March Madness 2011 Predictions: 10 Tournament Games Sure to Go to the Wire

Joseph HigginsContributor IIMarch 17, 2011

March Madness 2011 Predictions: 10 Tournament Games Sure to Go to the Wire

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12: Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies dribbles up court against the Louisville Cardinals during the championship of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garde
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    It's tournament time again—break out the brackets! From this day on until the national finals every NCAA men's basketball fanatic will be glued to his or her television.

    What's great about March Madness is the upsets. It's set in stone that someone will have at least one upset tallied on their bracket.

    But which team is going to pull off the unthinkable?

    A No. 16 seed over the No. 1? Very unlikely—but the score could come close.

    Regardless of who upsets who, these are 10 games that will be nail-biters and keep people on the edge of their seats. 

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Clemson Tigers

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 15: Zavier Anderson #3 of the Clemson Tigers handles the ball agaisnt Aaron Johnson #1 of the UAB Blazers during the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 15, 2011 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Greg
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    West Virginia has the advantage in this game for one reason: they've had more time off. They haven't played a game since last week when they participated in the Big East tournament. 

    Clemson? They just got off their plane yesterday, arriving in Tampa at 5:00 a.m. But they just played a game against UAB in Dayton, Ohio during the opening round.

    The Tigers have their pistons pumping and after being well rested their legs still have energy in them. WVU has rested but have they rested too much? Are they going to come out onto the court with stiff legs and with their engines running on half of a tank instead of a full one?

    This game might have "upset" alert written on it. Clemson's sporting a defense that averages 60.9 points per game allowed. On the other hand, West Virginia is the higher seed and will beat out Clemson on the rebounds, giving them more ball possession. 

    West Virginia Mountaineers win by three

Richmond Spiders vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 11:  John Jenkins #23 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrates their win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 11, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Comm
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    One of three A-10 powerhouses to join the dance the Richmond Spiders look to continue their win streak throughout the March Madness tourney and win eight straight—and then some.

    However, this will be their first game against an SEC opponent this will they fare?

    Vanderbilt has a habit of blowing leads late in the second half and losing games. 

    The Spiders haven't made it past this stage since 1998; will this be their year? The odds could be in their favor.

    Richmond wins in OT by one

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Washington Huskies

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:  Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies reacts as the Arizona Wildcats miss a buzzer shot and the game goes into overtime in the championship game of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Cente
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Is Washington's offense too much for Georgia? Or is Georgia's defense too much for Washington?

    The Huskies sport an offense that is No. 3 in the nation for points per game and can run away with the game if the Bulldogs give up late in the second.

    A lot of Bulldogs losses have been by a margin of five or more points because either they foul for the rest of the game or they can't handle the opposing team anymore.

    This game is really up to Georgia and whether or not the Bulldogs can stop Washington; if they do then this game will be a close one.

    Washington wins by four

Old Dominion Monarchs vs. Butler Bulldogs

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 16: Matt Howard #54  of the Butler Bulldogs grabs a rebound during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center on November 16, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    A story of the two little programs that could. Old Dominion was one of the first teams Butler beat in the 2007 tourney when they made a run to the Sweet 16.

    Both teams are hot—currently each team is on a nine-game win streak. I won't even try to bring out season averages or stats on this game—throw it all out the door.

    It's going to be a very conservative, defensive game in the first half, but look for a shootout and a buzzer-beater for the second half. 

    Butler does it again against Old Dominion and wins by two

St. John's Red Storm vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: D.J. Kennedy #1 of the St. John's Red Storm is helped off the court after being injured in the first half against the Syracuse Orange during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The picture explains everything—the Red Storm will be without one of their best players in D.J. Kennedy. Kennedy torn his right ACL in the Big East tournament and that's the end of his college basketball career for the senior. 

    Kennedy is the team's leader and their best rebounder so Justin Brownlee will have to act as the big man for St. John's tonight. Robert Sacre (a big seven-footer) and Elias Harris love to get under the board and rebound and should look to capitalize with the absence of Kennedy.

