The Definitive Guide to the NCAA Tournament and Its Best Names
It's called "Madness" for a reason. These games, between two colleges fighting for bragging rights and hopefully a national title, produce some of the most exciting, craziest games in sports. Who can forget North Carolina State upsetting Houston because Lorenzo Charles just happened to be where Dereck Whittenburg's air ball landed? What about Christian Laettner swooshing a 15 footer after a court length football pass by freshman Grant Hill? The list goes on and on.
Perhaps the craziest thing about March Madness is the unpredictability of the games. There's a better chance of flying to Uranus in a Honda Civic than picking every single game on the slate correctly.
That said (and noting that I have not exactly immersed myself in college basketball this season) let's give this thing a go.
*Each game will have a short preview/prediction, a player to watch, and a name of the game (because college basketball has the best names around).
1) Kansas vs. 16) Lehigh
A sixteen seed has never upset a one seed in NCAA history. Don't expect anything different happening for Lehigh against the nation's top ranked team.
Player to Watch: Sherron Collins (Kansas)
Name of the Game: Brady Morningstar (Kansas)
The Pick: Kansas (by 22)
8) UNLV vs. 9) Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa has not faced the athleticism that UNLV will be throwing at them, not having faced any top 25 teams all season long. The Runnin' Rebels have won 7 of their last 8 in a very tough mid-major conference.
Player to Watch: Tre'Von Willis (UNLV)
Name(s)* of the Game: Kwadzo Ahelegbe/Ali Farokhmanesh (Northern Iowa)
The Pick: UNLV (by 5)
5) Michigan State vs. 12) New Mexico State
Something's gotta give here. Michigan State is a defensive minded team while New Mexico State is all about scoring. Defense might not always win championships, but it will usually win when it has much more talent than the offensive minded team.
Player to Watch: Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
Name of the Game: Korie Lucious (Michigan State)
The Pick: Michigan State (by 8)
4) Maryland vs. 13) Houston
Picking a team that went 13-3 in the ACC should be a no brainer against a team that had a losing record in Conference USA play, but these circumstances are anything but normal. The ACC was exceptionally weak this year and Houston is riding high off of a Conference USA tournament title. If Houston's dynamic duo of Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis get hot, then look out.
Player to Watch: Aubrey Coleman (Houston)
Name of the Game: Dino Gregory (Maryland)
The Pick: Houston (by 2)
6) Tennessee vs. 11) San Diego State
Amazingly all but one of Tennessee's losses have come by double digits. San Diego State is not beating them by double digits.
Player to Watch: Wayne Chism (Tennessee)
Name of the Game: Skylar McBee (Tennessee)
The Pick: Tennessee (by 4)
3) Georgetown vs. 14) Ohio
Greg Monroe and Georgetown are getting hot at exactly the right time. If Monroe continues his dominating play that he's put on display lately, then the Hoyas could go far.
Player to Watch: Greg Monroe (Georgetown)
Name of the Game: Kenneth van Kempen (Ohio)
The Pick: Georgetown (by 14)
7) Oklahoma State vs. 10) Georgia Tech
Derrick Favors is picking the right time to start playing like the top 5 pick that he is supposed to be. Either of these teams can beat anybody (see wins over Kansas and Duke) and could play the role of spoiler for an unfortunate team's season.
Player to Watch: James Anderson (Oklahoma State)
Name of the Game: Mfon Udofia (Georgia Tech)
The Pick: Georgia Tech (by 3)
2) Ohio State vs. 15) UCSB
Evan "The Villian" Turner is a man. Not only is he leading his team in points, rebounds, and assists; he also allowed them to win the Big 10 tournament with a near half-court buzzer beater against Michigan in their first game of the tourney. If a team figures out how to stop Turner, Ohio State will be in trouble. Good luck.
Player to Watch: Evan Turner (Ohio State)
Name of the Game: Zisis Sarikopoulos (Ohio State)
The Pick: Ohio State (by 26)
No. 1 seed: Kansas
Top Player: Evan Turner
Biggest First Round Upset: 13) Houston over 4) Maryland
Possible Sleeper/Spoiler Team: Georgia Tech
Regional Final Matchup: 1) Kansas vs. 2) Ohio State
Midwest Regional Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes
1) Syracuse vs. 16) Vermont
Syracuse is probably the least reliable of the number one seeds, but Vermont? No way.
