2013 NCAA Tournament Predictions – Opening Round/Round of 64

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Alright, y’all! It’s FINALLY that time of year! You’ve seen the field by now. All that’s left is for the games to be played, right? WRONG! It’s obviously time to make a bunch of predictions that will likely be completely off the mark! But isn’t that half the fun of March Madness – seeing your bracket get busted? In that spirit, here are my 2013 NCAA Tournament Predictions for the Opening Round and the Round of 64. Please note that these picks are worth every penny you paid to see them. Without further ado…

2013 NCAA TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS

OPENING ROUND

(#16) Liberty vs. (#16) North Carolina A&T

Give both of these teams credit – they both got hot when they needed to in order to save their seasons. The edge here goes to Liberty, who shoots better, turns the ball over less, and has three players scoring 13 points per game. After starting the year 0-8, look for the Flames to keep burning on into a matchup with Louisville. John Caleb Sanders, Davon Marshall, and Tavares Speaks will carry the torch for Liberty. (I think I’m out of fire puns.) Prediction: Liberty 64, North Carolina A&T 57

(#16) James Madison vs. (#16) Long Island-Brooklyn

After losing their best player, Julian Boyd, for the season to an ACL injury, the Blackbirds responded by staying near the top of the NEC and winning their conference tournament. Give the credit to Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner, and Jason Brickman, Brooklyn’s high-octane trio. James Madison won a weak Colonial league this year, and I don’t think they have the horses to keep up with Long Island. Prediction: Long Island 77, James Madison 66

(#11) Middle Tennessee vs. (#11) St. Mary’s

When Middle Tennessee lost to Florida International in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, the Blue Raiders had to be worried that they had lost out on an NCAA bid. The folks in the Selection Committee did them a huge favor by rewarding them for their 28 wins. Unfortunately, they didn’t do them a whole lot of favors by matching them up with Matthew Dellavedova and Saint Mary’s. This will be an exciting game, but I think the magic may end in Dayton for Marcos Knight, Bruce Massey, and the rest of the Raiders. Prediction: St. Mary’s 81, Middle Tennessee 75

(#13) Boise State vs. (#13) La Salle

This is the definition of a mid-major game, and exactly what an opening round game should look like. I love that the Committee put these two teams in the tournament, and rightfully seeded them into a 13-slot. Each team won a few choice conference games in two of the country’s best conferences, period. The A-10 and Mountain West are fast becoming power conferences, each churning out five bids this year. Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks lead the Broncos, while Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren handle the scoring for the Explorers. It’s hard to find a lot of difference between these two teams, and I’m going to go with my gut here, which says that Boise State wins in a wild finish. Prediction: Boise State 74, La Salle 72

SECOND ROUND (ROUND OF 64)

MIDWEST

(#1) Louisville vs. (#16) Liberty

Okay, for all the charm that Liberty carries as the tournament’s only team with a losing record, they’re simply not going to beat Louisville. End of story. The Cardinals are simply too good for that. Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, and the rest of this Louisville squad – the best in the land, according to the Selection Committee – will walk over Liberty in a laugher. It won’t be close. Prediction: Louisville 92, Liberty 68

(#8) Colorado State vs. (#9) Missouri

This is an intriguing matchup. First you have Colorado State, a solid team out of the Mountain West that spent some time in the Top 25 this year. They’re led by big man Colton Iverson and guard Wes Eikmeier. This team is physical and can shoot the ball – a classic MWC squad. Missouri is loaded with talent, but have yet to put it together for any significant stretch. Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers, and Alex Oriakhi are a dangerous group of players, but I think Colorado State has a little bit more composure and grit, and will pull away late in this game. Prediction: Colorado State 60, Missouri 54

