Now that I’ve profiled all 68 teams in the field and previewed each region, it’s time to go game-by-game and look at the matchups. I will also reveal my picks to win each game before posting my full predictions later this week.
Here’s a look at the first round matchups in the West region.
West Region Info
- West Region Team Capsules
- West Region Bracket Breakdown
- Tickets to West Regional in Phoenix (March 22nd and 24th)
West Region First Round Game Predictions
#1 Michigan State vs. #16 LIU Brooklyn
LIU ranks 272nd in adjusted defensive efficiency. MSU has Draymond Green. That is all.
Predicted Winner: Michigan State
#2 Missouri vs. #15 Norfolk State
The low post matchup between Ricardo Ratliffe and Kyle O’Quinn should be a good one, but the Tigers are just too good offensively. Look for the Mizzou’s stable of guards to dominate the game.
Predicted Winner: Missouri
#3 Marquette vs. #14 BYU/#14 Iona
You could certainly make the argument that both BYU and Iona could have been left out of the field, but it should make for an entertaining first four matchup. The teams are pretty evenly matched, but I’ll take the team with the steadier point guard, which in this case is Iona’s Scott Machado.
Quite frankly, I’m not sure it matters who wins, because Marquette should be able to handle either opponent. Seniors Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder are as tough as they come, and that duo should carry the Golden Eagles to at least the Sweet Sixteen.
Predicted Winner: Marquette
#4 Louisville vs. #13 Davidson
I think there are a couple possible upsets in the 4-13 games, and this is one of them.
Louisville thrives on turnovers, but the Wildcats have a strong backcourt and one of the lowest turnover rates in the country. Davidson is also strong on the offensive glass, and the Cardinals have struggled to clean the defensive glass at times this season. The Wildcats also hope big man Jake Cohen can pull Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng away from the basket due to his ability to hit three-pointers. That should open up more room for De’Mon Brooks to operate in the lane.
On the other end of the floor, Louisville has some putrid shooting percentages, particularly from three-point range. Their greatest strength is a high offensive rebounding percentage, but Davidson ranks inside of the Top 20 in defensive rebounding percentage, which should help to negate that part of the Cardinals’ game.
Predicted Winner: Davidson
#5 New Mexico vs. #12 Long Beach State
Damn the selection committee for making two of my favorite teams from this season face off in the first round.
The Lobos are one of the top defensive teams in the country, but Long Beach State can put pressure on opposing teams thanks to the play-making of Casper Ware and the interior toughness of T.J. Robinson. The status of senior Larry Anderson is an unknown after he missed the Big West Tournament with a knee injury, but his return would certainly bolster the 49ers’ chances of springing the upset.
New Mexico has a powerful offense as well with big man Drew Gordon’s inside presence creating open looks from long range for guys like Tony Snell, Phillip McDonald, and Jamal Fenton. That could spell the end of the line for a Long Beach State that doesn’t do a great job of defending the three-point line.
Predicted Winner: New Mexico
#6 Murray State vs. #11 Colorado State
The Rams had a number of big wins at home, but their home/road splits were pronounced, which may not be good news for their tournament future. They also have subpar numbers in quite a few defensive statistics, and I look for Isaiah Canaan and Murray State to take advantage of their poor three-point defense.
For the year, the Racers shoot 40.7 percent from beyond the arc, and their high free throw rate gives additional reason for confidence in light of CSU’s propensity to put its opponents on the stripe. The Rams did post solid efficiency numbers on the offensive end, and they have outshot Murray State from long range. However, I like the Racers’ ability to force turnovers as well as their tough three-point defense, which is among the best in the country.
Predicted Winner: Murray State
#7 Florida vs. #10 Virginia
Just to prove the committee has a sense of humor, they decided to pair up two of the teams I have labeled as overrated this season.
