Mar 9, 2015; Albany, NY, USA; Manhattan Jaspers guard Donovan Kates (33) cuts down the net after defeating the Iona Gaels in the championship game of the MAAC Conference Tournament at Times Union Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The 2015 NCAA Tournament is here! The first four, or play-in games (which the NCAA is adamantly against, all the more reason to do it) begin tonight. Sure, two of these four are just whipping boys for Kentucky and Duke, but they count as NCAA tournament wins!
More from College Basketball Odds
- Updated College Baseball World Series odds (Wake Forest remains favorite to win in Omaha)
- Updated National Championship odds following Hunter Dickinson transfer to Kansas
- Best March Madness prop bets for FAU vs. San Diego State in NCAA Tournament Final Four
- Final Four Most Outstanding Player odds, prediction (Which long shots are worth a bet?)
- Bettor places massive wager on Creighton vs. San Diego State in Elite 8
My predictions will kick off here with my picks for the “first four” Let’s kick it off right now!
(16)Hampton vs. (16)Manhattan:
Hampton (16-17, 0-2 vs. field)
Hampton is the only team in this year’s tourney with a losing record. They were the sixth seed in the MEAC tournament, and got hot at the right time. They took out Morgan State, Maryland Eastern Shore, Norfolk State, and Delaware State to bring home the tourney crown. Delaware State knocked off one seed North Carolina Central, a team that hadn’t lost in the MEAC all season.
The Pirates are making their fourth NCAA tournament appearance, all since 2001. The last was in 2011 when they got smoked by Duke in the first round. In their first ever tournament berth in 2001, the Pirates shocked two seed Iowa State in the first round before bowing out to Georgetown.
Guard Dwight Meikle led the team in scoring and rebounding, and at 6’7″, he is tough to guard for smaller teams. Hampton played the likes of Iowa, Syracuse, North Dakota State, and Illinois out of conference, but they weren’t really competitive in any of those games.
Manhattan (19-13, 0-1 vs. field)
Manhattan beat Marist, St. Peter’s, and Iona on the way to the MAAC conference championship. The Jaspers are making their eighth tournament appearance and second in a row. They lost to Louisville in the first round last year, but the Jaspers have won three tournament games in their history. The last came when they knocked off Florida in the 2004 tourney.
Emmy Andujar should be able to offset Meikle even though he is mostly a forward. The difference for Manhattan is 6’10” center Ashton Pankey. Hampton can’t match his size in the middle, and will have problems with him all game.
The winner of this game gets to be the warm-up for Kentucky on Thursday. However, one of these schools will get to boast a tournament win on their resumé. I’m thinking it will be Manhattan. They have tournament experience, and are a bigger team overall. And, well, I just can’t pick a team with a losing record.
Next: BYU-Mississippi Will Be A Good One
March 7, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Brigham Young Cougars center Corbin Kaufusi (44, left), guard Anson Winder (20), and guard Chase Fischer (1) celebrate against the Santa Clara Broncos during the second half in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
(11)BYU vs. (11)Mississippi:
BYU (25-9, 1-4 vs. field)
BYU lost in the WCC final to Gonzaga, and it was enough to get them in. Honestly, BYU deserves a better seed than this. They are second in the country in scoring, and they rebound well too. They are going to be a tough matchup for anyone.
BYU is making their 29th NCAA tournament appearance, and their second straight. They lost to Oregon in the first round last year. The Cougars last tourney win came over Iona in 2012.
Kyle Collinsworth is a very good all around player. He leads the team in rebounding as a 6’6″ guard. Tyler Haws is the best shooter they have had since Jimmer Fredette roamed Provo. He might even be a little bit better of a shooter than Jimmer was, and he is definitely a better passer. BYU is going to be very tough for Ole Miss in this game.
Mississippi (20-12, 4-7 vs. field)
Losing to South Carolina in the opening round of the SEC tourney almost cost Ole Miss. They were able to hang on for a play-in game, but they didn’t get a very good matchup. That said, The Rebels have some size in the inside that is going to be tough for BYU to match up with.
This is Mississippi’s eighth tournament appearance. Their last one was in 2013 where they knocked off Wisconsin in the first round.
Stefan Moody is a pure scorer, but BYU is good enough on the perimeter to contain him. The key to this game for Ole Miss is the play of Sebastian Saiz and M.J. Rhett in the middle. Neither of them are accomplished scorers, but they need their defensive presence to keep the BYU guards from taking over.
BYU actually runs bigger than Ole Miss most of the time. Look for Skyler Halford and Chase Fischer to spend more time on the court since Ole Miss runs at least three guards at all times. This could be a high scoring game. Both of these teams can score in a hurry if the shots are falling. Mississippi fared better against tournament schools, and even took Kentucky to overtime, so they aren’t going to be a pushover. I just don’t think they have the defense to keep Haws and Collinsworth from dropping 50 combined on them. I’m taking BYU in a close one.
