Villanova vs Radford
Radford is a good team, but they have absolutely 0% chance of getting out of the first round. Kinda sucks that their award for winning the play-in game is playing Villanova, but that’s how the tournament works. Villanova should work on some things in this game because they will probably win by 15+ with ease. It’d be smart for them to let their starters play hard for half the game and get them some rest and let their bench players get some tournament experience.
Virginia Tech vs Alabama
This is a matchup of charismatic coaches if I’ve ever seen one. This is going to be one of the more electric games in the tournament. Avery Johnson and Buzz Williams will provide the show on the sidelines and Collin Sexton will provide the show on the court. Sexton is one of the top guards in the country and can score at will like he showed in the SEC tournament. He pretty clearly ran out of gas during the tournament run and his teammates weren’t able to help him enough to advance past Kentucky. That being said, Virginia Tech has a more impressive resume and a more balanced team. They beat the No. 1 overall seed Virginia on the road in early February. The balance on the offensive side of the ball is what is going to help them in this game. They will be able to spread out the floor much like they did against Virginia and find different options to score. Alabama shoots poorly from the free throw line and three point range (they rank outside the top 300 in both) and that will certainly hurt them in the first round. Virginia Tech will win a close one.
West Virginia vs Murray State
The Racers from Murray State are going to give West Virginia a very touhg game but I don’t think it’ll be enough to pull an upset. West Virginia has experience and one of the best guards in the country in Jevon Carter (S/o Proviso East High School). Carter has tons of experience and can lead Press Virginia on a deep tournament run with help from his supporting cast.
Wichita State vs Marshall
Wichita State is one of the more experienced teams in the country and Landry Shamet has really started to show that he can score at a high clip. Wichita State is a well balanced team and anyone that thinks Marshall is pulling an upset here may want to look a little deeper at how experience plays a factor into First Round games. Greg Marshall has coached well this season and is probably disappointed his team did not win the American Athletic Conference this season, so he will be looking to make a little run in the Big Dance.
Florida vs St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure is coming into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. Florida relies heavily on the three point shot and makes them at a decent rate, but teams with a 3 point rate over 40 are very unlikely to do well in the tournament. Florida also lost to Loyola – IL at home this season and have proven that they are not a consistent team. I think St. Bonaventure can get the job done if they defend the three point line well and stick to their style of play. If Florida adjusts to the play of St. Bonaventure, I think this could be a blowout and the Gators will be sent home in the first round. The Bonnies likely shocked some people with their win over UCLA, but I don’t think they are quite done yet.
Texas Tech vs Stephen F Austin
TTU has struggled coming into the tournament and things will not get any easier for them in the First Round. SFA plays at an extremely high tempo and will likely run and gun the whole game which is the opposite of how Texas Tech will want them to play. If this turns into a high scoring track meet, the Lumberjacks of Stephen F Austin can see themselves playing in the second round. I picked Texas Tech to win this game because of their high defensive efficiency and ability to shoot the three ball, but this game is pretty much a toss up which is rare for a 3-14 matchup.
Arkansas vs Butler
I originally had Arkansas winning this game because I figured their athleticism would cause some problems for Butler, but I think Butler is one of the best teams in the country come tournament time and Kelan Martin is a tremendous leader that should be able to propel his team over Arkansas. Arkansas is awful on the defensive side of the ball so Martin should be able to exploit their flaws and contribute 25 points to a Butler win.
Purdue vs Cal State Fullerton
Purdue should dominate this matchup. The only game I watched CS Fullerton play this year, they struggled against a team with good big men and that’s exactly what Purdue has in Isaac Haas. Purdue is the best team that CS Fullerton will play this season and I don’t think Fullerton has much of a chance to get anything done against one of the better Purdue teams in recent memory.
