NCAA Tournament Bracket 2019: Updated Predictions For Round of 64

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2019

Maryland forward Bruno Fernando, of Angola, gestures after scoring in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Ohio State, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in College Park, Md. Maryland won 72-62. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

One of the top four-day stretches on the sports calendar begins Thursday with the first round of the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament. 

Between now and Sunday, plenty of memorable moments and bracket-busting upsets will occur across eight sites in the United States. 

Thursday's slate begins with a few intriguing matchups, including one that features one of Tuesday's First Four winners. 

At night, Gonzaga, Kentucky and Michigan take the spotlight, while Duke, Virginia and North Carolina have to wait until Friday to play their first-round games. 


2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket


Updated Predictions

No. 6 Maryland over No. 11 Belmont (East Region, Thursday, 3:10 p.m. ET, truTV) 

At least one at-large team who earned a First Four victory has gone on to win in the first round since 2011. 

Belmont will push Maryland in its attempt to extend that streak, but it will come up just short. 

Rick Byrd's Bruins carry momentum into Thursday's clash in Jacksonville, Florida, after beating Temple on Tuesday, but they won't have enough firepower to get past the Terrapins. 

One of the reasons why Maryland is poised for success is it now has a blueprint to stop Dylan Windler, who was held to five points by Temple and only got off seven field-goal attempts in 40 minutes. 

Maryland's defense has been solid in its recent wins after holding opponents to 65 points or fewer in its last seven victories. 

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The Terrapins also have a better way to neutralize Nick Muszynski than Temple did, as they possess a potential first-round pick in the 2019 NBA draft in Bruno Fernando. 

The 20-year-old averages 13.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, and he'll be able to clog up the paint and deny any open looks to Muszynski, which is something Temple struggled with Tuesday. 

By limiting the production of Belmont's two best players, the Terrapins should be able to open up a significant advantage through Fernando and Anthony Cowan. 


No. 11 Saint Mary's over No. 6 Villanova (South Region, Thursday, 7:20 p.m. ET, TBS) 

If you're looking for a No. 11 seed to pull off an upset Thursday, Saint Mary's is the team to get behind. 

The Gaels should play with a wealth of confidence on the floor in Hartford, Connecticut, as they are coming off a West Coast Conference tournament final win over Gonzaga. 

Not only did Saint Mary's win the final over Gonzaga, but it also limited Mark Few's Bulldogs to 47 points

In Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts, the Gaels have a scoring duo that can challenge any team they face in March, as the former averages 21.3 points per game and the latter averages 15.3 points per contest. 

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 11:  Jordan Ford #3 of the Saint Mary's Gaels brings the ball up the court against the San Diego Toreros during a semifinal game of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on March 11, 2019 in Las Veg
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If Ford and Fitts get off to a hot start, they'll put an inexperienced Villanova team under pressure and force Jay Wright's side to play catch-up, which it isn't suited to do. 

Unlike past seasons, the Wildcats don't boast a ton of experience on the floor since they lost more players to the NBA than expected after their championship run in 2018. 

Behind Phil Booth and Eric Paschall on the depth chart are a bunch of players entering the NCAA tournament as significant contributors for the first time in their careers.

Although the Wildcats ended Big East on a high note with the regular-season and tournament titles, they displayed flaws in conference play, especially when they lost four times in five games in February. 

Booth and Paschall will help keep the game close, but Saint Mary's will throw too much at the Wildcats for them to handle, as Ford and Fitts are joined by Tanner Krebs and Jordan Hunter in double digits. 

In the final minutes of the contest, the experience the Saint Mary's players have from playing together for an extended period of time shines through and leads it into the second round. 


Other Predictions

East Region

(1) Duke over (16) North Dakota State 

(9) UCF over (8) VCU 

(5) Mississippi State over (12) Liberty

(4) Virginia Tech over (13) Saint Louis

(14) Yale over (3) LSU 

(10) Minnesota over (7) Louisville

(2) Michigan State over (15) Bradley 


West Region

(1) Gonzaga over (16) Fairleigh Dickinson

(8) Syracuse over (9) Baylor

(12) Murray State over (5) Marquette

(4) Florida State over (13) Vermont

(6) Buffalo over (11) Arizona State

(3) Texas Tech over (14) Northern Kentucky

(10) Florida over (7) Nevada

(2) Michigan over (15) Montana


South Region

(1) Virginia over (16) Gardner-Webb

(9) Oklahoma over (8) Ole Miss

(12) Oregon over (5) Wisconsin

(4) Kansas State over (13) UC Irvine

(3) Purdue over (14) Old Dominion

(7) Cincinnati over (10) Iowa

(2) Tennessee over (15) Colgate


Midwest Region

(1) North Carolina over (16) Iona

(9) Washington over (8) Utah State

(5) Auburn over (12) New Mexico State

(4) Kansas over (13) Northeastern

(6) Iowa State over (11) Ohio State

(3) Houston over (14) Georgia State

(7) Wofford over (10) Seton Hall

(2) Kentucky over (15) Abilene Christian


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com