Next: North Florida vs. Robert Morris
Dec 22, 2014; Iowa City, IA, USA; North Florida Ospreys guard Trent Mackey (11) defends against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa defeated North Florida 80-70. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
(16)North Florida vs. (16)Robert Morris
North Florida (23-11, 1-2 vs. field)
Atlantic Sun teams are dangerous. Remember Florida Gulf Coast? They came from this conference. The Ospreys will have a considerably tougher road than FGC did. You know, being in a play-in game and all. Even if they do win, they have to face a Duke team that has struggled in the tournament recently, but they aren’t going to lose to a 16 seed. North Florida did beat tournament-bound Purdue in West Lafayette earlier this year.
North Florida is making their tournament debut his year, and they have an excellent chance of winning their first game.
Dallas Moore is the leading scorer and assists leader for North Florida. They aren’t particularly big in the middle – forward Demarcus Daniels has only 195 pounds on his 6’7″ frame – so they have had problems with bigger teams this year. South Carolina, Alabama, Northwestern, and Iowa all beat them.
Robert Morris (19-14, 0-4 vs. field)
Robert Morris won the Northeast Conference tourney as the second seed. They beat regular season champ St. Francis New York in the tournament championship game. In the preseason, they tangled with Lafayette, North Carolina, Georgetown, and Buffalo, but couldn’t stay close with any of them.
This is the eighth tournament appearance for the Colonials, and their first since 2010. They took two seed Villanova to overtime before falling in that game. Their only tournament win was over Georgia Southern in the play-in round of the 1983 NCAA tournament.
Don’t let his name fool you: freshman forward Elijah Minnie is anything but. He is not much of a scorer, but he can grab plenty of rebounds. The strength of Robert Morris is their guards. Lucky Jones leads the team in rebounds, and though he doesn’t start, he will play 30 minutes a game. The Colonials run small a lot, which is just fine with North Florida.
Elijah Minnie could be the key to this game. He scored 17 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and blocked four shots in the NEC final. If he has another game like that, the Ospreys are in trouble. The history of the Atlantic Sun recently, and the Ospreys’s win over Purdue swings this slightly in their favor.
Next: Will Dayton Win A Home Game?
Feb 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Dayton Flyers guards Scoochie Smith (11) and Jordan Sibert (24) look on against the Duquesne Dukes during the first half at the CONSOL Energy Center. Duquesne won 83-73. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
(11)Boise State vs. (11)Dayton:
Boise State (25-8, 2-4 vs. field)
Boise lost to Wyoming in the Mountain West semifinals, but the regular season champs still got in. Their reward is a road play-in game against Dayton. Their claim to fame was sweeeping the season series against San Diego State, the highest seeded MWC team in the tourney.
This is Boise State’s seventh trip to the NCAA tournament. They last got a berth in 2013. They are still looking for their first tournament win, and a road game in the first round wont help them.
Derrick Marks creates matchup problems with their size at the guard position. James Webb and Nick Duncan are big and durable. They can usually mask the lack of a true center. Duncan’s ability to shoot from long range will help draw opposing bigs out of the lane for Marks to drive.
Dayton (25-8, 2-3 vs. field)
Dayton lost to a Virginia Commonwealth team that they had beaten at the end of February to get bounced from the A-10 tournament. The wins over VCU and Mississippi went a long way towards them getting an invite. Truth be told, I thought they should have been comfortably in. Their RPI is 29!
The Flyers are making their 16th NCAA tournament appearance, and second in a row. Last year, they made it all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to Florida. The Flyers return key components Scoochie Smith, Jordan Sibert, and Dyshawn Pierre to this year’s team. Pierre scored 18 points in the loss to Florida. They did lose Matt Kavanaugh, Devin Oliver, and Khari Price from last year, so they aren’t nearly as deep of a team this year.
They will still be very dangerous, especially at home.
I feel bad for Boise. I figured they were headed for a play-in game, but I had no idea the would get such a bad matchup. Not only is it a true road game, but it is against an Elite Eight team from last year Boise will stick around, but I just don’t see them overcoming the home crowd.
More from FanSided
- Joe Burrow owes Justin Herbert a thank you note after new contract
- Chiefs gamble at wide receiver could already be biting them back
- Braves-Red Sox start time: Braves rain delay in Boston on July 25
- Yankees: Aaron Boone gives optimistic return date for Aaron Judge
- MLB Rumors: Yankees-Phillies trade showdown, Mariners swoop, India goes to Seattle