(#5) Oklahoma State vs. (#12) Oregon

Apparently, Oregon was dropped to a 12-seed due to “logistical issues” that forced the hand of the Committee. Tough luck for the Ducks, who draw a wildly talented Oklahoma State team. Marcus Smart is one of the country’s best freshmen, as is teammate Phil Forte. Add in LeBryan Nash and Markel Brown, and this is a Cowboys team that could make a lot of noise in the coming weeks. Oregon is very talented with an arsenal of shooters (Daymeon Dotson, E.J. Singler) and some tough guys inside (Carlos EmoryArsalan Kazemi), as they proved in this weekend’s Pac-12 tourney run. Oklahoma State, however, has been cutting their teeth on much tougher competition over the past few months, and should have the upper hand in this game. Prediction: Oklahoma State 84, Oregon 75

(#4) Saint Louis vs. (#13) New Mexico State

Wow. Rick Majerus must be smiling right now. The Billikens were 3-3 at the time of their former coach’s passing, going on to win 24 of their last 27 games, with two of those losses coming in overtime. Oh, and the other one was to Temple, who earned a respectable 9-seed in this year’s tourney. Dwayne Evans is a force, and no less than five other players are solid contributors for this SLU team. New Mexico State did well to win the WAC this year, but I hate to be the bearer of bad news to Aggies fans… the road ends here. Prediction: Saint Louis 71, New Mexico State 54

(#3) Michigan State vs. (#14) Valparaiso

Michigan State has never really blown me away this year. Every time they do something to warrant attention, it seems like they fold in the newly-earned spotlight. After dismantling Michigan in mid-February, the Spartans dropped three straight, including the March 3rd rematch against the Wolverines. Still, a season sweep of Wisconsin is impressive, and don’t forget their win over Kansas in Maui. Valparaiso has a really good player in Ryan Broekhoff, and head coach Bryce Drew was the player who sunk that famous shot for Valpo when they upset Ole Miss in 1998 – as a 14 seed. Not sure the Crusaders will be making more good memories this year, though. Prediction: Michigan State 73, Valparaiso 61

(#6) Memphis vs. (#11) Saint Mary’s

This matchup is funny to me, because I see the Conference USA and West Coast Conference as being very similar. That is, one dominant team (Memphis, Gonzaga) and one very talented second-banana (Saint Mary’s, Southern Miss). Saint Mary’s was never able to defeat their Goliath in three tries this season, and Memphis shut down their David three times. Will Saint Mary’s be able to pull one out for the little guys? Unfortunately, I just don’t see it. Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, and the rest of the Tigers are playing some really good ball right now. It will be a fun one to watch, though. Prediction: Memphis 83, Saint Mary’s 77

(#7) Creighton vs. (#10) Cincinnati

It would be easy to say that Doug McDermott is the be-all-end-all of Creighton basketball. For the most part, he is. Don’t sleep on the talent of Grant Gibbs and Gregory Echenique, though. This is a very talented Blue Jays team which has depth and the ability to shoot the lights out or play you inside. Cincinnati likewise has a trio of talented players that lead their team. Sean Kilpatrick can take over a game, and Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are explosive in their own rights. Creighton shot almost 51% on the year, and the All-American McDermott is not going to let his season end here. Look for a dominating performance out of the forward. Prediction: Creighton 75, Cincinnati 68

(#2) Duke vs. (#15) Albany

Uh-oh. Look familiar, Duke fans? The 2-line has to be a little disconcerting after last year’s debacle against Lehigh. Fortunately for the Dukies everywhere, there is no C.J. McCollum-status player on the Great Danes. Still, you can almost sense this game ending up closer than it should be as Duke eyes what will be a very tough matchup, no matter who the winner is. I expect them to stumble out of the gate, before cruising to an easy win. Coach K is not gonna go out like that two years in a row. Prediction: Duke 79, Albany 60

WEST

(#1) Gonzaga vs. (#16) Southern

Congratulations, Gonzaga. You’ve officially made it. After years of dominating the West Coast Conference, you’ve finally been given your moment in the spotlight. Enjoy it while you can, and trounce this SWAC team like you ought to. After this game, however, Kelly Olynyk and Co. are about to face stiffer competition than any they’ve seen in the past few months. Sorry, Southern, this isn’t going to be pretty. Prediction: Gonzaga 84, Southern 59

