BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It’s that time of year when the “experts” and “many others” make predictions for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Put these thoughts/opinions among the “many others.” You’ve been warned.
You’ll notice I don’t have an opinion on every game because, well, no one can have a valid opinion on 32 games on Thursday-Friday and 16 games on Saturday-Sunday. So I won’t try.
But there are several games that are interesting with some side stories that warrant a mention as well as some hunches mixed in.
(Note: These comments are about the first four days of the NCAA tournament with a follow up heading into the Sweet 16 next Wednesday.)
NO. 8 VIRGINIA TECH VS. NO. 9 WISCONSIN
The Badgers have some real quality parts that controlled the Big Ten until a late-season fade dropped them to second place behind Purdue. The Hokies play smart, hard and are dangerous from beyond the arc. I’ll take Buzz Williams vs. Greg Gard.
MUST SEE 7 VS. 10
No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State. A fun matchup between always-dangerous NCAA tournament entries. Wichita State defeated LSU and Oklahoma; lost to Louisville, Michigan State and Oklahoma State before winning 17 of 18 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Dayton defeated Alabama and Vanderbilt; lost to Nebraska and Northwestern before winning the Atlantic 10 by a game over VCU. Who do you like? I’ll take the six-point favorite. That’s the 10th-seed Shockers.
NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE VS. NO. 14 FLORIDA GULF COAST
Upset special potential for a No. 3 seed that went 3-6 on the road in ACC play and 9-0 at home. “Dunk City” made waves four years ago when the No. 15-seed Eagles knocked off No. 2 Georgetown. This is their third dance in four years.
Not saying Florida State isn’t the 10th best team in the country, as the selection committee voted them. Also not saying Florida State will be upset in its first game. I’m saying they didn’t play like the 10th best team in the country, certainly not away from the Tucker Center.
Side note: No way Florida State deserves a 3-seed and Notre Dame a 5-seed. There’s just nothing that substantiates a seeding difference, let alone two spots.
NO. 7 ST. MARY’S VS. NO. 10 VCU
It’s the tortoise (St. Mary’s) versus the hare (VCU). I’ll go with the tortoise.
NO. 3 UCLA VS. NO. 14 KENT STATE
This has the makings of a very high-scoring game. No upset, but entertaining…unless the Golden Flash give up 100.
NO. 4 BUTLER IN THE SOUTH REGION
The Bulldogs will beat Winthrop and Minnesota to advance to the Sweet 16. Notre Dame should have been a 4-seed and had such a nice path.
NO. 6 CINCINNATI
The inability to shoot it straight from beyond the arc ultimately will do in the Bearcats. But not this weekend. I wouldn’t want to play ‘em.
NO. 8 SETON HALL VS. NO. 9 ARKANSAS
The Pirates prevail.
NO. 7 MICHIGAN
Would you want to square off against the Wolverines after that inspired run through the Big Ten tournament? Glad Notre Dame played them last year. Still think No. 10 Oklahoma State could beat them, although can’t bet against Derrick Walton, who dominated last week.
NO. 2 LOUISVILLE
The Cardinals are not hitting on all cylinders. Quentin Snider still looks hurt. Their free-throw shooting can be atrocious. But do you want to bet against Rick Pitino in the NCAA tournament? At your own risk. Should be able to handle Jacksonville State and Michigan/Oklahoma State winner. Then it’s on Kansas City to take on…Oregon.
STRONGEST DOUBLE-DIGIT SEED PLAY
No. 11 Rhode Island over No. 6 Creighton.
WANT TO SEE
No. 5 Iowa State versus No. 12 Nevada. Cyclones won the Big 12 tournament and deserved it. But watch out for the Wolf Pack, winners of nine straight.
NO. 8 MIAMI VS. NO. 9 MICHIGAN STATE
How stupid do you have to be to pick against Tom Izzo in the first round the year after the Spartans lost to Middle Tennessee? Jim Larranaga can coach, too. The Hurricanes win because they are the better team.
East: No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor, No. 4 Florida
Midwest: No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Iowa State
South: No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 4 Butler, No. 6 Cincinnati
West: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Florida State, No. 5 Notre Dame