Mar 20, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Brannen Greene (14) reacts after making a basket during the second half in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
We are down to 32 teams after a crazy first two rounds. Friday was a lot more tame that Thursday was, but that doesn’t mean that the games were any less exciting!
For those of you that have shredded their brackets already, you can still do the round-by-round games! That’s what these predictions are for!
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Here are my round of 32 predictions for Sunday:
(2)Kansas vs. (7)Wichita State:
The Jayhawks made short work of New Mexico State. The Aggies had good size, but they had no answer for Frank Mason and the other Kansas guards. This game was never in question.
Wichita State wasn’t so lucky. Indiana would not go away. Fred VanVleet carried the Shockers with 19 first half points. Indiana held him to eight in the second half, but then Ron Baker kicked in. He was cold from the field (3-13), but he racked up five steals and was nine of ten from the free throw line. Indiana’s guards kept them in it, but the lack of any production off the bench hurt.
This is the game that Wichita State and its fans have been waiting for for a long, long time. A true litmus test as to how good they are. They have wanted the mighty Jayhawks to play them for the better part of three decades. Now Kansas does not have the chance to refuse. The matchup will take place on a neutral court in Omaha, which was Phog North on Friday. That said, Perry Ellis did not look like he was quite back to his normal self. Wichita State has the guards to make Kansas’s forwards beat them. That will be tough without Alexander in the mix. Pick: Wichita State
(4)Maryland vs. (5)West Virginia:
Maryland survived Valparaiso on Friday. Melo Trimble and Dez Wells kept the Terps going, but they had problems with Alec Peters on the inside. West Virginia is not an overly big team, but they have enough size to give Maryland trouble on the interior. Valparaiso’s three points shooting was about the only thing that kept them in the game. They hit 12 out of 27 from beyond the arc. That never let Maryland pull away.
West Virginia’s pressure forced 17 Buffalo turnovers. They also didn’t let Justin Moss take over the game. Juwon Staten got going some on offense. Enough that he made some big shots when they counted. The team that knocks West Virginia out of this tournament is going to have to be a deep team. They run ten players out on the court with regularity.
The Terrapins regularly play eight or nine players, so they have enough experienced people that they should be able to handle the pressure. I like Maryland’s guards (Wells, Trimble, and Jared Nickens) too much to go against them here. Pick: Maryland
Next: West Region
Mar 20, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Wisconsin Badgers bench players celebrate a basket by forward Frank Kaminsky (44) against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers during the second half in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
(1)Wisconsin vs. (8)Oregon:
The Badgers were just tuning up for Sunday with Coastal Carolina. That game was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Wisconsin allowed three easy layups in the final minute.
Joe Young was Oregon’s motor, but that is nothing new. The play of Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook was the key to this game though. Their range drew the Oklahoma State bigs out of the middle to allow Young to get to the rim, and the foul line where he was 8-8. Anthony Hickey’s five three pointers kept Oregon from pulling away until very late in the game.
Oregon actually matches up fairly well with Wisconsin. Young will find the lane more crowded than he did against Oklahoma State, but he will still get his points. The main difference here is going to be Wisconsin’s size. They are huge and agile at every position. Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, and Frank Kaminsky are going to be quite a load for Oregon to handle. My Pick: Wisconsin
Next: Head East
Mar 20, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Dayton Flyers fans during the first half against the Providence Friars in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
(2)Virginia vs. (7)Michigan State:
Belmont managed to hang with Virginia until the last couple of minutes. They shot 48%, which is almost unheard of against the Virginia D. Malcolm Brogdon and the foul shooting of Antony Gill allowed the Cavs to pull away late. The fact that Craig Bradshaw was able to score 25 points on his own is a little bit of cause for concern? Is there a dent in Virginia’s armor?
Georgia made a great effort to come back, but Michigan State dominated most of the game. The Bulldogs only shot 33% from the field. Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice were nearly impossible to stop. The Spartan interior shut down Oregon inside. They will have to do that again against Virginia’s strong front line.