(#8) Pittsburgh vs. (#9) Wichita State

This game has overtime, buzzer-beater, wild-finish written all over it. Tray Woodall and Lamar Patterson lead the Panthers, while freshmen Steven Adams and James Robinson have made solid contributions. Talib Zanna can be a force in the paint. Wichita State may have the advantage down low, however, in Carl Hall. Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead can score in droves, and they Shockers have a number of talented guards who can drain the three. In a coin-flip, I’ve got Wichita State moving on through. Prediction: Wichita State 78, Pittsburgh 77 (OT)

(#5) Wisconsin vs. (#12) Ole Miss

Yikes. I expected better seeds for both teams. As it stands, two teams who are heating up at the right time will clash here in this 5-12 matchup. Marshall Henderson and Murphy Holloway won over a lot of fans this weekend with their SEC Championship run, and Wisconsin was impressive in taking down Michigan and Indiana in successive days. This game has that 12-seed upset written all over it… and that’s why I don’t trust it. I think Wisconsin is going to have the answers defensively, especially big man Jared Berggren, to end the Rebels’ run. Prediction: Wisconsin 58, Ole Miss 51

(#4) Kansas State vs. (#13) Boise State

Bruce Weber’s Wildcats are a very talented bunch. Don’t hold the fact that they couldn’t beat Kansas against them – KSU never beats Kansas. It’s some sort of natural law at this point. Luckily for the Cats, Boise State is not Kansas. Rodney McGruder and Shane Southwell should be able to dispatch the Broncos, but if Kansas State falls asleep at the wheel, this one could turn on them in a hurry. No time for mental mistakes, no time for cold shooting. The Wildcats have to play to their potential. If they don’t, Boise State is a good enough team to punish them for it. Prediction: Kansas State 80, Boise State 70

(#3) New Mexico vs. (#14) Harvard

New Mexico is a very solid team, who played a very solid schedule, and could have arguably been put on the 2-line. The trio of Kendall Williams, Tony Snell, and Alex Kirk carried the Lobos to the Mountain West regular-season and conference-tournament titles. They don’t rebound all that well, nor do they shoot all that well, but they play solid defense. That’s probably all it’s going to take to put away Harvard. The Crimson have two very talented players in Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers – this is a team that beat Cal and hung with St. Mary’s and Memphis – but I think New Mexico has come too far this year to slip up in this game. Prediction: New Mexico 68, Harvard 55

(#6) Arizona vs. (#11) Belmont

Arizona probably should have ended up with a better seed, but they were inconsistent late in the year, and any drop in seeding is their own fault. Belmont, on the other hand, worked an 11-seed out of their first season in the Ohio Valley Conference, not to mention a league and conference-tournament title. The Wildcats had a penchant for winning close games early in the season – remember Mark Lyons against Florida? – but the glow has worn off these Cats to some degree. Speaking of winning close games, did you see that OVC Championship game against Murray State? The Racers are no joke, and neither is Belmont. Kerron Johnson, Ian Clark, and Trevor Noack lead the way, and this team shoots the lights out at almost 50% (4th in the nation). Arizona will need to try to dominate this game from the paint, and they have a talented enough frontcourt that it is feasible, but I smell an upset here, and I can’t resist it. Prediction: Belmont 73, Arizona 69

(#7) Notre Dame vs. (#10) Iowa State

Iowa State has come on very strong at the end of the season, eventually roping an at-large bid out of some crucial late-season victories. Unfortunately, there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the Cyclones, just a solid Fighting Irish team. Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant highlight a very talented starting five. Iowa State is led by Will Clyburn, and have five other players scoring over nine points per night. Those six players all play 24 minutes or more, and this is one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. They can score in a hurry, they move the ball around nicely, and they would probably be in an 8-9 game if just one of those games against Kansas went their way. But, here we are. This is another very tough call. I think Notre Dame slows the game down more than Iowa State likes, and pulls out a close victory. Prediction: Notre Dame 74, Iowa State 69

