NCAA Tournament 2019: Updated Bracket Predictions for Weekend Action

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 23, 2019

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - MARCH 21:  Ja Morant #12 of the Murray State Racers drives the ball down court during the first round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Marquette Golden Eagles at XL Center on March 21, 2019 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament rolls on Saturday and Sunday with 16 second-round contests. 

Kentucky, Michigan and Gonzaga are among the first marquee teams attempting to reach the Sweet 16 with victories Saturday, but as we learned in the first round, few wins will be easy to earn. 

Duke, North Carolina and Virginia hit the hardwood Sunday with hopes of avoiding another first-half stumble, like they all did against No. 16 seeds Friday. 

Eight double-digit seeds come into the second round with dreams of qualifying for the Sweet 16, and the most intriguing team of the bunch is headlined by a potential NBA draft lottery pick. 

The 16-game weekend slate begins with an intriguing Big Ten versus SEC clash, and it ends with a showdown of double-digit seeds Sunday night.


2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket


Second-Round Schedule

All Times ET. 

Saturday, March 23

East Region: (3) LSU vs. (6) Maryland (12:10 p.m., CBS) 

Midwest Region: (2) Kentucky vs. (7) Wofford (2:40 p.m., CBS) 

West Region: (2) Michigan vs. (10) Florida (5:15 p.m., CBS) 

West Region: (4) Florida State vs. (12) Murray State (6:10 p.m., TNT) 

West Region: (1) Gonzaga vs. (9) Baylor (7:10 p.m., TBS) 

East Region: (2) Michigan State vs. (10) Minnesota (7:45 p.m., CBS) 

South Region: (3) Purdue vs. (6) Villanova (8:40 p.m., TNT) 

Midwest Region: (4) Kansas vs. (5) Auburn (9:40 p.m., TBS) 


Sunday, March 24

South Region: (2) Tennessee vs. (10) Iowa (12:10 p.m., CBS) 

Midwest Region: (1) North Carolina vs. (9) Washington (2:40 p.m., CBS) 

East Region: (1) Duke vs. (9) UCF (5:15 p.m., CBS) 

West Region: (3) Texas Tech vs. (6) Buffalo (6:10 p.m., TNT) 

East Region: (4) Virginia Tech vs. (12) Liberty (7:10 p.m., TBS) 

South Region: (1) Virginia vs. (9) Oklahoma (7:45 p.m., truTV) 

Midwest Region: (3) Houston vs. (11) Ohio State (8:40 p.m., TNT) 

South Region: (12) Oregon vs. (13) UC Irvine (9:40 p.m., TBS) 



No. 6 Maryland over No. 3 LSU 

The opening game of the second round features four of the best frontcourt performers from the first round. 

LSU's Kavell Bigby-Williams and Naz Reid and Maryland's duo of Bruno Fernando and Jaden Smith all recorded double-doubles in their respective first-round victories.

John Raoux/Associated Press

The quartet of big men are expected to go head-to-head in the paint over 40 minutes, and they'll make every single shot around the rim a difficult one. 

Since points are going to be hard to come by down low, the guards on both rosters will be the difference-makers. 

Good luck trying to find a significant difference in the backcourt since Maryland's starting guards combined for 39 points against Belmont and LSU's backcourt starters totaled 38 points versus Yale. 

The big difference between the Terrapins and Tigers is scoring defense, as Maryland is tied for 34th at 65.1 points conceded per game, while LSU is tied for 222nd as it gives up 73 points per game. 

In fact, the 77 points Maryland conceded to Belmont Thursday marked the highest point total it gave up in a win since January 11. 

By frustrating LSU's offense into a few quick shots on key possessions, Maryland will gain an advantage on the scoreboard. 

As the second half rolls on, look for Fernando to use his athleticism with a few spin moves in the paint to put Bigby-Williams and Reid out of position and earn trips to the free-throw line. 

With the victory, Mark Turgeon's team moves on to the East Region site in Washington, D.C., where it would have a significant fan presence. 


No. 12 Murray State over No. 4 Florida State

If you watched Murray State closely Thursday, you know the Racers are much more than just Ja Morant. 

Morant, who captivated us with his triple-double performance against Marquette, wasn't Murray State's top scorer, as that title belonged to Tevin Brown.

In Morant, Brown, Shaq Buchanan, KJ Williams and Darnell Cowart, the Racers have a starting five that complements each other nicely and can put any defense under pressure. 

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - MARCH 21:  Darnell Cowart #32 and KJ Williams #23 of the Murray State Racers celebrate while playing in the second half of the first round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Marquette Golden Eagles at XL
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton will preach defensive discipline and not committing too many numbers to Morant, but the sophomore guard will put the No. 4 seed under pressure and force more defenders in his direction. 

Morant's ability to drive into the lane and either kick out to open shooters or score down low will cause plenty of problems for Florida State's frontcourt pair of Mfiondu Kabengele and Christ Koumadje. 

By creating open shots for his teammates and getting Florida State's big men into foul trouble, Morant will command the extra attention from the Seminoles.

Once two defenders converge on Morant, he'll find a way to get the other four Murray State players on the floor involved.

With Brown and Buchanan knocking down three-point shots and Cowart and Williams bruising down low, the Racers won't experience much of a lull offensively. 

Florida State's experienced players will keep it in the game for most of the 40 minutes, but without a consistent answer for Morant and his teammates, the Seminoles' quest to return to the Elite Eight will end in Hartford, Connecticut. 


Other Predictions

(2) Kentucky over (7) Wofford

(2) Michigan over (10) Florida

(1) Gonzaga over (9) Baylor

(2) Michigan State over (10) Minnesota

(6) Villanova over (3) Purdue

(4) Kansas over (5) Auburn 

(2) Tennessee over (10) Iowa

(1) North Carolina over (9) Washington

(1) Duke over (9) UCF

(3) Texas Tech over (6) Buffalo

(4) Virginia Tech over (12) Liberty

(1) Virginia over (9) Oklahoma

(3) Houston over (11) Ohio State

(12) Oregon over (13) UC Irvine


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com and NCAA.com.