Valentine is every bit as good, if not better, than Belmont’s Bradshaw. Virginia is a diverse team though. They have a good mix of guards and forwards, and can match what anyone wants to do to them. They are going to need big games from Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins. Branden Dawson was a force in the first round, but if Virginia can use their size inside, look out. The Spartans are not big on the interior this year. Their spectacular guard play could take them far though. And of course, don’t bet against Tom Izzo in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Pick: Michigan State
(3)Oklahoma vs. (11)Dayton:
Oklahoma survived a run in the second half by Albany, but managed to pull away again. Foul trouble by Ryan Spangler forced Oklahoma to use their bench more than usual. The concerning thing was Buddy Hield only going 6-16 from the field. They will need better from him. Ultimately, it was more important that Oklahoma advance past the first round. Maybe they can settle down now for a tournament run.
Dayton playing as an 11 seed suits them just fine. They have been an eleven in their last three tournament appearances. They have not lost in the first round yet. They dominated a sloppy Providence team. The Friars turned it over 16 times, and shot only 33% from the field. LaDontae Henton went an ugly 7-26 from the field and 4-13 from downtown. Even star PG Kris Dunn struggled, going 4-13 from the floor. Dayton was all over them for most of the game.
Dayton is pretty much the same team that made an Elite Eight run last year. They are no stranger to tournament success. This will be an interesting game because both of these teams only play seven or either guys. It’s pretty much going to be a five on five fight all game long. That is why I like Oklahoma’s odds. Their starting five is impressive. Dayton has stars, but they aren’t all across the starting five. The Flyers need to attack the middle and get Spangler and/or TaShawn Thomas in foul trouble to have a chance. Pick: Oklahoma in close one
(4)Louisville vs. (5)Northern Iowa:
The Cardinals had all they could handle with UC Irvine. Will Davis and Mamadou Ndiaye dominated the Cardinals on the interior for much of the game. The Cardinals were fortunate that Irvine fouled them very late to give them winning free throws. Montrezl Harrell was a non-factor because of the Anteaters’ size in the middle. The Cardinals guard play kept them from being ousted.
Wyoming was a popular upset pick, but they were methodically dismantled by Northern Iowa. I honestly think the Panthers are underseeded. They are a very deep team, an as Wyoming found out, are a lot more than just Seth Tuttle. Four other Panthers joined Tuttle in double figures, and not all of them started the game.
Northern Iowa’s depth is going to be a problem for Louisville. That said, they aren’t big inside, so they need to find other ways to neutralize Montrezl Harrell. The guards are good enough to keep any of Louisville’s big three from taking over the game. Northern Iowa is a disciplined team that shoots well and takes care of the ball. Can they stand up to the brawn of Louisville? I tend to think UNI’s depth wins out. Pick: Northern Iowa
Next: Does The South Get Wild?
Mar 20, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) celebrates with Duke Blue Devils guard Matt Jones (13) after a dunk during the second half against the Robert Morris Colonials in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
(1)Duke vs. (8)San Diego State:
Robert Morris made a decent run early in the second half to get fairly close, but faded down the stretch. Duke’s size in the middle and outside shooting was way too much for the Colonials.
The great perimeter shooting of the Aztecs advanced them to the next round. They shot 41% from three to just 17% for St. John’s. The Aztecs play good defense, and are a deep team, so they can wear you out. Most of the damage done by Sir’Dominic Pointer was done in the first five minutes. The Johnnies did everything they could to stay in this game, but the Aztecs were simply too much from outside.
The great shooting of the Aztecs could keep them in this game, but they are going to have all kinds of problems with Jahlil Okafor ad Justise Winslow in the middle. Remember that Arizona needed overtime to thwart the Aztecs in Tempe in December. SDSU can hang with good teams. This will be a test for Duke. If they can make it past this game, the road to Indianapolis gets exponentially easier. Pick: Duke
(2)Gonzaga vs. (7)Iowa:
North Dakota State hung around for most of the game, but it was never in question. The Bison actually outshot Gonzaga from the floor (53.7% to 51.7%) and threes (47.6% to 31.8%), but Gonzaga shot more than twice as many free throws. Their size in the middle was something that NDSU couldn’t stop.
Iowa just blew the doors off of Davidson in the last 25 minutes of the game. Davidson only shot 33.3% from the field. Aaron White dominated the undersized Wildcats in the interior. This might have been Iowa’s most complete game of the year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Iowa’s size is going to be an issue for Gonzaga as well, but I can guarantee you that they will shoot well over 33% from the floor. If Iowa can keep it closer to 44% than 50%, they have a chance because of their interior dominance. Gonzaga was the best shooting team in the country this year, so it is a lot easier said than done. Pick: Gonzaga
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