(#2) Ohio State vs. (#15) Iona

Finally, Ohio State is playing up to their potential. At 18-7 (8-5), they looked like a watered-down version of themselves. The Buckeyes have strung together eight straight wins, though, including Sunday’s Big Ten Championship game over Wisconsin. A win over Indiana and two wins over Michigan State are in that run as well. In fact, Ohio State’s worst loss on the season is to Illinois, a 7-seed. Iona is a high-flying team with one of the country’s top scorers, Lamont Jones. In fact, the Gaels are second in the nation in scoring, with Sean Armand and David Laury chipping in significantly. This will be a tougher game for the Buckeyes than many expect, but I don’t see the upset happening. Look for Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas to put things away neatly in the second half. Prediction: Ohio State 82, Iona 70

SOUTH

(#1) Kansas vs. (#16) Western Kentucky

Okay, hear me out. I’m not saying Western Kentucky will win this game. I am saying, though, that they could. Jamal Crook and T.J. Price are solid guards and George Fant is strong in the paint. I’m a little surprised they ended up in this game at all. Now, I fully expect Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, and the rest of the Jayhawks to take care of business against the Hilltoppers. But if I had to choose a 16-over-1 upset this year, this is the game I would point to. Since I don’t have to choose one, though, I’m not going to. Prediction: Kansas 85, Western Kentucky 66

(#8) North Carolina vs. (#9) Villanova

A game where I think North Carolina should be seeded better, and Villanova perhaps a little worse. However, Villanova’s over-seeding is a boon for the Heels, who matchup well with the Wildcats. James Michael McAdoo has found his form recently, and Roy Williams’ club looks a lot more like the team everyone expected to see this year. Credit goes to Ryan Arcidiacono, Jayvaughn Pinkston, and the rest of Villanova’s team for turning around a season that started off very haphazardly. Jay Wright’s team played very well down the stretch, and really earned their spot in the tournament. One thing that is very important to have in March is a guy who hits big shots, and Arcidiacono is that guy. I just don’t think that he’s going to get the situation as McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, and Dexter Strickland move the Tar Heels ahead. Prediction: North Carolina 81, Villanova 72

(#5) Virginia Commonwealth vs. (#12) Akron

After moving to the Atlantic 10, it was going to be interesting to see how the Rams stacked up against improved competition. Shaka Smart’s team answered the call, finishing as runners-up to Saint Louis’ team of Destiny in both the regular season and conference tournament. The Rams’ Havoc style of play has frustrated teams around the nation this year, and they will look to continue that troublemaking against Akron. I had a lot more reason to pick an Akron upset before point guard Alex Abreu got busted for selling weed. Even still, the Zips crushed a really good Ohio team in the MAC Championship, so don’t completely write them off. Just mostly. Prediction: Virginia Commonwealth 76, Akron 64

(#4) Michigan vs. (#13) South Dakota State

Michigan has struggled recently, losing six of 11 down the stretch, Mind you, the Ben Brust half-court heave and the insane come-from-behind victory for the Hoosiers last weekend make up two of those losses. But that’s part of the problem. As good as this team can be behind Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and all the rest of the Wolverines, they seem to have trouble putting teams away. Perhaps it is a lack of focus – this is a pretty young team. They had absolutely no business losing that game to Indiana. That begs the question – at what point in this tournament does Michigan lose a game it has no business losing? As great a player as Nate Wolters is, I don’t think this is where the Wolverines falter. Prediction: Michigan 75, South Dakota State 61

(#3) Florida vs. (#14) Northwestern State

Florida is a bit of an odd egg. Upon closer inspection, a lot of their wins in the SEC just aren’t that impressive, and losses to Arkansas and a Nerlens Noel-less Kentucky squad raised eyebrows. I don’t fault them quite so much for losing on Sunday to Ole Miss – every year, a team like Ole Miss just becomes unstoppable in a conference tournament. The Gators haven’t won a truly impressive game, in my eyes, since they beat Marquette in November. Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton will have the firepower to get through this game, for sure, but Florida will need to lock down some late-game issues that have plagued them recently, as they dropped four of their last nine. Prediction: Florida 72, Northwestern State 53

