Mar 19, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (11) celebrates after defeating the Northeastern Huskies 69-65 in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Well, if you are like me, I had a rough first day of the tournament. Luckily for those of us that have shredded our brackets after just one day, there are round-by-round games out there. If I pick as poorly as I did today though, I likely won’t be of much help.
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Here are my second round predictions for Saturday’s games:
(1)Kentucky vs. (8)Cincinnati:
As expected, the Wildcats encountered no resistance from Hampton.
Cincinnati had a street brawl on their hands with Cincinnati in arguably the most entertaining game of the day. And they did it without the services of Octavious Ellis, who was ejected because of a flagrant two foul in the first half. Coreonte DeBerry came up huge in the second half with Ellis out. Guards Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb hit some key shots to get the Bearcats the win.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Cincinnati. Kentucky barely broke a sweat against Hampton, so they will be well rested. At least they will have nearly as many fans there as Kentucky does. The Bearcats’ size in the middle could cause some issues for Kentucky, but not enough to for them to win. Pick: Kentucky
(3)Notre Dame vs. (6)Butler:
This was one of the few situations where chalk held. Notre Dame was the only three seed to win today. They had to sweat it out though. Northeastern did not go quietly. Notre Dame’s size and quickness was just too much in the end. Zach Auguste was an absolute beast in the middle for the Irish, pouring in 25 points.
Butler knocked off a huge Texas team with an outside assault by Kellen Dunham. The surprising part for me is that they did it largely without Roosevelt Jones, who spent most of the game in foul trouble. Texas was not a very good shooting team for most of the season, and last night was no exception. They only shot 34% from the field.
Notre Dame’s size likely wont be much of a factor against Butler. Texas is much larger on the interior, and the Bulldogs were able to deal with being mugged by them all game. The Irish do have the guards to neutralize Butler from the outside, but they will likely need Auguste to assert himself in the paint once again to advance the Irish to the Sweet Sixteen. Pick: Notre Dame
Next: Click Here To Check Out The West
(2)Arizona vs. (10)Ohio State:
The Wildcats never pulled away from Texas Southern, but the game was never in doubt either. There is just too much talent on this Arizona team, and it was a nice, methodical beatdown.
D’Angelo Russell showed why some people think that he, not Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, will be the first pick in June’s NBA Draft. He had 28 points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and an assist. Shannon Scott had ten of the team’s 16 assists, and showed why he is one of the best passers in the tournament. This was a very entertaining game on a day that had no shortage of them. VCU’s balanced attack gave the Buckeyes some trouble, but the defense was not as tough as it was before Briante Weber got hurt.
Arizona is so balanced that an number of players can beat you. Ohio State does most of their damage from the outside. Arizona has good size and a lot of talent in the interior. Russell will have to play out of his mind again to keep the Buckeyes in striking distance, but even he can’t neutralize Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Pick: Arizona
(4)North Carolina vs. (5)Arkansas
Harvard came back from double digit deficits not once but twice! They still could not get over the hump, though they had several chances to win the game outright or send if to overtime. The Tarheels kept bludgeoning Harvard down low. They played a whopping nine different forwards in the game. It was the Harvard guards that kept them in the game, including 26 by Wesley Saunders. In the end, the Tarheels’ size and Harvard’s inability to hit a late shot helps the ‘Heels stick around for at least one more game.
The Razorbacks had all they could handle from the pesky Terriers. Bobby Portis was kept in check until the last five minutes, but Michael Qualls carried the team for stretches at a time. The Razorbacks did a great job on Karl Cochran. He was only 4-19 from the field and 2-12 from beyond the arc.
The Razorbacks are tough enough on defense to give North Carolina some trouble. This isn’t Nolan Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell”, but it is enough to frustrate shooters. Just ask Cochran. North Carolina needs to utilize their size on the inside to control the game. They will need to use all hands on deck to counteract Portis. As we saw them do against Harvard, they can throw a gaggle of behemoths out on the floor. That should be enough to force Qualls to keep them alive again. I just think that the Tarheel guards will have enough success to pull this out. Pick: North Carolina
(6)Xavier vs. (14)Georgia State:
Xavier was a popular pick to be upset by the play-in game winner, but Ole Miss was out of this one early. They looked understandably tired, and the Musketeers didn’t let them back into the game. Matt Stainbrook was a monster for Xavier inside, scoring 20 points and hauling in nine rebounds. Stefan Moody shot just 5-18 from the field. M.J. Rhett had a decent game inside, but he couldn’t stop Stainbrook.
