March Madness 2011: St. John's, George Mason and the Second-Round Matchups
Once again, it’s time for the greatest time of year: March Madness.
This Thursday and Friday are arguably the best in sports because they contain the first round of March Madness.
This second round features a remarkable 32 action-packed games filled with energy, emotion, and, of course, Madness.
Like almost anything else, not all of these games are made equal. There are some games that are not even worth watching; games that have number one seeds beating up on sixteen seeds; and twos destroying fifteens.
The question is, with so many games going on at once, which ones do you watch? How can you tell which games are going to be the best? Which games will come down to unbelievable buzzer-beaters?
Have no fear; this list is dedicated solely to informing you about which games are the ones that you should watch.
This list will also discuss which high seeds could go down. Could we see another fifteen seed win? What about a fourteen or a thirteen? We almost always see a twelve seed win, but which one?
With no further ado, let’s reveal the most interesting games of the second round.
12. No. 8 Michigan vs No. 9 Tennessee
Naturally, you would expect a game of close seeds like an eight and a nine to be very interesting, but it’s number 12 on the list.
Michigan is a young team with no seniors, but they proved that they can win—that is not what will hurt them.
What really makes this interesting is the fact that Michigan struggles to rebound, while Tennessee is big and can rebound with the best of them. Naturally, Michigan is more of a finesse team, but since that helps Tennessee, this is not too hard to call.
This game is one of close seeds though, and is bound to be close, which is why it is on this list.
11. No. 6 Cincinnati vs No. 11 Missouri
This game is interesting because even though there is a bit of a gap, the two styles keep it interesting
Cincy plays an intense half-court man-to-man, while Missouri loves to run the length of the court and score quickly.
Missouri is better suited to run, but Cincy can dominate inside.
Cincy has beaten Georgetown twice, and they absolutely killed Xavier; whereas Missouri’s only big win was against Kansas State, who they also lost against.
This game will come down to which style of play the game takes, but this could be an upset in the making.
10. No. 7 Temple vs. No. 10 Penn State
This game will be ugly, but it will be close.
Temple has good ball movement and outside shooting, and they play tough defense.
Penn State lacks in offense (as demonstrated when they scored only 36 against Wisconsin), but they make up for it in defense (holding Wisconsin to 33).
This game will be low-scoring and laden with fouls, but it will be close. Most people prefer a flashy game in NBA fashion, but this is college, and defense is rewarded.
Every shot will be big, and keeping that in mind will make this game much more interesting.
9. No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Richmond
Five seeds always have trouble with twelve seeds for some reason, and this game is no exception.
Vandy has had some trouble adjusting to their injuries, and their communication still is not the best—which could really hurt their defense. This will play to Richmond’s advantage because they love to shoot threes.
Richmond has three guys shooting over 40 percent from three, and when they move the ball around, Vandy will get confused, leaving open guys.
Ability to shoot from deep and getting open shots is a winning combination for Richmond. This game is a potential upset and will be a fun game to watch, especially if you like threes.
8. No. 5 West Virginia vs No. 12 Clemson
This one is still just a potential matchup, because Clemson has to beat UAB to make it to the second round, but there’s almost no doubt that they will.
UAB really struggled down the stretch, and since they are one of the last in, many experts are questioning why they are even in the tournament instead of Colorado. Regardless, they are in, and they will most likely lose to Clemson
Once Clemson wins, they will take on West Virginia.
Clemson is a good team who destroyed Boston College by 23, and had a double-digit lead against UNC before losing it late in the ACC tournament. Clemson has something to prove, and I see them doing it against WVU. This is definitely a game to watch.
7. No. 8 Butler vs No. 9 Old Dominion
ODU is a veteran team who has won 13 of 14, and is on a hot streak looking to send their seniors out in style.
Butler made it to the Championship Game last year, and while they aren’t quite as good, they are still a tough team.
Their biggest common opponent was Xavier—Butler lost by two, ODU won by nine.
Usually, common opponents show a lot, but both teams have changed throughout the season.
Eight seeds versus nine seeds always provide excitement, and this game will be no different.
6. No. 5 Kansas State vs No. 12 Utah State
Yeah, it’s another five seed.
Kansas State was ranked number four in the nation at one point, but they have dropped off quite a bit since then.
Utah State is a veteran group with great defense that doesn't allow second-chance points and features point guard Brockeith Pane, who can break down the opposition, and a tough big in Tai Wesley.
Utah State went 30-3 on the year, and they are hot.
They are a 12 seed for a reason, but they could be a Cinderella this season. Could we have another George Mason-like run? Perhaps they are like Cornell from last season. Either way, they’re good.
5. No. 7 Washington vs No. 10 Georgia
Both of these teams can rebound, and it’s a big part of both of their games. The difference is that Washington can also shoot threes very well with Isiah Thomas.
Georgia has wanted to bully smaller opponents with their size, but that won’t help them now. Washington also has experience, which is very helpful in handling the Madness.
The biggest question of the game, besides who controls the glass, though, is can Washington make their free throws?
Washington has lost a lot of close games solely because of their free throw shooting, and March is when free throw shooting counts the most. This game is going to be very interesting.
4. No. 4 Wisconsin vs No. 13 Belmont
Wisconsin has Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, who combine for 37 points per game, and they are always a feared team, but Belmont can hang with them.
Belmont is very balanced and hits their threes.
Belmont is 30-4 this season, and they have only lost once since Christmas. Belmont ran through their conference tourney looking deadly, and if they keep it up they could upset Wisconsin.
This game is going to be very hard to predict if you look into it, and the question really is: Will Wisconsin’s stellar defense hold Belmont’s three-point shooters, or will Wisconsin score a pitiful 33 points again?
3. No. 6 St. John’s vs No. 11 Gonzaga
One of the biggest questions of the Tournament is: Can St. John’s win on the road?
All of St. John’s big wins came at MSG, and it really is just a toss-up over whether or not they can win away from home.
Gonzaga is a well-balanced team with both size and guards. They can play any type of game that St. John’s throws at them.
This game is so high up solely because EVERYONE wants to know whether or not the Red Storm will win on the road. Does there really need to be another reason?
I can guarantee you that I will not miss this game.
2. No. 8 George Mason vs No. 9 Villanova
This is the last eight seed versus nine seed matchup, and it’s by far the biggest.
Nova was a top ten team once upon a time, and they could still be dangerous. Sure, they faltered down the stretch, but they could regain their old form in the tournament.
George Mason was the biggest Cinderella story of the decade, and they are back. GM has Cam Long's threes and Ryan Pearson's grit inside, which make up for an overall lack of size.
Now, the question just remains of which Villanova team will show up, and whether or not GM can make another run.
I can assure you that I will watch this game too.
1. No. 4 Texas vs No. 13 Oakland
This is a big game; one that could decide the West’s bracket.
Texas is a dangerous team, but they are very inconsistent.
Texas could make a run into the tourney, and potentially beat Duke, but they have to come together and beat Oakland first. Texas needs to come back to form on defense and make their free throws to win their games
Oakland has NBA talent in big man Keith Benson, a dangerous perimeter threat in Reggie Hamilton, and Will Hudson, who does all the dirty work inside. They also played a tough schedule, which will make them ready for this game.
This is the biggest game of the second round, and there is absolutely no way I will miss this game—I advise you to watch it too.