March Madness 2011 Predictions: Picks for Every Game
It's time to make some March Madness 2011 predictions, are you ready?
As Selection Sunday rolls on, and we learn who is playing who come Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, our focus falls on filling out brackets by the dozen.
Who will be the Cinderella teams of this year's dance? Who's going home early? Who has what it takes to win it all?
Join us here as we break down every single matchup of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament, analyzing each game as we find out the bracket.
For all of your March Madness needs, check out Bleacher Report's comprehensive March Madness coverage, and be sure to get our easily printable brackets to fill out and highlight as the tournament goes on.
So, grab your pens (real pros don't use pencils), your highlighters (to properly follow the tournament) and your bracket folder, and let's get started, shall we?
March Madness 2011 Predictions Roll On, Can Michigan Hope to Keep Blazing Hot Streak Alive Vs. Tennessee?
The Michigan Wolverines were nowhere near the bubble conversation as recently as February, and with good reason. They were 13-10, and 3-7 in the Big Ten, and looked more or less dead in the water.
However, from that point on, Michigan lost just twice more in the Big Ten, rolling off a 7-2 stretch to end the season that culminated in a berth in the conference semifinals.
Now, suddenly, they're an 8-seed and one of the hottest teams in the nation entering the tournament. The Wolverines are firing on all cylinders, and look poised to cause opponents trouble.
But, can they keep it up against their first-round foes, the Tennessee Volunteers? The Vols are one of the more talented teams in the country, thanks to sharpshooter Scotty Hopson and forward Tobias Harris, and a supporting cast capable of delivering strong performances against good teams (see six wins against the RPI top 50 for proof of that). The Vols, when they're at their best, shoot well, rebound well, and run you into the ground.
The problem is, they're only at their best on rare occasions. Typically, you get the Tennessee team who struggles to get into rhythm and has to scratch and claw for wins.
Can they keep up with the torrid Wolverines, or will they get left in the dust?
The answer is probably somewhere in the middle for Bruce Pearl's team, and when facing someone as hot as Michigan has been over the last month or so, that can be a serious problem. Still, they have the weapons to win this one, and if Hopson has his shooting touch going, they will be successful.
Final Score: Tennessee 70, Michigan 68. This one's coming down to the wire, but in the end, I trust Bruce Pearl's team just a touch more than the Wolverines.
NCAA Tournament 2011 Brackets Released, Can Hampton Stand Up to Mighty Blue Devils?
Typically, the 1-16 seed pairings in the real first round of the NCAA tournament aren't all that close. Oftentimes, the 16 seed is a first-time participant in the Dance, or a team from an extremely small conference who lacks the depth or overall talent to hang with one of college basketball's power teams.
But, are the Hampton Pirates an exception to the rule? They're no first-timers, having made quite the ruckus in 2001 when they were here, and appearing several other times on top of that. They're not pushovers, having amassed a solid 25-8 record this season.
The Pirates also have some solid talent on the roster, in the form of guard Darrion Pellum. But, unfortunately for the Virginia school, they're up against one of the deepest, most talented teams in the tournament.
The Duke Blue Devils spent most of the year ranked in the top four, falling out only recently following a late season swoon. Led by senior Kyle Single, junior Nolan Smith, and a cadre of talented youngsters, Duke has blasted almost all comers this season, while looking like national title contenders.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, who average a paltry 67.5 points per game, they lack the horses to keep up with the Dukies, who can bring the thunder from just about anyone on the roster, and anywhere on court.
Plus, given the fact that the Blue Devils looked awfully good in the ACC tournament, Hampton's chances might be even less than your average 16-seed.
Final Score: Duke 91, Hampton 70.
NCAA Tournament 2011 Kicks Off Tuesday; Here's Why North Carolina Would Be Wise Not To Overlook Long Island
Historically, 15-seeds have not fared well in the NCAA tournament. With the exceptions of Hampton against Iowa State, and Coppin State over South Carolina, teams seeded against the second-best team in a bracket are 0-for-forever.
That probably won't change much this year, but if you're second-seeded North Carolina, that doesn't mean you should sleep on 15-seed Long Island. Far from it in fact.
You see, the Blackbirds of LIU are not your average 15-seed, for a number of reasons, ranging from their record (27-5, best among seeds that low) to their style of play. And it's just that style that should give North Carolina fits.
While the Blackbirds lack a go-to star (guard Julian Boyd leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.9 points per game), that doesn't mean they can't score; far from it in fact.
