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NCAA Bracketology 2017: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for First Four

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2017

NCAA Bracketology 2017: B/R Expert Predictions, Updated Results for First Four

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    Leon Bennett/Getty Images

    The Madness begins in Dayton, Ohio, with two games Tuesday and two more Wednesday providing an enticing appetizer for the excitement to come.

    Although the First Four is considered a preliminary round for teams that barely made it into the 68-team field, those games have proved to be the starting point for some storybook tournament runs.

    Last season, Wichita State emerged from a First Four victory over Vanderbilt to beat No. 6-seeded Arizona in the first round. Other First Four survivors have done more. Tennessee in 2014 and La Salle in 2013 both got to the Sweet 16 by winning three games in the first week.

    That pales in comparison to what Virginia Commonwealth did in 2011. Despite complaints that the Rams should not have been in the tournament at all, they got all the way to the Final Four by winning five straight games.

    The preliminary-round games likely to impact the rest of the tournament are the two involving the last four at-large teams to be selected: Wake Forest, Providence, USC and Kansas State. But the two contests featuring the four lowest-seeded teams of the tournament give these small-conference schools their one chance to shine on the national stage.

    What makes these games different from the first-round games later in the week is that each of the First Four participants plays an opponent with the same seed, making every game a virtual tossup that could come down to the last shot. That is what March Madness is all about.

     

    Predictions text written by Jake Curtis.

No. 16 Mount St. Mary's vs. No. 16 New Orleans

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    Steve Ruark/Associated Press

    We hardly could’ve asked for a better start to March Madness.

    The 16 seed matchup in the East Region came down to the wire, but Mount St. Mary’s managed to edge New Orleans 67-66.

    Rather than fouling with a three-second difference on the shot clock, New Orleans decided to play it out. Although Mount St. Mary’s missed a runner, the Privateers had less than three seconds to pull off a miracle.

    However, an attempted half-court pass overshot the intended target, and the Mountaineers ran out the final seconds to seal the win.

     

    Top Performers

    For the Mountaineers, Junior Robinson scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, while Miles Wilson recorded a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Nate Frye scored a team-best 18 for New Orleans in the loss.

     

    X-Factor

    Team defense by Mount St. Mary's kept Erik Thomas off the board in the second half. The Privateers' leading scorer netted 12 before the break, but Thomas failed to hit another shot—be it a free throw or field goalafter halftime. 

     

    Next Round

    Mount St. Mary's will challenge No. 1 overall seed Villanova in Buffalo during the Round of 64. CBS will broadcast the game, which is slated for a 7:10 p.m. ET tip.

     

    —Update by David Kenyon

No. 11 Wake Forest vs. No. 11 Kansas State

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    Chet Strange/Getty Images

    Although there wasn't any doubt Wake Forest’s offense could run with anyone, a suspect defense posed a major question. It proved to be the Demon Deacons’ downfall against Kansas State.

    The Wildcats shot a torrid 66 percent from the field en route to a 95-88 victory, advancing to the Round of 64. They overcame a turnover and foul-filled opening half along the way.

    Wake Forest knocked down 27 of its 30 free-throw attempts, but an 9-of-28 mark from long distance doomed Danny Manning’s team. Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods combined for a 1-of-10 finish beyond the arc.

     

    Top Performers

    Kansas State had four double-digit scorers, and Wesley Iwundu packed the stat sheet with 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Kamau Stokes tallied 22 points, largely thanks a 5-of-8 mark from three-point range. John Collins led Wake Forest with 26 points.

     

    X-Factor

    D.J. Johnson surpassed his scoring average of 11.2 points with 18 and was extremely efficient in doing so. The senior finished 8-of-9 from the field, grabbing three offensive rebounds that led to six second-chance points. Johnson also blocked three shots.

     

    Next Round

    Sixth-seeded Cincinnati awaits Kansas State for a Friday night South Region tilt in Sacramento. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7:27 p.m. ET, and truTV will televise the action.

     

    —Update by David Kenyon

No. 16 North Carolina Central vs. No. 16 UC Davis

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    No. 16 seed UC Davis has never lost an NCAA tournament game.

    The Aggies (23-12) from the Big West Conference guaranteed that the school’s first trip to March Madness wouldn’t be a one-and-done with a 67-63 victory over North Carolina Central on Wednesday night.

    It was the second straight night that a play-in game for the No. 16 seed went down to the final seconds. North Carolina Central had several three-point looks to tie the game in the closing seconds but couldn’t connect, something that plagued it all night.

     

    Top Performers

    The Aggies had three scorers in double digits, but the story of the game was junior forward Chima Moneke. Moneke dropped 18 points and grabbed 12 boards—both above his season average—to lead his team to the next round.

     

    X-Factor

    North Carolina Central was dismal from behind the arc. The Eagles connected on just 5-of-26 shots from long range, well below their season average of 34 percent, and couldn’t find the game-tying shot in the closing seconds.

     

    Next Round

    UC Davis advances to a Friday matchup in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Midwest Region top seed Kansas. The game is scheduled for a 6:50 p.m. ET tip and will be televised on TNT.

     

    —Update by Kevin McRae

No. 11 USC vs. No. 11 Providence

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    No. 11 seed USC looked dead in the water early in the second half.

    Emmitt Holt’s jumper put Providence up by 17 points with 19:42 left in the second half, but the Trojans stormed back, erasing the deficit and outscoring the Friars 46-25 over the rest of the half to secure a 75-71 win and a trip to the first round of the NCAA tournament.

    The USC win is the seventh-biggest comeback in tournament history and the biggest ever by a Pac-12 team during March Madness.

     

    Top Performers

    Bennie Boatwright stuffed the stat sheet for the Trojans. The sophomore forward finished his night with a game-high 24 points, seven boards, three assists and connected on three shots from behind the arc. Jordan McLaughlin had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

     

    X-Factor

    Guts. The Trojans looked on the verge of being run off the court early in the second half, but they found a way to stay in the game, chipping away at the Providence lead and closing strong. USC secured its 12th win this season in a game where it trailed by 10-plus points, which is the most in the NCAA this year.

     

    Next Round

    No. 11 USC advances to face No. 6 SMU in the East Region on Friday afternoon. The game will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at 3:10 p.m. ET and will be televised by truTV.

     

    —Update by Kevin McRae

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