(#6) UCLA vs. (#11) Minnesota

This game all depends on which Minnesota team shows up. Also, which one comes out after halftime. This team has had a split personality all season – summed up perfectly in the sequence of getting crushed by Ohio State, beating Indiana, and then losing to Nebraska and Purdue. Anyone who watched their game against Illinois definitely saw both versions of the Gophers. UCLA has likewise been a hard team to peg this season, although their trajectory is going the opposite way. They’ve gotten better as the season progressed, although the recent loss of Jordan Adams hurts things. This could end up a physical game with Shabazz Muhammad and Trevor Mbakwe clashing. Whether or not Minnesota’s talented guards can get going will really be the determining factor. I think for at least one game (or one really good half), we will see the talented Minnesota. Prediction: Minnesota 54, UCLA 51

(#7) San Diego State vs. (#10) Oklahoma

The Sooners have been somewhat inconsistent this season, and they do not find a forgiving foe in this early matchup. The Aztecs have been through the ringer in the Mountain West, and struggled all year to separate from UNLV or Colorado State. In fact, they ended up seeded right in between them. This is a very good team, though, led by Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. Franklin can take a game over, and I expect him to do just that against Oklahoma. Romero Osby and Steven Pledger are good players for the Sooners, but I think San Diego State will have their number later this week. Prediction: San Diego State 65, Oklahoma 59

(#2) Georgetown vs. (#15) Florida Gulf Coast

The Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast are good. I’ve watched them a couple times this year – Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson, and Chase Fieler are dynamic and can really, really play. The problem with FGCU is that they are sloppy, averaging about 15 turnovers per game. Otto Porter Jr., who makes a pair of steals per game, could have a field day defensively. Offensively, too, I’m sure. The Eagles are good, but they won’t be able to handle Porter, or Markel Starks, or Greg Whittington. They might at least make it interesting for a while, though. Prediction: Georgetown 80, Florida Gulf Coast 65

EAST

(#1) Indiana vs. (#16) Long Island

Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are two of the best players in the country. Tom Crean has a fantastic squad, one of the nation’s best sixth-men, and a team that has some confidence coming off its first outright Big Ten title in 20 years. The last time the Hoosiers won a share of the Big Ten, they parlayed it into an appearance in the Final, losing to Juan Dixon and Steve Blake’s Maryland team in 2002. This Indiana team could easily repeat the trick, and are talented enough to win the she-bang. It starts here, with a probable destruction of the Blackbirds. Prediction: Indiana 92, Long Island 74

(#8) North Carolina State vs. (#9) Temple

This could be the best game of the round. Both have very capable rosters, and have the ability to beat top teams, as evidence in the Owls’ win over Syracuse, and N.C. State’s over Duke. Temple is led by Khalif Wyatt, who averages nearly 20 points per game, and a score of talented supporters. The Wolfpack’s trio of C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and Lorenzo Brown make them a formidable matchup against anyone in the country. This was a top-10 team in the early portion of the season – while they haven’t played like one this year, the talent is most definitely there. Temple can keep up with anyone, though, and this will be a classic 8-9 matchup. Prediction: North Carolina State 86, Temple 83 (OT)

(#5) UNLV vs. (#12) California

The Committee decided it had “no other choice” but to schedule this re-match between the West coast foes. UNLV prevailed by a point earlier in the season with a last-second tip-in on a neutral court. This time, the game will be played in San Jose, which could be seen as a benefit for Cal. Mike Montgomery’s team has been playing more consistently of late behind Allen Crabbe, but they run into the Rebels at a time when UNLV is playing well, too. The Rebels also have Mike Moser in this game, who was injured for the first matchup. UNLV won by a point without Moser, I think they win by a few with him, not to mention Anthony Bennett and Anthony Marshall. Prediction: UNLV 72, California 63