The Blackbirds love to run, and love to shoot, and do both exceptionally well. Their offense ranks fourth in the nation, averaging 82.6 points per game, and they shoot better than 46 percent from the floor, and 36 percent from three-point range.
But the Birds rebound well too, pulling down 45 boards per game. In short, this team smells like trouble, particularly if the Heels elect to sleep on them, which is a real possibility considering North Carolina's youth.
Am I saying the Blackbirds can pull the upset? Probably not; UNC is a supremely talented team, and the odds that Roy Williams lets the Heels cruise is low.
But, that doesn't mean victory is assured, and given the season the Blackbirds have had, earning their first ever NCAA tournament berth and all, you can bet they'll give UNC all they can handle.
Final Score: North Carolina 88, LIU 85.
NCAA Tournament 2011 Bracket Released, Will Georgia Stand Up to Washington Attack?
We've already looked at most of the matchups in the 2011 East Region, and frankly, there's a whole lot of chalk going on. Every higher seed has advanced, and frankly, we're stumped. How could this happen? How can we fix this? Is there any hope?
Fortunately, the 10th seeded Georgia Bulldogs can provide us with all the hope we need. Led by superb forward Trey Thompkins and dynamic guard Travis Leslie, the Bulldogs have all the talent they need to pull an upset.
But, their foe, seventh-seeded Washington, is fairly talented in and of themselves. The Huskies are led by lilliputian point guard Isaiah Thomas, although forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning is pretty reliable in the post as well. Sure, they underperformed for a while there, but the Huskies turned it on at the right time, firing on all cylinders in the Pac-10 tournament and winning the thing, despite coming in as the third seed.
Washington loves to run, scoring 83.4 points per game, but Georgia has the athleticism to keep up with them, assuming their defense can hold up to the onslaught of the Huskies attack. In the end, though, look for the Bulldogs to eschew the defense and just run and gun with Washington, trying to keep up with their unparalleled attacking prowess.
In the end, look for Thompkins and Leslie to deliver Georgia a timely win, and our first upset of the day, even if it is a minor one.
Final Score: Georgia 88, Washington 87, Overtime. Lots of points, lots of drama; you won't have much fingernail left at the end of this one.
For more March Madness coverage, check out Bleacher Report's March Madness Headquarters, your source for all tournament news and insight, as well as our printable bracket, perfect for highlighting, gloating, and even crumpling up and throwing away, if you fail to listen to my picks.
NCAA Tournament Announcer Schedule Released, How On Earth Is Gus Johnson Only On Once?!
This is an outrage; it's just flat-out not right. CBS has been tinkering with it's coverage of March Madness for several years now, and while most of the changes have been good, some, like this, are not.
What am I talking about? The network released it's announcing schedule tonight, shortly after revealing the 2011 brackets, and somehow, some way Gus Johnson only appears once during the week. On TNT and truTV.
Look, I get that you're trying to promote the game on your other networks, CBS. I understand that your top talent should make appearances on the other stations. But, not only do you not have all that many good games on your own network (it's Texas taking on Oakland! No, wait, it's BYU taking on Wofford!), you also give us a full day's worth of Jim Spanarkel and Ian Eagle, who are like the fifth team on the announcer depth chart.
Seriously guys, Gus has become a staple of most fans NCAA coverage; we don't want to have to go looking for him in the cable channels that brought us such stellar shows as "When Squirrels Attack 6" (that would be you, truTV), or "The Closer" (that's you, TNT). How are we supposed to hear his delirious calls when he's out in the boonies, and not on the big show?
While we're at it, why is he only doing his thing on Friday? No, Wednesday's games do not count, those aren't a part of the real tournament, just like the play-in games weren't a part of the tournament before. How could you not find a space for him on Thursday, but you could find space for Spanarkel and Eagle?
There's still time to fix this, CBS. Stick all of the good games on your flagship network, give Gus a couple of games on Thursday, and a couple of games on Friday, and everyone wins. You can even give Jim and Ian a couple of other ones, we promise.
Alright, I'm better now; back to those picks.
March Madness 2011 Predictions Continue; Do the Sycamores of Indiana State Stand a Chance Against the Mighty Orange?
It looks like a mismatch, doesn't it? On paper, the East Region's 3-14 seed clash between the Syracuse Orange, who battled to the Big East semifinals, and the Indiana State Sycamores, surprise winners of the Missouri Valley Conference, looks like it shouldn't even be close.