Player to Watch: Wesley Johnson (Syracuse)
Name of the Game: Arinze Onuaku (Syracuse)
The Pick: Syracuse (by 19)
8) Gonzaga vs. 9) Florida State
Both teams are coming off of embarrassing tournament losses to underdogs. The question is, which team will be more motivated by their loss?
Player to Watch: Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga)
Name of the Game: Mangisto Arop (Gonzaga)
The Pick: Gonzaga (by 7)
5) Butler vs. 12) UTEP
Both of these teams are red hot, Butler winning their past 20 games and UTEP winning 16 of their past 17 (only loss coming in Conference USA championship game). Either of these teams could go far with a few breaks.
Player to Watch: Randy Culpepper (UTEP)
Name of the Game: Arnett Moultrie (UTEP)
The Pick: Butler (by 2)
4) Vanderbilt vs. 13) Murray State
Murray State has 30 wins and none of them against very good teams. Vanderbilt is a good team.
Player to Watch: Jermaine Beal (Vanderbilt)
Name of the Game: Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt)
The Pick: Vanderbilt (by 12)
6) Xavier vs. 11) Minnesota
Minneota is either on or off. Two of their past four wins have been by 27 or more points. However, their past two losses are by a combined 57 points. The Gophers better be on against Xavier.
Player to Watch: Jordan Crawford (Xavier)
Name of the Game: Devron Bostick (Minnesota)
The Pick: Xavier (by 17)
3) Pittsburgh vs. 14) Oakland
Oakland has been destroyed by every ranked team they've faced this year. Bad news for Oakland: Pitt is ranked.
Player to Watch: Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh)
Name of the Game: Blake Cushingberry (Oakland)
The Pick: Pittsburgh (by 18)
7) BYU vs. 10) Florida
Florida has lost four out of their last five. It's hard to see a team that has done that making any noise in the Big Dance.
Player to Watch: Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
Name of the Game: Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
The Pick: BYU (by 10)
2) Kansas State vs. 15) North Texas
North Texas is no slouch, winning their past 11 games. It will be a tough task to beat K-State, but they'll at least make it a good fight.
Player to Watch: Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)
Name of the Game: George Odufuwa (North Texas)
The Pick: Kansas State (by 10)
No. 1 seed: Syracuse
Top Player: Wesley Johnson
Biggest First Round Upset: N/A
Possible Sleeper/Spoiler Team: Butler
Regional Final Matchup: Butler vs. Kansas State
West Regional Champion: Butler Bulldogs
1) Kentucky vs. 16) East Tennessee State
The Wildcats are a young team who's lack of experience might betray them and cost them a long run in the tournament. However, they'll make it to at least a second game.
Player to Watch: John Wall (Kentucky)
Name of the Game: DeAndre Liggins (Kentucky)
The Pick: Kentucky (by 32)
8) Texas vs. 9) Wake Forest
Whoever wins this game is in for a bad surprise come round two. Texas is 7-9 in their past sixteen, while Wake has lost five out of six. You're welcome Kentucky!
Player to Watch: Damion James (Texas)
Name of the Game: Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest)
The Pick: Texas (by 6)
5) Temple vs. 12) Cornell
Temple finished the season ripping through a strong Atlantic 10. The Big Red of Cornell aren't playing too badly themselves, but they play in the Ivy League. Ivy League schools usually aren't known for their stellar performances in the NCAA tournament.
Player to Watch: Ryan Wittman (Cornell)
Name of the Game: Scootie Randall (Temple)
The Pick: Temple (by 6)
4) Wisconsin vs. 13) Wofford
Wisconsin has played extremely well against upper tier teams this season, but has struggled against some of the weaker teams. They have major potential to make a run, but could they possibly overlook Wofford?
Player to Watch: Trevon Hughes (Wisconsin)
Name of the Game: Keaton Nankivil (Wisconsin)
The Pick: Wisconsin (by 13)
6) Marquette vs. 11) Washington
Wow, the Pac-10 champ is an 11 seed? It's amazing how bad it's been this year. Going against a Big East school might not be pretty. Or maybe Marquette will overlook them? We'll see.
