Our final regional preview is here, complete with game-by-game predictions and a special focus on the 5-12 and 4-13 games in this region. Let’s do this thing.
(1) Michigan State vs. (16) Long Island – Friday, March 16, 9:15 PM ET, TBS
I’ll keep it short and sweet: I love Long Island’s Daytona 500 offense as much as the next person, but they have no chance in this game. Sorry, Blackbirds.
Prediction: Michigan State 91, Long Island 67
(8) Memphis vs. (9) Saint Louis – Friday, March 16, 6:45 PM ET, TBS
A heavily underseeded Memphis squad will take on a heavily underrated Saint Louis squad on Friday in what could be one of the best games of the first round. What are the deciding factors? Team experience and scoring margin – the team that went to the tournament the previous year and outscores its opponents by more is 25-7 in these games, and the team that meets those qualifications in Memphis. I’ll ride with the Tigers for this one.
Prediction: Memphis 66, Saint Louis 60
(5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach State – Thursday, March 15, 4 PM ET, TBS
Two of the most fun squads to watch in college basketball this year collide in Portland, with New Mexico’s excellent defense and LBSU’s outstanding backcourt doing battle. For Long Beach State, their opportunity to pull off a solid 5-12 upset depends heavily on guard Larry Anderson’s condition (sprained knee, missed Big West tournament), as he’s the Big West Defensive Player of the Year and puts up 14 points per game on offense, a great combination with Casper Ware at point guard. If Anderson is available, I fully expect The Beach to pull off not just one, but two wins en route to the Sweet 16. Sans Anderson, I can’t see them getting past UNM. However, Anderson said earlier this week that the odds were favorable (around 80 percent) of him playing in this game. Making that assumption, I’m headed out to the Beach to watch a Sweet run take place. (I’m in a competition to see how many awful puns I can make in one article. Sorry, readers).
Prediction: Long Beach State 69, New Mexico 66
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Davidson – Thursday, March 15, 1:30 PM ET, TBS
I think I remember saying recently that if Louisville were to draw a worthy opponent in the first round, I’d pick against Louisville with ease. Reasons why: the ‘Ville has an awful lot of problems offensively for a 4 seed. They’re 226th in America at FG%, 249th in turnover margin, 243rd in defensive rebounding, 295th (!) in 3-pointers, etc. The challenge for them won’t really be slowing down De’Mon Brooks and the Wildcats – it’ll be putting up points on their side of things. Basically, Louisville is a worse version of last year’s team playing against a better 13 seed (Morehead State was easily the lowest-rated 13 seed in most rankings systems and this Davidson team beat Kansas in December). I can’t say that bodes very well for them.
Prediction: Davidson 64, Louisville 60
(6) Murray State vs. (11) Colorado State – Thursday, March 15, 12 PM ET, CBS
To answer a couple questions: yes, Murray State did go 30-1. Yes, they’re a six seed. Yes, they played an awful schedule (but they can’t really do much with that, being in the OVC). No, that doesn’t diminish their achievements or what should be an easy victory tomorrow at noon. Colorado State basically brings Northwestern’s profile to the picture (great shooting offensively, poor rebounding, complete lack of any decency on defense, getting at-large consideration for losing to good teams) with a slightly worse overall team. The Racers shouldn’t have much to worry about in this one.
Prediction: Murray State 70, Colorado State 61
(3) Marquette vs. (14) Brigham Young – Thursday, March 15, 2:30 PM ET, CBS
Here I was, all ready to tell you about how Iona’s offense would give Marquette some issues and make you fall in love with the Gaels’ lightning-quick pace, and then they blow a 25-point lead and lose to BYU in their play-in game. Guess I have to look for nice things to say about the Cougars. Hmmm…for some reason, the efficiency stats like their defense, despite the fact they looked completely helpless in the first half against Iona. They’re fun to watch, I guess, if you like really fast-paced teams that shoot above-average. However, they don’t rebound very well, which helps a smaller team like Marquette out a lot. It’ll be close, but not too close. Marquette slides into the second round.
Prediction: Marquette 84, Brigham Young 73
(7) Florida vs. (10) Virginia – Friday, March 16, 2:00 PM ET, TNT
Ah, screw it. FLORIDA SUCK.
Prediction: Virginia 61, Florida 59
(2) Missouri vs. (15) Norfolk State – Friday, March 16, 4:30 PM ET, TNT
Now, let me be honest: I don’t think Missouri will go very deep in this tournament, because typically teams seeded this high with first-year head coaches are tournament flops. They’ve got potential thanks to having one of the most experienced teams out there, but this game could give you a decent idea of where they’re headed. If Missouri doesn’t beat a below-average Norfolk team by at least 20, they could be in trouble.
Prediction: Missouri 85, Norfolk State 61
There are my first-round predictions…for now. I’ll be back on Saturday with second-round picks and I’ll check back and see how well (or how poorly, which has been the case in recent years) I fared.