much of the same in the tournament. Old Dominion is in the field of 68 by winning the Conference USA with a defense that is top ten in the nation, holding teams to just over 60 PPG. Old Dominion does have a strong defense but can struggle to score. Carsen Edwards should be able to find success and continue his brilliant season leading the Boilermakers to the second round. Pick: Purdue
7 Cincinnati vs 10 Iowa
The Bearcats come in as a seven seed after a strong season but got a nice draw playing both their first and potentially second round games in Columbus, Ohio. Cincinnati comes in winning eight of their last ten games and as an underrated squad facing an Iowa squad that has fallen off a cliff as of late. Iowa does boast a potent offense and four shooters that shoot the three ball at over 38% from three. Iowa closed the season on a 1-5 plummet with their lone win coming against sub. 500 Illinois, and an average margin of defeat of 15.4 points. Iowa’s coach Fran McCaffery is also coming off a suspension at the end of the season. Cincinnati should be able to slow down Iowa’s offense and carry the momentum of a nice home crowd to a second round berth. Pick: Cincinnati
2 Tennessee vs 15 Colgate
The Volunteers were a top team in the country for most of the year. They found themselves in the top five of the AP poll for fourteen of the twenty weeks, and as the top team in the nation for four of those weeks. They have become a powerhouse through the brilliant play of both Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. Grant Williams has made himself a candidate for national player of the year leading the high powered offense which averages over 82 PPG. Tennessee is up against a team in Colgate who is back in the dance for the first time since 1996 after beating Bucknell in the Patriot League finale. Colgate went 0-3 against teams from the power five conferences losing to teams like Pitt and Penn State. Colgate will pose no problem for Grant Williams and the Volunteers who look to be in for a long tournament run. Pick: Tennessee
Midwest Region Preview: By Josh
Round of 64
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Iona:
Come on. North Carolina has been one of the best teams in the country this year. I know UMBC pulled off a miracle last year, but that was a fluke. It’s going to be years until we see that again. Winner: North Carolina
No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 Washington:
This is a very interesting battle between two schools in western conferences. The PAC 12 has dominated the west coast for a while now, but things are looking different this season, and I Sam Merrill, one of the country’s elite scorers, will propel Utah State to victory, providing a major boost for the Mountain West.
No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 12 New Mexico State:
The five versus twelve game has a reputation for providing upsets, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we see one here. I think New Mexico State could be the best twelve seed out there (yes, even better than Ja Morant and Murray State), but I believe they’re also facing the best five seed in the tournament. New Mexico State is a great team, but I think they lack the fire power to beat this Bruce Pearl led squad, who’s coming into this tournament fresh of an SEC title. Winner: Auburn
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Northeastern:
Yes, you read that right. The Kansas Jayhawks are actually a four seed. Things just aren’t going right this year for Bill Self, dealing with injuries and veteran guard Lagerald Vick being away from the team. Northeastern is a very talented team that has four guys averaging double digit points, but Kansas still has Dedric Lawson, one of the best big men in the country. This one could be an upset, but Bill Self is too good of a coach to get bounced in the first round. Winner Kansas
No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Ohio State:
Iowa State has flown under the radar all season. Marial Shayok is a very skilled senior guard who’s averaging over 18 a game and they’re coming off of a nice championship run in the Big 12 tournament. Ohio State is stumbling into the tournament, having lost seven of their last 10 games, and I expect them stumble right out of the tournament. Winner Iowa State
No. 3 Houston vs. No. 14 Georgia State:
It’s hard to forget Georgia State’s upset over Baylor four years ago, with head coach Ron Hunter falling off of his stool with his torn Achilles when his son hit the game winning three. Now they’re back as a fourteen seed again, without the stool or Hunter’s son, R.J.. Can they pull off the upset again? I don’t think so. Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks are a truly dynamic duo and won’t go down first round. Winner: Houston
No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 10 Seton Hall:
I think Wofford might be the hardest team to predict in the entire field. They haven’t lost since 2019 began, have only lost four games all year, which were all against tournament teams, but they haven’t beaten anyone in the field. They also got no help from the committee, having to face Myles Powell and a tough Seton Hall team. Wofford’s success from downtown will help them advance in potentially the best game of the round of 64. Winner: Wofford
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Abilene Christian:
Not this one. Don’t get too cute when filling out your bracket. PJ Washington is an absolute baller and will not be contained in this one at all. Winner: Kentucky