    Could this be the end of the Red Storm's Cinderella season? A good portion of their wins, even against below-par teams, came by three points or fewer at times. Some of their losses were by margins bigger than 10.

    Then again, Gonzaga has had its fair share of ugly losses and close wins as well. That's why this game is going to be such an evenly matched game.

    St. John's by one

Princeton Tigers vs. Kentucky Wildcats

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    DENVER - MARCH 18:  The Princeton Tigers mascot entertains the crowd during a first round game in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Texas Longhorns at Pepsi Center on March 18, 2004 in Denver, Colorado. Texas defeated Princeton 66-49.  (Pho
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    An odd one right?

    As head coach of the Wildcats John Calipari put it: "You can't count on freshmen." Is he saying that he doesn't believe in his team?


    Either way, this is Princeton's first trip to the bracket since 2005 and the Tigers want to make it far this time. Getting past a powerhouse like Kentucky might be a bigger bump in the road than they expected. 

    Princeton has a vast amount of upperclassmen on its team whose leadership and experience can help them roll over the adolescence of Kentucky.

    The Tigers are playing their best season of basketball in years—they average close to 70 points a game and they're an Ivy League school.

    "Princeton can beat us," said Calipari. "They can beat just about anyone."

    And they will. Princeton does the unthinkable and beats KU by two

Illinois Fighting Illini vs. UNLV Rebels

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Tre'Von Willis #33 of the UNLV Rebels drives against the Air Force Falcons during a quarterfinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center March 10, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Two very evenly matched teams means this can go either way.

    Illinois has the worse record, close to .500 with a 19-13 record, which is odd for a No. 9 seed. UNLV has a 24-8 record; how are the Rebels only a No. 8 seed?

    Their respective conferences: The Fighting Illini are a Big Ten team where as the Rebels are a Mountain West team (even though the MWC sported great teams such as San Diego State and BYU.)

    So with two similar teams, it's bound to be either a very high-scoring game, or a game that drags on and doesn't reach 120 combined points.

    Nevertheless, UNLV by four

Missouri Tigers vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats speaks to players during a time out in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by A
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Coach Mick Cronin has turned around the basketball program at the University of Cincinnati and looks to take it far in the national tournament—just like any other coach right?

    The team's first step will be against the offensive powerhouse of Missouri, which averages over 80 points a game.

    What do the Bearcats do? They keep doing what they do and maintain their 59.2 points allowed per game average and slow down the Tigers, which is why this game will come down to the wire.

    Bearcats by one

Memphis Tigers vs. Arizona Wildcats

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:  Derrick Williams #23 of the Arizona Wildcats dunks the ball between Terrence Ross #31 and Justin Holiday #22 of the Washington Huskies in the first half in the championship game of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Memphis is always a team of great talent—their downfall is that the Tigers are in Conference USA, thus always giving them a lower seed.

    Good thing Arizona isn't playing at home—or at least Memphis should be happy that they aren't—because the Wildcats went 17-0 at the McKale Center this season.

    Yet again another game that features two evenly matched teams even though the seeding is significantly different due to RPI and what conference a team plays in.

    Arizona wins by four

Villanova Wildcats vs. George Mason Patriots

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    ROSEMONT, IL - FEBRUARY 19: Corey Fisher #10 of the Villanova Wildcats brings the ball up the court against the DePaul Blue Demons at the Allstate Arena on February 19, 2011 in Rosemont, Illinois. Villanova defeated DePaul 77-75 in overtime. (Photo by Jon
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Villanova has had an up-and-down season. It started off strong going 16-1 in its first 17 games, then finished out the season going 5-10—including a five-game skid.

    George Mason is just the opposite. The Patriots finished off their season going 14-1, with their loss coming in the CAA tournament versus VCU.

    Who has the advantage? Even though both teams are coming into the tourney with a losing streak, George Mason had the better second half of the season. Both teams average about the same amount of points per game and their defenses are pretty similar.

    Villanova bounces back and wins by one at the buzzer