NCAA Tournament Schedule 2013: Breaking Down First-Round Clashes

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 19, 2013

March 11, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Saint Mary's Gaels guard Matthew Dellavedova (4) shoots against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half in the finals of the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

VCU reminded us in 2011 that a low seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament is not to be taken lightly.

Shaka Smart's Rams went to the Final Four that year. They eventually got knocked off by another underdog, Butler, but the memory still lingers throughout the college basketball world.

Four teams have the opportunity to follow in VCU's footsteps this year, gunning to go deep in the tournament.

Here's a look at the first-round matchups for the 2013 NCAA tournament, complete with predictions.

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North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty

Where: Dayton, OH

When: Tuesday, March 19 at 6:40 p.m. ET

Watch: truTV


Liberty (15-20, 6-10 Big South) has one of the worst defenses in the country, ranked 147th in opponents' field-goal percentage, and 281st in defensive efficiency (points per possession).

North Carolina A&T (19-16, 8-8 MEAC), on the other hand, ranks 22nd in defensive efficiency, holding opponents to 38.4 percent shooting (12th).

While Liberty holds the advantage on offense (A&T ranks 313th in offensive efficiency), the Flames' troubles on defense against mediocre competition are too hard to ignore.

Prediction: North Carolina A&T advances


Saint Mary's vs. Middle Tennessee

Where: Dayton, OH

When: Tuesday, March 19 at 9:10 p.m. ET

Watch: truTV


This will be a battle between Saint Mary's offense and Middle Tennessee's defense.

The Gaels—led by senior guard Matthew Dellavedova—rank 22nd in field-goal percentage and fourth in offensive efficiency. They also rank 40th in three-point percentage.

On the other hand, Middle Tennessee (28-5, 19-1 Sun Belt) ranks 29th in opponents' field-goal percentage and fifth in defensive efficiency.

But the Gaels (27-6, 14-2 WCC) have the advantage on the glass (ranked fifth in rebounding rate). The Blue Raiders also faced inferior competition in the Sun Belt conference (ranked 157th in strength of schedule).

This should be a close contest, but expect St. Mary's to emerge with the victory.

Prediction: St. Mary's advances


LIU Brooklyn vs. James Madison

Where: Dayton, OH

When: Wednesday, March 20 at 6:40 p.m. ET

Watch: truTV


This is another case of a team having a woefully porous defense.

LIU Brooklyn (20-13, 12-6 NEC) ranks 324th in the country in opponents' field goal percentage. The Blackbirds also rank 312th in defensive efficiency, despite ranking 232nd in strength of schedule.

The Blackbirds do have an offense that can put up points, but James Madison (20-14, 11-7 CAA) has the better defense, and I expect that to lead to a Dukes victory.

Prediction: James Madison advances 


La Salle vs. Boise State

Where: Dayton, OH

When: Wednesday, March 20 at 9:10 p.m. ET

Watch: truTV


Boise State (21-10, 9-7 MWC) is more battle-tested than La Salle (21-9, 11-5 A-10) this season, playing in the Mountain West Conference, compared to the Atlantic-10 Conference.

The Broncos also have the offense to outscore the Explorers. They rank 53rd in field-goal percentage, and 57th in offensive efficiency.

You add Boise State's considerable advantage on the glass (ranked 74th in rebounding rate) and you have a victory for the Broncos.

Prediction: Boise State advances


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