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In last night’s opening round games, there were 2 very good matchups in Dayton. The first one involved a back-and-forth game between North Carolina Central and UC-Davis in which the Aggies won 67-63 to earn a trip to play Tulsa in the 1st round on Friday. The game of the night was USC’s comeback over Providence – the Trojans erased a 17-point deficit and avenged their loss last season to the Friars. Amazingly, this was USC’s 12th comeback this year of at least 10 points in a game!
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TODAY’S FIRST ROUND GAMES
-#12 PRINCETON VS #5 NOTRE DAME (12:15 PM, Buffalo, NY – CBS). Princeton was a bit underwhelming during the OOC portion of the season, at least when compared to what some of us were expecting, but they definitely got it done in Ivy League play by running the table and winning the tournament. Notre Dame has certainly been battle tested, and they’ve certainly passed the tests. If they don’t overlook Princeton then they should be able to pick up the win.
-#12 UNC WILMINGTON VS #5 VIRGINIA (12:40 PM, Orlando, FL – TruTV). UNC Wilmington is a very good team. There are a lot of teams on the #4, #5, and #6 lines that I would expect them to be able to beat. It wouldn’t shock me at all if they won this game, but having said that Virginia is potentially a bad match-up for them, especially when you consider how strong the Hoos defense is. I like this Wilmington team, and because of that I wish they’d been given a different match-up.
-#13 WINTHROP VS #4 BUTLER (1:30 PM, Milwaukee, WI – TNT). The top of Butler’s profile is amazing, but as high as their ceiling is they didn’t always play up to it. Winthrop isn’t as good as Butler, but they are good enough to beat Butler if the Bulldogs overlook them. They do have a really nice win at Illinois under their belt, and were impressive (pretty much) all throughout conference play.
-#16 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE VS #1 GONZAGA (2:00 PM, Salt Lake City, UT – TBS). The Zags pretty much blew through the season as well as their conference tournament, and have all the signs of being able to go deep into the NCAA Tournament. South Dakota State struggled for much of the year and ended up finishing fourth in their conference, but won two close games in the semifinals against rival South Dakota and in the championship against Omaha to make it to The Dance.
-#13 BUCKNELL VS #4 WEST VIRGINIA (2:45 PM, Buffalo, NY – CBS). Bucknell was very impressive throughout conference play and was clearly the dominant team in the Patriot League. The problem is that they aren’t playing Patriot teams anymore. West Virginia had some huge wins this season, but there were times where they showed that they could be beaten. I don’t expect them to struggle today, but stranger things have happened.
-#13 EAST TENNESSEE STATE VS #4 FLORIDA (3:10 PM, Orlando, FL – TruTV). East Tennessee State came out on top of what was a very competitive SoCon this year and could squeeze Florida a little bit, but even when they’re not at full strength the Gators have looked very impressive.
-#12 MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS #5 MINNESOTA (4:00 PM, Milwaukee, WI – TNT). This is a popular upset pick and it makes sense as to why. Minnesota lost a contributing player late in the year and Middle Tennessee blew through their season which included blowout wins against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. I for one feel that Middle Tennessee is underseeded. If I’m right then they have the chance to prove it today.
-#9 VANDERBILT VS #8 NORTHWESTERN (4:30 PM, Salt Lake City, UT – TBS). Northwestern is in their first ever NCAA Tournament and they’re coming off a pretty decent showing (minus their last game) in the Big Ten Tournament. Had Vandy played the first half of their season as well as they played the second half of their season, there is no way they’d be on the #9 line. In fact they’d probably be flirting with a protected seed. They did beat Florida (who is a protected seed) three times in the latter part of the season and nearly beat Kentucky on the road. So watch out for this Vandy team!
-#11 XAVIER VS #6 MARYLAND (6:50 PM, Orlando, FL – TNT). Xavier was rather pitiful for the last several weeks of the season, but they were rather impressive in the Big East Tournament. They reached the semis and had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer against Creighton. Maryland has been pretty consistent all year and won a fair number of close games. It’s hard to know what to expect in this one.
-#16 MOUNT SAINT MARY’S VS #1 VILLANOVA (7:10 PM, Buffalo, NY – CBS). Villanova is the overall #1 seed and it was well earned. Mount Saint Mary’s is coming off a First Four win against New Orleans, which followed a first place finish and tournament championship in NEC play. They’re swinging way over their heads today, though.
-#10 VCU VS #7 SAINT MARY’S (7:20 PM, Salt Lake City, UT – TBS). Both of these teams pretty much beat the teams they were supposed to beat (NIT or worse), but at the same time had a limited number of wins against solid tournament teams. In fact outside of both of them beating Dayton, there isn’t much else there. One of them will end up winning a big game today, though.
-#13 VERMONT VS #4 PURDUE (7:27 PM, Milwaukee, WI – TruTV). I really like this Vermont team. They blew through the America East by pretty much running away in the league standings and then winning the tournament championship. They’re not as good as Purdue, but they’re definitely good enough to compete with Purdue and even beat them if the Boilermakers overlook them.
-#14 FLORIDA GULF COAST VS #3 FLORIDA STATE (9:20 PM, Orlando, FL – TNT). FGCU had a great year in the A-Sun and it’s exciting to get an NCAA Tournament game in their home state against a power program from their home state. Having said that, I know they’ve excited us in the past but I don’t think they have much of a chance today. This is a very good and talented Florida State team with a very strong post play that FGCU probably won’t be able to match up against.
-#9 VIRGINIA TECH VS #8 WISCONSIN (9:40 PM, Buffalo, NY – CBS). Throughout most of Big Ten play I always had the feeling that this Wisconsin team wasn’t hitting their ceiling, and I went from thinking that they were equivalent to to the #8 team overall, to now thinking they legitimately belong on the #8 seed line. They did look good in the Big Ten Tournament, so they do come into this with some momentum. Buzz Williams has turned Virginia Tech around rather quickly, and a tournament win for them today would be huge.
-#15 NORTH DAKOTA VS #2 ARIZONA (9:50 PM, Salt Lake City, UT – TBS). Arizona looked amazing in the Pac-12 Tournament and looks as good as some of the #1 seeds. North Dakota had a fantastic year in the Big Sky, which was probably their best season ever since moving up to D-1, but they are way overmatched in this game.
-#12 NEVADA VS #5 IOWA STATE (9:57 PM, Milwaukee, WI – TruTV). Nevada has really good power rankings, and although the Mountain West was not on par with the other multi-bid leagues this year, it was still a step above pretty much all of the rest of the UTR leagues and they won some pretty impressive games this season. If they weren’t matched up against Iowa State, I’d like their chances of making the Round of 32 a lot more. This Iowa State team started off a little slow, but finished incredibly strong. They just got through winning the Big Twelve Tournament, and appear to be on pace to go deep into the NCAA Tournament.