The Orange are the more balanced, more effective team, while Indiana State is an upstart in a conference full of them. What hope do they have against the likes of Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche?
The answer is: More than you'd think. Led by guards Dwayne Latham and Jake Odum, the Sycamores are a tough team, who love to slow things down a bit. They prefer to play on the outside, and knock down 36 percent of their threes. Can they bang? Sure; they average 37 boards per game. If Syracuse sleeps on this team, expect the Trees to stay on the perimeter of the Orange's vaunted zone and go bombs away from downtown, and possibly score the upset.
Even is Syracuse doesn't sleep on ISU, look for them to knock down some threes and keep swinging, hoping to land a haymaker or two, in the form of a key bucket.
But, in the end, the fact is that Syracuse can score with anyone, with their combination of interior bangers and three-point gunners.
Final Score: Syracuse 67, Indiana State 60. The Sycamores put up a good fight, but in the end, the Orange are too much for them here.
NCAA 2011 Bracket Released, And If Xavier's Not Careful, They'll Be In Trouble Against Streaky Golden Eagles
It has become an annual occurance: a team finds itself trapped on the bubble heading into it's conference tournament, needing a win or two to ensure it's place in the Big Dance. Having accomplished this, they promptly lay an egg in their ensuing game, having guaranteed that their ticket is punched.
Nowhere was this clearer than the Marquette Golden Eagles this season. Marquette needed a win to ensure that they could grab a March Madness berth, so they went out and scored a good one over West Virginia. Having locked up their bid, they folded against Louisville in the Big East quarterfinals, bid safe regardless of the outcome.
Now, the Xavier Musketeers are getting a team who could be a major sleeper this season. The Golden Eagles are talented, led by forward Jimmy Butler and guard Darius Johnson-Odom, two high-flyers capable of carrying the team, as well as forward Jae Crowder, one of college basketball's better rebounders.
Should the Muskies, who looked even in their loss to Dayton in the A-10 tournament, be concerned? After all, Marquette still lost 14, games, while Xavier looked strong almost all season, thanks largely to all-world guard Tru Holloway.
The Musketeers are deep and talented, and look poised for another run, but Marquette is capable of lighting up the scoreboard in a big way. They'll run with Xavier all game long, and match their athleticism and depth.
Will it be enough for the Golden Eagles to score the upset?
Final Score: Xavier 79, Marquette 77. No. But you can bet this will be one of the more entertaining games of the tournament, even if it doesn't give us an upset.
For more March Madness coverage, check out our March Madness Headquarters, your one-stop shop for everything March Madness, and our printable brackets, perfect for highlighting all the games you get right.
March Madness 2011 Predictions Roll On, As Princeton Defends Ivy League Honor Against Kentucky
It's been six years since the Princeton Tigers made an appearance in the NCAA tournament, and they almost made it seven, as it took a buzzer-beating bucket against Harvard in a one-game playoff to earn the conference's auto bid.
Now that they're back, the Tigers are hoping to shock the world once again. The Ivy League won an NCAA tournament game last season, when Cornell grabbed a win, but before that, you have to go to back to 1996, when Princeton, also seeded 13th then, shocked the world by knocking off UCLA in the first round.
Can Princeton get the job done against Kentucky this season? On the surface, it looks unlikely; the Wildcats are as talented as anyone in college basketball, led by freshman sensation Brandon Knight and forward Terrence Jones. They can run the Tigers out of the gym, and Princeton simply lacks the athletes to hang with them.
But, look again at the matchup. Princeton is a tough team, led by guard Dan Mavraides and forwards Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox. They're balanced, efficient and clicking at the right time. Plus, Kentucky hasn't exactly inspired confidence with their play until the SEC tournament, and John Calipari's teams never seem to live up to the hype (For proof, one need look no further than last season's disappointing end).
In the end, look for Princeton to keep this one close and force Kentucky to play all 40 minutes, something that has gotten the Wildcats in trouble in the past. Will it happen again this time?
Final Score: UK 63, Princeton 62. No. UK escapes this one by the fur on it's tail, saved by Brandon Knight in dramatic fashion.
NCAA 2011 Bracket Released, Can Clemson Take Second Straight Win Over West Virginia?
The Clemson Tigers will be one of four teams in the 2011 NCAA tournament who will have to win an extra game to advance through the tournament. The Tigers square off against the UAB Blazers in the first round of the Big Dance on Tuesday, and, assuming they win, they have the unenviable task of taking on the fifth seeded West Virginia Mountaineers in the next round of the East Region.