When the Gators have the ball, it will be strength on strength, as the Cavaliers rank fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency while Florida ranks third on offense. The Gators are extremely reliant on the three-point shot, but Virginia has routinely shut down opponents from beyond the arc. Led by Mike Scott, the Hoos also control the defensive glass and limit second chance points.
On the other end of the floor, look for UVA to pound it inside to Scott, who probably should have been named ACC Player of the Year. The Cavaliers shoot much better inside the arc than they do outside of it, and they are unlikely to beat themselves with turnovers.
ook for a close, slow-paced game in Omaha, but I’ll give the slight nod to the Gators based on the fact that they have more playmakers on offense.
Predicted Winner: Florida
#8 Memphis vs. #9 Saint Louis
I felt the Tigers were underseeded based on how well they have played of late, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this will be a blowout either.
The Billikens are one of the most efficient defensive teams in the country, with Top 50 rankings in multiple statistical categories. However, Memphis appears to have a distinct advantage in free throw rate, where they rank among the Top 50 nationally compared to Saint Louis’ ranking just inside the Top 200. Memphis sophomore Will Barton has been fantastic this season and will create matchup problems for Saint Louis as well.
On defense, the Tigers boast the 11th-best effective field goal percentage defense in the country, which should neutralize some of Saint Louis’ shooting ability. The game will provide an interesting contrast in tempos, as the Billikens want to slow the game down and limit possessions, while Memphis wants to get out and run to take advantage of their superior athleticism.
In the end, I like the Tigers’ chances to advance and set up a terrific second round matchup against top-seeded Michigan State.
Predicted Winner: Memphis
West Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Point Spreads
|BYU def Iona 78-72||Tue, 3/14||9:05 ET||Dayton||Nantz-Kellogg-Kerr||truTV||BYU -2|
|1||#1 Michigan State def #16 LIU Brooklyn 89-67||Fri, 3/16||9:15 ET||Columbus||Brando-Gminski||TBS||MSU -20|
|2||#9 Saint Louis def #8 Memphis 61-54||Fri, 3/16||6:50 ET||Columbus||Brando-Gminski||TBS||MEM -3|
|3||#4 Louisville def #13 Davidson 69-62||Thu, 3/15||1:40 ET||Portland||Anderson-Bonner||TBS||UL -7|
|4||#5 New Mexico def #12 Long Beach State 75-68||Thu, 3/15||3:05 ET||Portland||Anderson-Bonner||TBS||UNM -4.5|
|5||#15 Norfolk St def #2 Missouri 86-84||Fri, 3/16||4:35 ET||Omaha||Albert-Kerr-Sager||TNT||MIS -21.5|
|6||#7 Florida def #10 Virginia 71-45||Fri, 3/16||2:10 ET||Omaha||Albert-Kerr-Sager||TNT||UF -3.5|
|7||#3 Marquette def #14 BYU 88-68||Thu, 3/15||2:35 ET||Louisville||Lundquist-Raftery||CBS||TBA|
|8||#6 Murray State def #11 Colorado State 58-41||Thu, 3/15||12:15 ET||Louisville||Lundquist-Raftery||CBS||MUR -3.5|
|9||#1 Michigan State def #9 Saint Louis 65-61||Sun, 3/18||2:45 ET||Columbus||Brando-Gminski||CBS|
|10||#4 Louisville def #5 New Mexico 59-56||Sat, 3/17||9:40 ET||Portland||Anderson-Bonner||TBS||LOU -1.5|
|11||#7 Florida def #15 Norfolk State||Sun, 3/18||6:10 ET||Omaha||Albert-Kerr-Sager||TNT||UF -14|
|12||#3 Marquette def #6 Murray State 62-53||Sat, 3/17||5:15 ET||Louisville||Lundquist-Raftery||CBS||MARQ -5|
|13||#1 Michigan State v #4 Louisville||Thu, 3/22||Phoenix||MSU -5|
|14||#7 Florida v #3 Marquette||Thu, 3/22||Phoenix||MARQ -2|
|ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL|
|15||Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner||Sat, 3/24||Phoenix|