Well this tournament has already given us some historic upsets and big bracket busters. UMBC became the first ever 16 seed to beat a 1 seed and they did it by simply outplaying Virginia. They controlled the tempo of the whole game and did not let the bright lights of the NCAA tournament get to them. That’s a team with a lot of heart and pride. They believed in themselves and each other and got the job done and I apologize for saying there was 0 chance they would beat Virginia based on history. Fantastic win for them and I really hope they continue their run.
That aside, there are still games to be played tomorrow and hopefully I do a little better predicting them than I did in the First Round. Of course my better sides of the brackets were the ones that Karl wrote about, but oh well. Still gonna give you guys my thoughts cause that’s what I like to do.
Alabama vs Villanova
One thing that Villanova showed me in the First Round is how little they foul and how dominant they truly can be if they put everything together. Alabama showed me that if they get to the foul line frequently, they can win just about any game they play in. Collin Sexton has a some serious big game ability in him and he’s definitely going to cause some problems for Villanova in this one. He drives to the basket a lot and draws fouls by attacking his defenders. Villanova shot almost 60% from the field in their First Round matchup including 51.9% from three point range. This is the type of shooting that they had when they made their championship run in 2016. I don’t think Alabama has enough talent on the defensive side of the ball in order to keep Villanova from shooting a high percentage again in this game. Villanova should win this game and move on to the Sweet 16. Wildcats 78 Crimson Tide 70.
Rhode Island vs Duke
URI has a kid named Fatts Russell on their team and if I knew that before the First Round, I would have picked them to win. Teams that have kids with cool names simply just don’t lose in the First Round (except Providence with Alpha Diallo). Rhode Island erased a 4 point first half deficit and forced OT against an Oklahoma team that probably should not have made the tournament in the first place. Duke played very well against an inferior opponent and showed to be the dominant Duke team that many people have winning it all this year. Marvin Bagley confirmed what we already knew about him and Trevon Duvall stepped up to add 19 to Bagley’s 22 points in Duke’s rout over Iona. I like Rhode Island and think they are a very talented team, but I just don’t think they have enough to beat Duke. They will certainly compete with Duke and will not get blown out like Iona did, but in the end it’s the win that matters. Duke 82 Rhode Island 71.
Buffalo vs Kentucky
Buffalo can really score the basketball and play some pretty solid defense as they showed in their 20 point blowout win over favorite Arizona. While Arizona did not play their best basketball of the season in that game, I don’t know that many teams would have beat Buffalo the way they played on Thursday. Kentucky had a tough First Round matchup and it certainly doesn’t get any better against a Buffalo team that dominated Arizona and Deandre Ayton. Kentucky didn’t make a single three point shot in their game against Davidson and still managed to win the game. If they can add some threes to their game in this one they should be able to beat Buffalo. John Calipari is a great head coach and finally knows the role of every player on his team and where they fit into his gameplan. I would not be surprised if Buffalo won this game though. In my opinion, Buffalo has better guards than Kentucky does and they have a really solid perimeter defense which may prove to be an issue for a Kentucky team that went cold from three point range in their First Round game. Davonta Jordan helped the Bulls out on defense and is one of the better defensive guards in the country. He played on the same AAU team as Kentucky guard Kevin Knox, so he will be familiar with his style of play. This will probably be one of the higher scoring games of the day assuming that Buffalo can keep up it’s high octane pace and Kentucky can knock down some threes. Kentucky should squeak this one out and move on to the Sweet 16. Wildcats 76 Bulls 71.
Loyola Chicago – IL vs Tennessee
Everything pointed towards taking Loyola in the First Round and all my thoughts were “there’s no way they can beat an ACC team and an SEC team in the same season.” I was absolutely wrong and they stunned Miami with a buzzer beating three. Tennessee started off very slowly in their First Round matchup, but showed they could be extremely dominant in the second half and pulled away from Wright State winning 73-47. Everyone is thinking Loyola is an automatic lock to be in the Sweet 16 as of now, but I really don’t think they matchup too well with Tennessee. I don’t think that they have anyone that can guard Admiral Schofield. Really hope I’m not wrong again in fading Loyola, but I think Tennessee is the more talented team and should be able to dictate the pace of play and throw Loyola out of their style of play. Tennessee 73 Loyola 62.