The Tigers are talented, to be sure, behind their balanced lineup, punctuated by standout guards Demontez Stitt and Andre Young, and forward Jerai Grant. But given their lack of depth off the bench, and the fact that they will be playing two games in three days, including this matchup with the Mountaineers, do they really have what it takes to net another victory?
After all, West Virginia has emerged as a smashmouth kind of team in 2010-11, a grinding, physical club who loves to play aggressive basketball. They can score, thanks to guys like Casey Mitchell, Kevin Jones, and Darryl Bryant, as well as former tournament standouts like Joe Mazzulla and John Flowers.
In the end, I think even Bob Huggins' constant chokes in March aren't going to be enough to keep his quietly strong team from netting a solid win over a Clemson team sure to struggle to keep up with the Mountaineers' brutal style of play.
Sure, the Tigers are talented, but they just lack the depth to hang with the likes of West Virginia this season, and they'll be headed back to South Carolina without the 5-12 upset in their bag.
Final Score: West Virginia 65, Clemson 60.
NCAA 2011 Bracket Released, Can George Mason Get Another Cinderella Run Going Against Villanova?
They're baaaack! The George Mason Patriots have returned to March Madness once again, prompting many around basketball to ask: can they make another Cinderella run, or has the clock struck midnight on this mid-major powerhouse?
After all, everyone remembers the Patriots as one of the original Cinderellas, the team who knocked off top seed UConn, defending national champs North Carolina, and a tough Michigan State squad en route to the Final Four in 2005-06, before falling to eventual champs Florida.
The Patriots are back for the second time since then, so can they make the magic happen again? They feature a trio of stars in guard Cam Long and forwards Ryan Pearson and Luke Hancock, and look as strong as ever, finishing first in the CAA regular season.
But, their opponent, the Villanova Wildcats, are as talented a team as you'll find in this year's tournament. Sure, they're a little banged up, but the Wildcats, led by guard Corey Fisher, can still hang with anyone.
However, Nova's vulnerable as the tournament gets underway, having dropped four of their last five games prior to the Dance. Can they hang on against a Mason team primed for a run?
In a word: no. George Mason's too good, and Villanova's too inconsistent and banged up to get anywhere this season, which is a shame for a team so good.
All in all, look for Jim Larranaga to win his first tournament game since that miraclulous run in 2006.
Final Score: George Mason 69, Villanova 66.
For more March Madness coverage, check out our March Madness Headquarters, your home for all things tournament related, and our printable bracket, perfect for framing and using for gloating when you pick every game correctly.
NCAA 2011 Bracket Features Plenty of Fantastic Matchups, But Can the Roadrunners Make History Against the Buckeyes?
Will this be the year? Can history finally be made? Does one of the 16 seeds in the 2011 NCAA tournament bracket have what it takes to knock off a No. 1 seed and get over the hump?
The first matchup on your bracket will pit the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, in what promises to be a decent matchup, simply because the Roadrunners can do just that: eat up road.
Led by guards Devin Moore and Melvin Johnson III, and forward Jeromie Hill, UTSA has a trio of talented, athletic players on which it can rely. The Roadrunners can fly, averaging 70 points per game, but their defense leaves much to be desired.
In the end, there's a reason the Buckeyes were the tournament's top overall seed: balance. They get strong guard play from David Lighty and John Diebler in the backcourt, and William Buford, Dallas Lauderdale and Jared Sullinger in the front.
Few teams can attack you with so many weapons, and fewer still can handle all of the angles from which Ohio State can attack. They don't run you out of the gym so much as grind you into dust, and the Roadrunners should be overmatched from the opening tip.
Sure, UTSA's offense gives them a puncher's chance, but are you really going to bet on the top overall seed losing in the first round, to a team already tired from it's play-in game? Neither am I.
Final Score: Ohio State 85, UTSA 67.
March Madness 2011 Predictions Keep Rolling, But Can USC Stop VCU From Advancing?
The final play-in game in the 2011 NCAA tournament pits the USC Trojans against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, in a battle for the Southwest's 11th seed. These two teams both made it into this year's tournament despite not winning their conference titles, and both have significant weaknesses.
The Trojans are led by big man Nikola Vucevic, who averages 17.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, but USC is no one-trick pony. Forward Alex Stepheson and guard Jio Fontain both average over 10 points per game, and the Trojans are getting hot at the perfect time to make a play for a March Madness Cinderella run.
But, they lack real depth, and considering they have more losses (14) than almost any other team in this year's dance, the Trojans are far from perfect. They struggled all season with their consistency, and own some nasty losses.