(#4) Syracuse vs. (#13) Montana

Having seen this Montana team up-close and personal, I can attest: they are good. Will Cherry is an absolute gamer, and Kareem Jamar was this year’s Big Sky player of the year. They also have a solid big man in Eric Hutchison. While all of that is true, I am having a hard time convincing myself that Wayne Tinkle’s team will beat Jim Boeheim’s. Sure, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche have been inconsistent, but the Orange found their form of late – except for the eggs they laid in their two biggest games, Georgetown and Louisville. We’ve seen talent-laden ‘Cuse teams lose to similar teams in the past, though – but the Taylor Coppenrath/T.J. Sorrentine team from Vermont that beat them was probably a little better than this Grizzlies squad. I think the Orange get tested, but win in the end. Prediction: Syracuse 72, Montana 63

(#3) Marquette vs. (#14) Davidson

Buzz Williams has a quite a team in Marquette this season. Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, and Junior Cadougan form a solid core, with Trent Lockett and Jamil Wilson contributing heavily, as well. On the other side, Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks lead Davidson. The Wildcats are efficient with the basketball, scoring a decent amount without turning it over all that often. They will play Marquette tough, but I think the Golden Eagles have too many weapons for Davidson to cover. Prediction: Marquette 78, Davidson 71

(#6) Butler vs. (#11) Bucknell

This is a really hard call. I’ve got two forces tugging at me on this one. The first force says, “Don’t EVER bet against Brad Stevens in the NCAA Tournament.” It’s got some strong evidence to support it. Rotnei Clarke, Roosevelt Jones, and Andrew Smith are all big-time players for the Bulldogs, and Stevens just seems to win games in the Big Dance. The second force says, “Mike Muscala is going to dominate this game for Bucknell.” Even if the Bulldogs gameplan for Muscala – which you know they’re going to – Cameron Ayers and Bryson Johnson can turn it on for the Patriot League champions, too. Four of Bucknell’s five losses came by three or fewer points. The thing is, they haven’t played anyone like Butler since a two-point loss to Missouri in early January – and they split with Lehigh, even with C.J. McCollum sidelined by injury. Butler has also won a lot of really close games – Marquette, Gonzaga, and Indiana namely (some, you know, decent teams). I really like Bucknell, but I can’t bring myself to pick them to win. Add another close loss to ledger. Prediction: Butler 69, Bucknell 66

(#7) Illinois vs. (#10) Colorado

Another intriguing second-round matchup. Illinois has a game-changing player in Brandon Paul – rewatch the film from Thursday’s game against Minnesota if you don’t know what I mean. D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey are good players, too. Colorado has a pretty good starting five, led by Andre Roberson. The Buffaloes’ success will ride on whether they can get solid shooting out of players like Askia Booker and Sabbatino Chen. Tad Boyle and John Groce both have good teams, and only one can come out on top. This game could really go either way, but I think Paul takes over this game and carries the Illini on his back. Prediction: Illinois 74, Colorado 66

(#2) Miami (FL) vs. (#15) Pacific

Jim Larranaga has done a fantastic job this season with the Hurricanes, leading them to their first ACC regular-season and conference-tournament titles. This team is stacked, with Durand Scott, Shane Larkin, Kenny Kadji, Terrence McKinney-Jones, and Julian Gamble. They can shoot the ball, play inside, they hustle, play good defense… they basically play well in every facet of the game. The Tigers really have no shot in this game, but kudos to Bob Thomason, who will retire after 25 years at the helm of Pacific basketball. Prediction: Miami 94, Pacific 68

So, there you have it. Upsets from Belmont and Minnesota, and I guess you can call Wichita State an upset. And I see potential in a few other lower seeded teams: Bucknell, Montana, South Dakota State, Davidson, Iona, Florida Gulf Coast, and Western Kentucky. I just can’t rightly predict that any of those teams will pull off the upset. In all likelihood, some huge upset will be notched by a team I’ve completely written off. Just as likely, that team will make the Sweet 16. That’s the beauty of the tournament. Now, it’s just left to watch the games played. That is, until it’s time to make more incorrect predictions.

-AD

(P.S. – I’m debating whether to do a full prediction using these results, or start over after every round. We’ll just have to see.)

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