Get It Right
Picks for the first day of the NCAA Tournament.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
While everyone is comparing the first round (I refuse to ever call today and Friday’s games the “Second Round”) of March Madness to Christmas morning, Israel is busy celebrating the Jewish version of Halloween Purim this week. So for this year only, I’m going to argue that the inundation of hoops excited that comes with first full day of basketball in the NCAA Tournament is like a ridiculously large amount of candy you received trick-or-treating. Only this haul is Fig Newton and Good-N-Plenty free.
There are no duds in the bunch. Even the 1-16 match-ups offer us something. Either the 16-seed scares the crap out of the favorite, or an excellent team that is a pleasure to watch puts on a clinic and fans still get their money’s worth.
Hopefully everyone has filled out his or her brackets by now. If your picks don’t match these final first-round predictions for Thursday, there’s always next year (ha!). In order of start time…
- #5 West Virginia over #12 Clemson:
Clemson has a ridiculously short turn around after their play-in victory over UAB. I’m not sure they could’ve pulled off this upset anyway.
- #9 Old Dominion over #8 Butler:
I struggled for a while with this one. Butler has more NCAA experience which is usually a fair tiebreaker if the teams are even as they are here. But the Monarchs have experience from last season too and could be the more talented team.
- #4 Louisville over # 13 Morehead State:
Kenneith Faried can only do so much. The Eagles can’t hang for 40 minutes with the Cardinals.
- #7 Temple over #10 Penn State:
Penn State is the hotter team, but Temple should be motivated after last year’s embarrassing first-round loss to Cornell.
- #4 Kentucky over #13 Princeton:
No chance. Kentucky got under-seeded and none of Princeton’s players have tournament experience.
- #1 Pittsburgh over #16 UNC Asheville:
Eventually a 16 will beat a 1, but this isn’t the game. Pitt is too physically strong for Asheville to play with for an entire game.
- #12 Richmond over #5 Vanderbilt:
Vanderbilt loses first-round games to underrated teams. Richmond is an underrated team. You fill in the rest.
- #2 San Diego State over #15 Northern Colorado:
Aztecs have a date with Ohio State in Houston.
- #2 Florida over # 15 UC Santa Barbara:
Gauchos will keep it closer than people think, but Gators prevail… then lose in second round.
- #3 BYU over #14 Wofford:
Jimmer goes for 20-50 points in a Cougars win.
- #3 Connecticut over #14 Bucknell:
Another one I see being closer than advertised. Kemba explodes in second half to lead the Huskies past the Bison.
- #4 Wisconsin over #14 Belmont:
People see Wisconsin’s recent tournament losses to Davidson and Cornell, look at Belmont’s roster, and automatically conclude the Badgers lose here (I wonder why…). Wisconsin responds to the upset talk with a big win.
- #10 Michigan State over #7 UCLA:
I’m not picking the Spartans because of the Izzo-March factor (though it’s hard to ignore). Only a couple of Bruins (Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson) have played in a tournament game. More than a couple Michigan State vets have been to consecutive Final Fours.
- #6 St. John’s over #11 Gonzaga:
Another head-scratcher. I would pick St. John’s in a second if DJ Kennedy was still available. I still went with Red Storm because of Lavin’s past tournament success and my lack of trust in Gonzaga. Which Zags team shows up is hard to predict.
- #11 Missouri over #6 Cincinnati:
I’ll take the under-seeded 11 over the over-seeded 6 any time. Plus, Missouri is extremely hard to prepare for when you have a week of scouting. The young Bearcats had three days.
- #12 Utah State over #5 Kansas State:
Wild Bill finally gets his much-deserved tournament win. Unless Jacob Pullen goes off, I think it’s finally the Aggies’ time.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.