Villanova vs Virginia Tech
Va Tech is going to give Villanova all it has in this one. Buzz Williams is a mad scientist and if you’ve watched any of his games that were on ESPN, you definitely know that because the media can’t get enough of this guy. That’s exactly why I think they will get spanked in the second round against Villanova. I know I said a high three point rate is a bad thing (Nova is at 46.6) but if a team is successful at shooting threes (Nova at 39.8%) then this rate does not matter as much. Both teams are going to shoot threes at a high rate and this will be a true “live by the three, die by the three” style of game. I think Villanova has more talent on their side and Jalen Brunson (another player from Illinois, wtf Illini) and Mikal Bridges should put on a show with their high powered offense against a Virginia Tech defense that doesn’t necessarily do anything exceptionally well. Wildcats to the Sweet 16.
West Virginia vs Wichita State
Press Virginia can definitely cause some issues for Wichita State. The Shockers are used to playing good defenses in their conference (Cincinnati and Houston), but I think their own defense will be their downfall in this game. They have a defensive efficiency outside the top 100 (106th) and WVU has an offensive efficiency in the top 25 (14th). West Virginia is a team on a mission and Jevon Carter is a crucial part of their success from here on out. I think he is one of the best players in the country and should be able to motivate his team to make a trip to the Sweet 16 this year.
St. Bonaventure vs Texas Tech
The Bonnies are going to continue their hot streak against TTU and pull an upset in the Second Round sending them to the Sweet 16. Texas Tech clearly needs Keenan Evan in order to have any sort of success and when he does not play well, they do not win games. It’s pretty hard for a team to win when they are so reliant on one player. Texas Tech also plays phenomenal when they play at home holding a 17-1 record there this season, but on the road and neutral site games have proven an issue for the Red Raiders as they are 7-8 in those types of games. This is obviously a neutral site game and I really think the Red Raiders will be more focused on their potential Sweet 16 matchup and not the team they should be worried about the most, St. Bonaventure.
Purdue vs Butler
I just really don’t think that Butler has the magic this season that they have in previous years. Sure they beat Villanova earlier this season, but other than that they are just 5-10 in games against the Top 50 teams. Purdue is definitely a top 50 team and their guard Carsen Edwards will create some havoc on defense as well as offense for the Boilermakers. Purdue should win this one pretty easily, but they usually mess something up and lose early in the tournament. I think this year is a little different for Purdue and they should cost into the Sweet 16.
Villanova vs West Virginia
This matchup favors Villanova but only slightly. The pace of play for both of these teams matches up pretty well, so neither will try to run and gun against the other. I think both teams can settle into their offensive groove and potentially make this a 2-3 point game at the end. Villanova has slightly better talent on their side as well as some experience, but one of the players they rely heavily on is a Freshman (Mikal Bridges). WVU has some experience as well and is well balanced and efficient on offense. The press defense of West Virginia can cause some problems for Villanova, but I think the Wildcats will see their fearless leader Jalen Brunson be able to keep his composure in the press and it’ll calm the rest of them down. Nova should advance to the Elite 8 and take this game by a slim margin.
Prediction: There will be a zoomed in camera shot of Jevon Carter burying his head in a towel on the bench at the end of this game.
St. Bonaventure vs Purdue
This is where the Cinderella run of St. Bonaventure will come to an end. Purdue is simply too big and too efficient for the Bonnies to win this one. I unfortunately think this will be a 10+ point victory for the Boilermakers. Purdue ranks 2nd in the country in offensive efficiency behind Villanova and St. Bonaventure ultimately won’t have enough to stop them from making shots at a high rate. There are many different players to worry about scoring for Purdue which makes them a matchup nightmare for the Bonnies and most teams in the tournament. Purdue will advance to the Elite 8 where Villanova will be waiting for them.
Villanova vs Purdue
I said earlier that Purdue usually makes a notable exit from the tournament and this is going to be the game they do it in. They’ll have a relatively easy road to this game and probably win each of them by 10+ points and then run into the buzzsaw that is the Villanova offense. All the Purdue fans will be going nuts and saying “this is the year and then Purdue is going to get their clocks cleaned in this Elite 8 matchup. Villanova is different from the teams that Purdue usually plays against in that they rank highly in both defensive and offensive efficiency. The only team that Purdue played this season that was ranked in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency was Michigan State and they lost that game by 3. Villanova has that big game feel this season and should be able to end Purdue’s Final Four hopes with a convincing win over the Boilermakers. Villanova to the Final Four for the second time in the last 3 years.