Seton Hall vs Kansas
I think Seton Hall surprised a lot of people in the First Round, but I was not one of them. This is a very good team with one of the better big man combinations in the country in Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado. Both of these guys can cause huge problems down low for Kansas especially with Udoka Azubuike not being at full strength. Bill Self is looking to get 15-20 minutes from him and I’m assuming it’ll be towards the higher end there. Devonte Graham led the way for Kansas in their First Round game and has shown he is the best player that Kansas has. His experience and ability to shoot the ball was enough to get Kansas past Penn, but it may not be enough against a tough Seton Hall team. If Kansas can come out hot and get things clicking offensively for them in the first half, this game should be a breeze for them. We’ve already seen one number 1 seed go down (the first ever in the First Round), could we see another here? I don’t think it’s going to happen. These teams match up well in just about every category except that Seton Hall allows around 80 points per game which is what Kansas usually scores. Seton Hall definitely will hang around in this game and Kansas will allow them to hang around longer than they should, but the play of Malik Newman and Legerald Vick are going to separate Kansas from Seton Hall in the second half. Kansas 80 Seton Hall 73.
Ohio State vs Gonzaga
Both of these teams barely survived their First Round matchup, but I think it was just a little bit of rust on both sides. They should be good to go for their Second Round game and be able to give us a quality game to watch. OSU really struggled against an SDSU team that had big men that could step out and shoot, a similar style to what Gonzaga does. Gonzaga just really never turned up the heat on UNC-Greensboro and needed a three from Zach Norvell Jr. with 20 seconds left in the game to propel them to a 4 point victory. Neither team impressed me much and I don’t think Gonzaga looks like a Final Four team anymore. These teams played early on in the season with Gonzaga winning 86-59. OSU is a different team and so is Gonzaga. Ohio State is a very beatable team, as is Gonzaga. This is going to be a good game based on the fact that I don’t think either team has a true blowout potential in this tournament. Ohio State lost to Penn State for the third time to end their BIG Ten tournament title hopes and then played a lackluster game against a pretty good South Dakota State team. Gonzaga won their conference tournament like they should have, but then let UNC-Greensboro hang around way too long. The biggest problem with both of these teams is they don’t know how to put inferior opponents away. Ohio State needs players other than Keita Bates-Diop to score if they want to win and Gonzaga will need Killian Tillie to have a better performance in this game than he did in the First Round if they are going to win. Mark Few will need to make some adjustments to his gameplan from the last time the Bulldogs faced the Buckeyes, but I think Gonzaga walks away the winner here. Bulldogs 69 Buckeyes 64.
Florida vs Texas Tech
Florida played to their full potential in the First Round and put away an inferior St. Bonaventure team with ease. Texas Tech struggled a little with Stephen F. Austin in the First Round, but ultimately found their groove on offense and ended up winning by 10. The biggest strength for Florida is their guard Chris Chiozza. He’s one of the best guards I have seen in college basketball and his court vision is second to none. He’s made some dirty passes over the course of the season and has the ability to get the ball to his teammates through some very tight windows. Texas Tech also has a star guard of their own in Keenan Evans. Evans missed some time due to a toe injury, but he seemed to be alright in the game against Stephen F. Austin as he poured in 23 points and went a perfect 10/10 from the line. As a team, Texas Tech only shot 66.7% from the line, not terrible, but certainly not good enough if they are going to make a deep run in this tournament. Florida is a really deep team and saw at least 10 minutes from 8 players in their First Round game. They also have a matchup nightmare for Texas Tech in Egor Koulechov, he can post up or step out and shoot the three. I think Florida can get the win here and move on to the Sweet 16. They are more efficient from the free throw line and can ask for some quality minutes from their bench where Texas Tech does not have that same luxury. Florida 76 Texas Tech 69.
Houston vs Michigan
Michigan played in one of the worst basketball games I’ve ever seen in the First Round and Houston won on a Rob Gray scoop layup that put San Diego State away. Realistically this game is going to come down to Zavier Simpson and Rob Gray. They will more than likely guard each other in this matchup and both have been huge parts of their teams success this season. One thing that I liked from Michigan was that they didn’t get upset on the court when things weren’t going their way early in the game. They were able to keep everything under control after going down 10-0 early and only allowed 37 points the rest of the way. Houston showed that they rely very heavily on Rob Gray and that usually does not bode well for teams in the tournament. Houston will need some other players to step up or this game could get ugly for them. Michigan is one of the best coached teams in the country and I think that will show down the stretch in this game if it is close. Michigan should have enough firepower and defense to beat the Cougars. Wolverines 68 Cougars 60.