Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Believe it or not, there are some bracket challenges that make you pick the play-in games.
The NCAA hates the fact that tongue-in-cheek people such as myself call them play-in games instead of the “first round”. To me, I find it ludicrous that several 16 seeds have more NCAA Tournament wins than a team such as Nebraska, who are 0-6.
The fact still remains that a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. Getting to play another 16 seed and counting it as an NCAA Tournament win seems unfair to those that will never get a 16 seed. Who would have ever thought that a 16 seed would be so coveted?
Anyway, stepping off my soapbox, here are my predictions for the NCAA Tournament play-in games this Tuesday and Wednesday (March 18-19)…
(16) Albany vs. (16) Mount St. Mary’s: The winner of this game gets the right to be bludgeoned by Florida, but hey, at least they get credit for an NCAA Tournament win! I will take Albany. They at least have a winning record. (Pick: Albany)
(12) North Carolina State vs. (12) Xavier: Never underestimate a team that is playing well, especially come tournament time. The Wolfpack had the run that they needed in the ACC Tournament to at least get to a play-in game. They get a tough draw though. Xavier is a good team from a good conference. That said, the Musketeers don’t have a win anywhere near the quality of the Wolfpack’s win over Syracuse. (Pick: NC State)
(16) Cal Poly vs. (16) Texas Southern: Nobody gave either of these teams another thought come conference tourney time. Cal Poly makes it to the tourney with a 13-19 record, but still has a better RPI than Texas Southern. The winner of this game will get to face an undefeated Wichita State team. As a door prize, they’ll get credit for a NCAA Tournament win. Same as before, I will go with the team that actually has a winning record. (Pick: Texas Southern)
(11) Tennessee vs. (11) Iowa: Iowa was the only team that got a bid that I did not think would. Not surprisingly, it is the only bid or seed that I really have an issue with. The Hawkeyes are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have an RPI of 56, which is lower than any other at-large team. I would much rather have seen a team like Toledo or Southern Mississippi get in. Even a team like Minnesota, which had the same amount of wins as Iowa, and an RPI six slots higher, deserved an invite over the Hawkeyes. I like Tennessee in this one, and I seriously doubt it will be close. (Pick: Tennessee)
» I will be previewing each region before the tournament starts in earnest on Thursday morning. Make sure you stay tuned for that!