1. Kansas beats 16. Portland State in Omaha, Neb.. Easy enough.
9. Kent State beats 8. UNLV in Omaha. I’ve actually been a bit disappointed in the Golden Flashes this year, because they’ve lost some games I thought they had no business losing. The Runnin’ Rebels have the 10th-best three-point defense in the country, but their offense is 216th in effective field goal percentage.
I’ll take Haminn Quaintance, 39th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, and Kent State.
5. Clemson beats 12. Villanova in Tampa, Fla. Sorry, ‘Nova fans, but I was just awestruck by the Tigers’ ferocious pressure defense against North Carolina in the ACC title game. I seriously doubt the Wildcats’ young guards can handle that. The Tigers are also ranked sixth in three-point defense, while their offense is ranked 52nd in perimeter shooting.
Having said that, Clemson is ranked 325th in free throw rate and 319th in free throw percentage, so Villanova could escape if the game gets close at the end. But I just don’t see it.
4. Vanderbilt beats 13. Siena in Tampa. Another widely-discussed upset pick that I’m not on board with. Yes, the Saints’ offense is ranked 43rd in three-point shooting and their defense is ninth in steal percentage. But Vandy’s offense is ranked seventh in three-point shooting – and 45th in free-throw shooting.
I’ll take the Commodores, whose star guard Shan Foster is fourth in the country in effective field goal percentage. Not by too much, though
11. Kansas State beats 6. Southern California in Omaha. Of course this is a sensational TV game, and I’ll be watching it just like everyone else. The Trojans might be a better team, but I’ll take a big game from Michael Beasley and the Wildcats, who are ranked second in offensive rebounding percentage.
3, Wisconsin beats 14. Cal State-Fullerton in Omaha. I admit that I haven’t watched the Badgers much this year. But their defense is ranked second in efficiency and sixth in effective FG % allowed, and Bo Ryan is a great coach. That’s plenty for me.
10. Davidson beats 7. Gonzaga in Raleigh, N.C. It will be the best game of the first round, and it won’t be an upset at all when the Wildcats win. It would be nice if these two teams didn’t have to play each other in the first round, and the Bulldogs can’t be happy with traveling 2,675 miles for their game – the longest of any team in the field.
But the bigger problem is who the winner faces in the second round…
2. Georgetown beats 15. Maryland Baltimore-County in Raleigh. The all-mid-Atlantic game features a Retrievers squad that is ranked ninth in offensive efficiency. But with no players over 6-foot-9, former La Salle assistant Randy Monroe’s team won’t trouble the Hoyas.
1. Kansas beats 9. Kent State in Omaha. The Jayhawks have all the talent and cohesion necessary to win this game and many more. A crowd full of blue-clad wheat-wavers will send the Jayhawks on to Detroit with an impressive win.
4. Vanderbilt beats 5. Clemson in Tampa. This is a really hard game to pick, but I’m going with the Commodores. Their three-point shooting is countered by the Tigers’ perimeter defense, but Vandy is 85th in two-point shooting while Clemson is 200th in two-point defense. That plus Vanderbilt’s free throws tip the scales in a close game.
3. Wisconsin beats 11. Kansas State in Omaha. Beasley will have a really hard time getting to the basket against the Badgers’ defense. The more he scores, the better the Wildcats’ chances of pulling the upset, but I expect Brian Butch and company to put the clamps down and advance.
2. Georgetown beats 10. Davidson in Raleigh. I’ve already had one Hoyas fan email me sweating about this game, but I wouldn’t be too worried. Georgetown is tough and disciplined, while Davidson’s 328th-ranked free throw rate is a red flag.
Between that and the Wildcats’ middling three-point defense (ranked 130th), the Hoyas win without making famed play-by-play man Rich Chvotkin suffer too much.
Regional Semifinals in Detroit, Mich.
1. Kansas beats 4. Vanderbilt. The Commodores are used to playing in funky arenas, but I can’t fathom what Ford Field is going to be like. I feel bad for anyone who ends up going, only to realize the players are the size of gnats. Anyway, the superior team wins and the drumbeat begins for Bill Self to finally make the Final Four.
2. Georgetown beats 3. Wisconsin. It might be the lowest-scoring game of the tournament, but that won’t trouble the Hoyas. Roy Hibbert will have to step up and touch the ball a lot, but this is another case of the better team proving itself in the end.
Regional Final in Detroit
2. Georgetown beats 1. Kansas. Ah, you thought the Jayhawks would finally make it this time, didn’t you? But the curse of Bill Self strikes again. If Georgetown hadn’t made the Final Four last year, I’d pick the Jayhawks. But the Hoyas know how to win in the late rounds, and use their backcourt size advantage to snatch an upset victory in an outstanding game.