Player to Watch: Quincey Pondexter (Washington)
Name of the Game: Venoy Overton (Washington)
The Pick: Washington (by 5)
3) New Mexico vs. 14) Montana
Montana is lucky to be in this tournament and they'll be lucky to keep this one within twenty.
Player to Watch: Darington Hobson (New Mexico)
Name of the Game: Darington Hobson (New Mexico)
The Pick: New Mexico (by 21)
7) Clemson vs. 10) Missouri
It's hard to count on Clemson to ever win a big game. Missouri isn't exactly a great basketball school either. Should be a very close game.
Player to Watch: Trevor Booker (Clemson)
Name of the Game: Demontez Stitt (Clemson)
The Pick: Missouri (by 2)
2) West Virginia vs. 15) Morgan State
Nobody wants to play a scorching hot West Virginia team coming off of a Big East championship game victory...including Morgan State. Lack of depth is a big concern in the grand scheme of things though.
Player to Watch: Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia)
Name of the Game: Dalton Pepper (West Virginia)
The Pick: West Virginia (by 24)
No. 1 seed: Kentucky
Top Player: John Wall
Biggest First Round Upset: 11)Washington over 6)Marquette
Possible Sleeper/Spoiler Team: Washington
Regional Final Matchup: Kentucky vs. West Virginia
East Regional Champion: Kentucky Wildcats
1) Duke vs. 16) Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Coach K is a coaching legend for a reason. He doesn't lose games like this.
Player to Watch: Kyle Singler (Duke)
Name of the Game: Savalance Townsend (Arkansas Pine-Bluff)
The Pick: Duke (by 29)
8) California vs. 9) Louisville
Louisville has been supremely inconsistent this year. Which Louisville team will show up?
Player to Watch: Jerome Randle (California)
Name of the Game: Markhuri Sanders-Frison (California)
The Pick: California (by 9)
5) Texas A&M vs. 12) Utah State
Utah State and A&M are both very balanced and could make a sneaky run. First, one of them has to win this game.
Player to Watch: Donald Sloan (Texas A&M)
Name of the Game: Pooh Williams (Utah State)
The Pick: Utah State (by 4)
4) Purdue vs. 13) Siena
If Robbie Hummel was healthy, Purdue would be a Final Four contender. He's not and Purdue could be ousted in round one by an always dangerous Siena team. What a difference one player makes.
Player to Watch: Alex Franklin (Siena)
Name of the Game: Just-in'love Smith (Siena)
The Pick: Purdue (by 3)
6) Notre Dame vs. 11) Old Dominion
Old Dominion's lack of star power might really come back to bite them against a balanced team like Notre Dame, but Luke Harangody still not at full strength, so nothing's impossible.
Player to Watch: Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)
Name of the Game: Marsharee Neely (Old Dominion)
The Pick: Notre Dame (by 13)
3) Baylor vs. 14) Sam Houston State
Baylor might not be the most talented team in the tournament (although they are up there), but they have the strongest group of names. LaceDarius Dunn, Ekpe Udoh, Tweety Carter? Wow. That's a strong group.
Player to Watch: LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor)
Name of the Game: Tweety Carter (Baylor)
The Pick: Baylor (by 17)
7) Richmond vs. 10) St. Mary's
St. Mary's has a dominant big man in Omar Samhan. Can the smaller Spiders stop him?
Player to Watch: Omar Samhan (St. Mary's)
Name of the Game: Matthew Dellavedova (St. Mary's)
The Pick: St. Mary's (by 1)
2) Villanova vs. 15) Robert Morris
Nova always seems to show up this time of year. They've struggled a little bit lately, but they should step up their game now that it's tourney time.
Player to Watch: Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)
Name of the Game: Mezie Nwigwe (Robert Morris)
The Pick: Villanova (by 28)
No. 1 seed: Duke
Top Player: Luke Harangody
Biggest First Round Upset: 12)Utah State over 5) Texas A&M
Possible Sleeper/Spoiler Team: Utah State
Regional Final Matchup: Duke vs. Baylor
South Regional Champion: Duke
Final Four: Ohio State vs. Butler, Kentucky vs. Duke
National Championship: Ohio State vs. Duke
National Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes
(Most Outstanding Player: Evan Turner)
-Here's to hoping I don't go 0-32.
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