So I guess this tournament will have a few upsets after all… I wrote about an hour too soon, before Harvard sent the first shockwave salvo through the tourney field by knocking off #3 seed New Mexico. One of the only things more painful than watching your tourney bracket blow up before your eyes on the first night of the tourney is watching the losing team’s post-game press conference. The stunned look of despair and shock on everyone’s faces was brutal…
Such is the magic and beauty of the NCAA Tourney. Let’s flip the page on a tough night for New Mexico (and us on the blog) and find some Day Two winners.
#15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. #2 Georgetown Hoyas -14
Florida Gulf Coast has garnered a little attention and some upset buzz due to their early-season road win at Miami. At the time, no one knew they had just knocked off a future 2-seed in the tourney, but as the season progressed, the win looked better and better. They also traveled to Duke and gave the Blue Devils and even-up game for 25 minutes.
Does any of that mean they are going to beat Georgetown? Probably not. But it does indicate they have a chance to hang around and show well at the very least. Otto Porter and the Hoyas are ultimately too much for FGCU, but I think they’ll narrowly come in under the spread.
Free Pick: Florida Gulf Coast +14
#9 Villanova Wildcats vs. #8 North Carolina Tarheels -4.5
North Carolina is one of the hotter teams in the country and has played very well as long as the opponent is Duke for the past six weeks. They’ve gone to a smaller lineup and it has led to them forcing the most turnovers in the ACC. Villanova has some huge eye-popping wins (Georgetown, Louisville, Syracuse) but all of them took place in Philadelphia.
Today on a true neutral court, I’ll take the Tarheels to win and cover.
Free Pick: North Carolina Tarheels -4.5
#10 Oklahoma Sooners vs. #7 San Diego State Aztecs -2.5
It’s been a pretty disastrous tournament for the Mountain West, with the exception of the Colorado State win over Missouri. Both New Mexico and UNLV had Sweet 16 aspirations at the least – and now both are home for the summer. However, I don’t take that as a sign that the MWC is a bad league; UNLV had a tough matchup against a pretty decent Cal team and New Mexico picked a really bad night to have a really bad night. SDSU has some tourney-experienced veterans led by Jamal Franklin.
Oklahoma is fortunate to have made the tourney and has a fairly lack-luster resume. I think SDSU has challenged themselves more and looked like the better team all year. I think they’ll play like it tonight.
Free Pick: San Diego State Aztecs -2.5
#10 Iowa State Cyclones -1 vs. #7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Iowa State’s record is a bit deceiving, considering the robbery against Kansas and a few other heart-breaking losses. It was supposed to be a bit of a reloading year after Royce White left for the NBA, but Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones kept on churning. However, they get a tough matchup tonight in Notre Dame. The Irish are a veteran team with good size and rebounding.
Iowa State plays good defense and can force turnovers, but Notre Dame has been fairly sure-handed against some tough defensive squads like Louisville and Georgetown.
This is probably the best game of the day, but I’ll take the Irish in a tough fight.
Free Pick: Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish +1
#11 Minnesota Golden Gophers -3 vs. # 6 UCLA Bruins
Everyone seems to be abandoning UCLA and their tourney chances due to the injury to Jordan Adams. However, it seems they are forgetting about NBA lottery pick Shabazz Muhammad, who has the ability to single-handedly carry the Bruin offense. Sure, he’s proven to be a bit moody and sometimes difficult, but the talent is undeniable.
UCLA point guard Larry Drew, the North Carolina refugee, has resurrected his career nicely, leading the Pac 12 in assists and was first team all Pac-12. In short, people might not realize it, but Drew is REALLY good.
Minnesota will give the UCLA bigs some fits with Mbakwe and their athletic size, but at the end of the day, I think UCLA is a dangerous, under seeded team. The Pac 12 has shown they are no joke and I think UCLA puts the punctuation point on a fantastic first round for the conference.
Free Pick: UCLA Bruins +3