The West Bracket is led by #1 Xavier. Here is the preview of the first round.
First Round Matchups
4 Gonzaga (30-4) vs. 13 U.N.C. Greensboro (27-7)
1:30 PM, Thursday – TNT
Gonzaga ranks 12th in adjusted offense, 17th in adjusted defense and 8th overall according to KenPom. And the Zags are rolling, going 19-1 in their last 20 games, winning with double digits for all but 3 of the games. But they did play in the WCC, which isn’t the strongest of conferences. But they are a very good tournament team and are on the watch for another trip to the final 4. UNCG has a 30th ranked defense and are 17-3 in the last 20 games and winners of the Southern Conference. This is the Zag’s 20th straight dance and have made it out of the first round the last 9 times. UNCG can slow the ball down and is calm on offense. That poise could help in the tournament. However, it may not help here. Zags win
5 Ohio State (24-8) vs. 12 South Dakota St. (28-6)
4 PM, Thursday – TNT
Ohio State lost 3 of their last 5 and were upset in the Big 10 quarter finals. Under first year coach Chris Holtmann, the Buckeyes were a balanced squad, ranked 27th in adjusted offense, 16th in adjusted defense and had the 51st toughest SOS. South Dakota State is the Summit Conference champions and are riding an 11 game win streak and have won 19 of their last 20 games. The Jackrabbits have a dominating 6-9 forward in Mike Daum that has had 30 points, 12 times this season. The Jackrabbits also can attach from beyond the arc, don’t turn over the ball and have an impressive back court. After seeing how Ohio State played against a freshmen-led Illinois team this year, South Dakota State pulls the upset.
6 Houston (26-7) vs. 11 San Diego St. (22-10)
7:20 PM, Thursday – TBS
The other SDSU is riding a 9 game win streak including 2 wins over #21 ranked Nevada and a win over Gonzaga earlier this year. San Diego State has the 69th best offense (nice) and the 36th best defense in the league. The Aztecs have size, experience and the ability to play with the best teams in the league and should be at tough match-up for the Houston Cougars. Houston is 5-1 in the last 6 gamesm only losing to 2nd ranked Cincinnati in the AAC championship game. Houston boasts the 31st best offense and 18th best defense in the country. Houston will have a tough time against San Diego State who is returning to the tournament for the 6th straight year, but should be able to pull out the dub.
3 Michigan (28-7) vs. 13 Montana (26-7)
9:50 PM, Thursday – TBS
Michigan is the real example for rust vs. rest. They impressed in the big ten tournament, beating both Purdue and Michigan State to win the title. But the last time the Wolverines played was 10 days ago. This could be troublesome for John Beileins squad that ranks 29th in adjusted offense and 4th in adjusted defense. But, this may play into the strength of the Big 10, Michigan was in games win non-tournament teams like Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin. They were hot about 2 weeks ago, but will they still be hot on Thursday night. Montana is 19-2 in their last 21 games and are the conference champs, but are win less against RPI top 100 teams. The Griz are good, but the Wolverines are supreme. Will be surprised if there is an upset this game.
7 Texas A&M (20-12) vs. 10 Providence (21-13)
12:15 PM, Friday – CBS
Providence is HOT. This team is on fire after beating out Xavier in the Big East semifinals before taking Villanova to overtime. The Big East, as always is one of the premier conference in the nation and Providence is one of the teams that is prone to go deep. Texas A&M was a middle of the pack team in a stacked SEC, but is very streaky, going on 5 and 3 game losing streaks during conference play. TAMU had a 12th ranked defense and the 7th toughest schedule, making them a very tough team. But Providence has competed with 2 of the 4 #1 seeds in the tournament in the last week. The Friars keep the Aggies corralled and upset TAMU.
2 North Carolina (25-10) vs. 15 Libscomb (23-9)
2:45 PM, Friday – CBS
North Carolina has wins over Michigan, Davidson, Tennessee, Ohio State, Duke twice, Syracuse twice and Miami. Libscomb has none. Nobody should be worried about the Tarheels in this one. The Tarheels are the weakest #2 seed and may not make it past the first weekend of the tournament. However, Libscomb did beat Florida Golf Coast, formerly known as “Dunk City” after their sweet 16 run in 2013, for the Atlantic Sun title. So it could happen.
1 Xavier (28-5) vs. 16 NCC/TXSo
4:20 PM, Friday – TNT
Read here first and then come back. Do you think Xavier loses to any of those teams? I don’t think so.
8 Missouri (21-11) vs. 9 Florida State (19-15)
9:50 PM, Friday – TBS
HUGE game Friday night at the End of Round 32. Now a majority of us will be at bars, or trying to fall asleep before celebrations start for St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, but this is a must watch. Both teams have something to prove. Both teams are 2-3 in the last 5 and both teams. Both teams lost in the second round of their respective tournaments. Michael Porter Jr. came back for Missouri in the SEC tournament, but didn’t fit into Mizzou’s rhythm after missing all but 2 minutes of the regular season. And this will be the key for Mizzou to beat Florida State’s size. With multiple scorers on Florida State’s rotation, the Noles win it easy.