Georgia State scored the last 13 points of the game over the last two minutes. Baylor could have done any number of things to put this away, but it was just like the football team has done in the last two Bowl games. They got up big, and let off the gas. Baylor turned the ball over a disturbing 21 times. That led directly to this loss. Georgia State’s never-say-die attitude and R.J. Hunter’s deep jumper have them moving on to the next round. So far as we know, his dad, coach Ron Hunter, did not suffer any more injuries during this celebration.
Xavier is too careful with the ball to turn it over that much. The Panthers will have all kinds of trouble with Stainbrook. He has size and can shoot from anywhere. They did a nice job against Baylor in the middle for the most part, but Taurean Prince still had a good game. Stainbrook is much more accomplished on offense. Georgia State’s guards will keep them in the game, but the are going to need much more than the four points they got from Kevin Ware yesterday. If he can contribute and they can keep everyone but Stainbrook under wraps, you could see the Panthers advance again. That is too many if’s for me. Pick: Xavier
Next: Only One Game In The East
Mar 19, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The North Carolina State Wolfpack players celebrates after defeating the LSU Tigers 66-65 in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
(1)Villanova vs. (8)North Carolina State:
Villanova made short work of Lafayette. This was a game for about six minutes, then the Wildcats never looked back.
LSU blew a 16 point lead with 18 minutes left to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Wolfpack got dominated by Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey in the first half, but practically shut them out in the second. LSU missed six consecutive free throws inside of 90 seconds remaining to let the Wolfpack steal this one. They outplayed them for 58 minutes by a pretty large margin.
North Carolina State needs yesterday’s hero, Beejay Anya, to stay out of foul trouble. Between Anya and Abu, they have the size on the interior to bug Villanova. NC State also needs better shooting from Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner on the outside. Villanova is very balanced and very deep. They won’t beat themselves, which could be a problem for the Wolfpack. They have to play a much better game, especially on offense, if they want to pull the upset. Pick: Villanova
Next: On To The South Region
Mar 19, 2015; Louisville, KY, USA; UAB Blazers guard Robert Brown (4) reacts after the UAB Blazers defeat the Iowa State Cyclones 60-59 in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at KFC Yum! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
(4)Georgetown vs. (5)Utah
Georgetown got away with (everything but) murder against Eastern Washington. The officials let too much go early on, and it just got worse from there. They beat up on the smaller Eagles on both ends of the court, and used a long range aerial assault to put the game away.
The Utah defense stymied the Stephen F. Austin offense. They shot just 33% from the field, and Jacob Parker was 0-8 from three point range. Thomas Walkup had a nice game, but he had virtually no help from the rest of the team. Jacob Poetl dominated the smaller Lumberjacks in the middle. He was perfect from the field. Delon Wright was cold from the field, but he hit some key free throws down the stretch.
Utah has the size and tenacity on the defensive end to get to Georgetown. That said, if the officials call the game the way it was tonight, Utah’s chances aren’t much better than Eastern Washington’s. Utah does have some long bodies on the inside, but Georgetown has more girth. There is no way Georgetown will shoot 53% from the field and 48% from downtown against the Utes. Utah’s defense was very impressive against a very good Stephen F. Austin team. Pick: Utah
(11)UCLA vs. (14)UAB:
A heartbreaking goaltending call on SMU gave UCLA the lead with 11 seconds remaining. Regardless of how you feel about that call, the Mustangs still had time to get a good shot off and they didn’t do it. They were likely still shell-shocked, but on a stage like this, you have to keep your composure. They did not. As for UCLA, they did nothing to deserve this win. They were sloppy, turning the ball over 18 times. It was the outstanding shooting of Bryce Alford that bailed the Bruins out. He was 9-11 from beyond the arc and 0-2 inside it.
The Blazers pulled likely the biggest upset of the day. They sent Big 12 tournament champion Iowa State packing. Georges Niang was plagued by foul trouble and poor shooting (4-15), and no one else was able to step up in his absence. Robert Brown led the way for UAB with 21 points. William Lee was a force in the middle, partially because Niang spent so much time on the bench. The Cyclones never really seemed to have the sense of urgency that they had when they fell behind in every game of the Big 12 tourney.
The Blazers defended the outside pretty well against Iowa State, but the Cyclones don’t have the shooters that UCLA does. If Alford gets hot from outside again, there isn’t much UAB can do to stop it. William Lee will need to have another good game on the interior if the Blazers want to advance. Alford is a pretty good defender, and he can likely contain Robert Brown better than Iowa State did. I do have questions about UCLA’s ability to hit so many shots again. Pick: UAB
Stay tuned for the rest of my round by round predictions!