No. 5 Michigan State over No. 12 New Mexico State
This has been an overall disappointing season for Tom Izzo’s Spartans. The loss of Goran Suton was significant, and now they have to prove they’re better than most think in taking care of New Mexico State. It will be tough for the Aggies to pull the upset over Izzo’s squad, because even without Suton, Izzo knows how to win.
No. 4 Maryland over No. 13 Houston
Led by inspirational leader Greivis Vasquez, Maryland will be tough to beat. Regular season co-champs of the ACC, the Terps will look to make a deep run and challenge top-seeded Kansas. Houston got in by winning its conference tournament and is a feisty team, but Vasquez will continue to hit the big shots when it matters, and Maryland’s size will prevail.
No. 7 Oklahoma State over No. 10 Georgia Tech
This should be one of the best games of the opening round. Each team has a win against a top-seeded team in the tournament, and both have suffered bad losses. Tech has beaten Duke, and Oklahoma State beat Kansas.
I’m picking the Cowboys for their advantage in guards. Tech has great inside players in Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors. But the story of the first weekend is guard play, and the Cowboys have many weapons on the outside with Keiton Page and James Anderson. This is a must-see matchup.
No. 2 Ohio State over No. 15 UC Santa Barbara
Led by star freshman Evan Turner, UCSB is hardly a hurdle for Ohio State to reach the Final Four. A suffocating defense and good offensive efficiency will advance Ohio State easily into the second round. A slow style of play will keep UCSB in the game, but with no scare of an upset.
No. 1 Syracuse over No. 16 Vermont
There will not be another upset involving these two teams from some years ago. These are very different teams, and the Cuse will be out to avenge an early exit in the Big East tournament. Vermont can keep it closer than any other No. 16 seed but will still be way out of reach.
Most likely playing without Arinze Onuaku, the Orange will rely on their perimeter players. Andy Rautins, Wesley Johnson, and Scoop Jardine will come ready to play in the dance.
No. 8 Gonzaga over No. 9 Florida State
One of the most intriguing matchups of the first round displays a good offensive team in Gonzaga and one of the best defensive squads in the nation in the Seminoles. The Zags have numerous talented players in WCC POY Matt Bouldin, sharpshooter Steven Gray, lanky freshman Elias Harris, and a huge post presence in Robert Sacre. These guys will be too much for Florida State because the Seminoles will not be able to sufficiently score.
Turnovers are another major problem, and Gonzaga will be able to turn those TOs into points. Guard play is important, and the Zags have three of them.
No. 6 Xavier over No. 11 Minnesota
The Musketeers will be too much for Tubby Smith’s defense. Xavier has great scorers in Jason Love and Jamel McLean in the post, as well as shooters Dante Jackson and Brad Redford—not to mention the A-10's leading scorer, Jordan Crawford, who was made famous last summer dunking over LeBron James.
After a successful run in the Big Ten tournament, the Golden Gophers face an early exit here as Xavier continues its great play in March.
No. 3 Pittsburgh over No. 14 Oakland
A surprising Pitt team this year in the Big East should have no trouble with Oakland. Pitt should be able to control the game and pound out a win. Oakland should be able to put up a fight similar to Montana with solid guards but will fade late and force up shots. Pitt has always found a way to get some wins in March, and they will survive in at least the first round this year.
No. 12 Cornell over No. 5 Temple
A very interesting game featuring two proficient scoring teams from behind the arc. But just like fellow A-10 foe Richmond, Temple will go down with nobody to stop the Big Red's seven-footer Jeff Foote. With other shooters around him, the Owls will have a tough time avoiding the 12-5 upset. They have the shooting to do it with Juan Fernandez, Ryan Brooks, and Lavoy Allen, and they better get out shooting.
No. 4 Wisconsin over No. 13 Wofford
Wofford is just not good enough to keep up with Wisconsin. The Badgers play well in March and should have no trouble in their slow, half-court style of play against the Terriers. Trevon Hughes will set the tempo and advance to the next round.
No. 10 Missouri over No. 7 Clemson
An interesting matchup, and I choose Mizzou because they have great guards and Clemson is a hot/cold team. Clemson can also struggle away from their home floor. J.T. Tiller can take over a game, and Mizzou, as a team, shoots better from long range and from the charity stripe. Free throws will be very important in this game because it should be a nail-biter.
No. 2 West Virginia over No. 15 Morgan State
A sound, defensive-minded Bob Huggins squad will look to turn turnovers into points in the early rounds. WVU has great guards in Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, and junior leader Joe Mazzulla. Morgan State can make some noise with solid guards, but it won’t be enough. Only Robert Morris will be scaring a No. 2 seed this round.
No. 1 Duke over No. 16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Play-in game winner Arkansas-PB will be no match for Duke. They got one win in the tournament for their résumé, and that will be all. The big three of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith will walk over them much like Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, and John Wall did to ETSU. They’ll be looking forward to a possible matchup with Louisville in the next round.
No. 8 California over No. 9 Louisville
First, this depends on which Louisville team shows up in Jacksonville. They come to play against the tough opponents, but will they against Cal coming from a weak Pac-10 league? Regardless, Cal will come to play the tough Cardinal team. They’re looking to end past struggles on the opposite coast. The inside-outside game of Jerome Randle and Theo Robertson can cause serious problems.
No. 12 Utah State over No. 5 Texas A&M
At first glance, the Aggies were the surest No. 5 seed to be upset, and it didn’t look like it drawing most likely the last team in the field in Utah State. But Utah State is no pushover because they’re one of the best at taking care of the basketball, and that’s a must in this tournament.
The A&M Aggies haven’t been impressive all year long despite cracking the top 25 this year. The lack of a solid point guard and turnover problems will send the No. 5-seeded Aggies home packing early.
No. 13 Siena over No. 4 Purdue
The Saints will take advantage over the crippled Boilermakers, who are lost without their star Robbie Hummel. Siena has won a game in the tournament in each of the last two years, and this year will add at least a third led by Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles.
This seeding for Purdue is based on early season performance and didn’t look at how they played without Hummel. A tough matchup with Siena will cause problems and send Purdue home early.