The Rams, meanwhile, come in scoring plenty of points (71.4 per game), and with a fairly balanced offense. Four players all average double figures, while six average more than five points per game for the run-and-gun Rams.
However, they lack many strong wins outside the Colonial Athletic Association, and they don't really have a strong post presence, getting outrebounded almost every game.
Even so, I feel like the Rams have what it takes to beat the power conference team in USC, and should move on to face Georgetown in the next round of the Dance.
Final Score: VCU 79, USC 74.
March Madness 2011 Predictions Roll On, As Clemson Looks to Take Down UAB
As part of this season's expanded NCAA tournament field, eight teams must earn the right to take part in the tournament's main body, in four play-in games scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. One of the more widely anticipated of those contests takes us to the East Region, where the Clemson Tigers will be doing battle with the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers on Tuesday, for the right to be the East's 12th seed.
The Tigers were a fairly strong team in the ACC this season, finishing fourth in the conference, before falling in the tournament semis. Led by guards Demontez Stitt and Andre Young, and forward Jerai Grant, the Tigers can score from the outside, or in the paint, and are a fairly solid rebounding club overall. Their defense is solid, allowing just over 60 points per game, while their offense is balanced enough to average 68 points per game.
But, Clemson's depth isn't great, and there's precious little scoring that comes from outside of those three stars.
UAB plays a very similar style to the Tigers, averaging over 68 points per game, while giving up just over 62. With Jamarr Sanders, Cameron Moore and Aaron Johnson all averaging at least 12 points per game, the Blazers are capable of beating you from the inside or the outside as well, even if they lack depth too.
Look for these two evenly matched teams to duke it out till the bitter end, although I feel like Clemson's big-game experience will pay dividends, as UAB lacked a truly strong victory over a non-bubble team in the regular season.
Final Score: Clemson 75, UAB 71.
March Madness 2011 Predictions Keep Rolling, as UNC-Asheville Look to Shoot Past Arkansas- Little Rock
Of the four play-in games featured in the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament, two pit potential 16-seeds head-to-head. We've already talked about UTSA vs. Alabama State, but the other 16-seed clash, between UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock, should be a solid matchup as well.
The Bulldogs of Asheville were surprise winners of the Big South conference tournament, on the backs of some stellar play from their guards, Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm. In fact, the Bulldogs' chances rolling into this tournament are fairly heavily dependent on the play of Dickey, the Big South tournament MVP, and Primm, who is second on the team in points per game. They can run with anyone, averaging over 74 points per game, but can't slow down enough to play solid defense, giving up 68 points per game.
However, they're facing a UALR Trojan club that few thought would pull out the Sun Belt title, particularly not with a 7-9 conference record.
But, the Trojans can score, thanks to forward Soloman Bozeman, who should pose serious matchup issues for the Bulldogs. UALR averages 68 points per game, and they can bang pretty well.
This one should come down to which style of play winds up proving superior: the Bulldogs' high-octane style, or the Trojans' slower, less frenetic pace.
My gut says to take Asheville, as guards tend to play a major role in team success in March.
Final Score: UNC-Asheville 79, UALR 68.
March Madness Predictions 2011 Bring Us Play-In Action; Can Roadrunners Stop Hornets In Their Tracks?
The 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament gets underway on Tuesday, as a quarter of play-in games tip off in Dayton, Ohio, to determine four of the teams to play in the 64-team tournament kicking off Thursday.
One of those play-ins pits the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners against the Alabama State Hornets, for the 16th seed in the East Region. The Roadrunners come into the dance with a fairly solid offense, averaging over 70 points per game.
Led by dynamic guard Devin Gibson, UTSA's offense is better than your average 16-seed, but their defense, which allows over 69 points per game, leaves much to be desired. They've got the skills to make it into the full field, but they face a stern challenge in the Hornets.
Alabama State is led by forward Tramayne Moore, but the Hornets struggle to find the basket with consistency, averaging just over 61 points per game. As if that weren't enough, they struggle stopping other teams from scoring, and actually allowed more points per game (63.6) than they scored (61.3).
In the end, don't look for the Hornets to stick around too long in this year's Bigger Dance, falling to the superior offense of the Roadrunners, and becoming one of the first four teams sent home. In the end, it won't matter too much either way, as these schools are battling for the right to get creamed by Ohio State in the next round, anyway.
Final Score: UTSA 75, Alabama State 63.