North Carolina vs Iona
Both teams have a fast-paced offense but North Carolina is a great team. I don’t see a chance of an upset here.
Prediction: North Carolina
Utah State vs Washington
Utah State has a great duo of Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta. Merrill is an experienced offensive leader that can shoot the three and Queta is a talented rim protector with NBA potential.
Washington’s head coach Mike Hopkins brought the 2-3 zone to Washington from Syracuse and the Huskies have a strong defense. Matisse Thybulle is one of the best defensive players in the country and part of their balanced scoring attack.
I think the Aggies will get good looks from three where they will convert and Queta will keep Washington from scoring inside. Washington’s offense is not very good and I see them having a tough time scoring.
Prediction: Utah State
Auburn vs New Mexico State
New Mexico State is a very good team and I’d probably take them against any of the other 5 seeds.
However, Auburn is under-seeded and hot right now. Since their embarrassing loss at Kentucky they have won eight straight including two wins over Tennessee, and wins against Florida and Mississippi State.
The Tigers rely heavily on the three which normally makes a team upset-prone but Auburn has shown an ability to pull out wins despite poor three-point shooting.
The Aggies have an extremely deep rotation with 13 guys averaging double-digit minutes, I’m interested to see if they will tighten the rotation for the tournament.
Barring a nightmare scenario, I think Auburn wins.
Kansas vs Northeastern
Northeastern is a hot pick and with how little I believe in Kansas I was tempted to pick the upset.
Northeastern has a good offense with four players averaging double-digit points, but they aren’t a great team all around. KenPom has Northeastern at #79 and Kansas all the way up at #20. I think the Jayhawks are just too talented and will escape the first round.
Iowa State vs Ohio State
I’m an Ohio State fan so I’ve watched them a lot this season. I’m well aware they aren’t very good and their offense can be very stagnant at times. If Iowa State can get Kaleb Wesson into foul trouble the Buckeyes’ upset chance plummet.
The Cyclones are playing the best defense they’ve played all season and have several strong scoring threats. Lindell Wigginton and Marial Shayok will create a lot of problems for Ohio State and Iowa State rebounds well as a team.
Prediction: Iowa State
Houston vs Georgia State
Kelvin Sampson has done a great job with this team. The Cougars are tough on both ends of the floor and have a great veteran guard in Corey Davis Jr.
Georgia State isn’t especially good on offense or defense and I don’t see them playing Houston very close. I think the Cougars bounce back from their loss to Cincinnati.
Wofford vs Seton Hall
Wofford is getting a lot of attention and it still might not be enough. The Terriers ran the table in an extremely underrated conference. The Southern Conference could’ve easily got three teams into the tournament.
Wofford has one of the best offenses in the nation and is a great three-point shooting team. Fletcher Magee is a star and has a chance to make a name for himself in the tournament.
Seton Hall has a great player as well though. Myles Powell can take over a game and make this close. Wofford is much better all around though and I’ll take the Terriers.
Kentucky vs Abilene Christian
I don’t know much about Abilene Christian but I’m pretty confident in Kentucky.
North Carolina vs Utah State
1 seed not making it to the second weekend has become pretty common over the last several years. North Carolina is in danger this year.
Utah State has shown they can beat the talented competition with their win over Nevada. Merrill and Queta will be huge once again but I think Diogo Brito and Brock Miller both have a chance for a big game. Merrill will attract a lot of defensive attention and both Brito and Miller can shoot the three.
Obviously, the Aggies will want to slow the game down and guard the three-point line. With Queta protecting the rim they can afford to play tighter around the perimeter. Freshmen Coby White and Nas Little are both already prone to turnovers and I think they could shoot themselves in the foot on a big stage like the NCAA tournament.
Prediction: Utah State
Auburn vs Kansas
I think Chuma Okeke is due for a big game here. Kansas’ Grimes and Dotson against Auburn’s Harper and Brown will make a fascinating guard matchup that could Okeke open to hit threes.
Almost anyone Auburn puts on the court is at least competent from long range and I think Kansas will have a tough time shutting down the Tigers from long range.
Kansas has not been the same since Udoka Azubuike and LaGerald Vick went down. I predict an early exit for the Jayhawks.
Iowa State vs Houston
Iowa State may escape the first round but they’ll run into a really good team in the second round.
KenPom has them ranked almost equal but Houston is good on both ends of the floor whereas Iowa State is not all that great on the defensive end.
Wofford vs Kentucky
Kentucky has been up and down all season which isn’t uncommon for a John Calipari team. However, I don’t see the Wildcats coming together in time for the tournament like they usually do.
Kentucky has a tendency to let a couple bad possessions spiral into a drought if this happens one too many times Wofford will get out to a big lead and won’t look back.
Wofford shoots almost 42% from three and I think they’ll shoot their way to a win.
Utah State vs Auburn
This game will come down to three-point shooting. I love this Utah State team but I don’t believe in them enough to send them to the Elite Eight.
I don’t think the Aggies can beat two very talented teams in a row. Auburn could overwhelm them and escape with a close victory.
Houston vs Wofford
Wofford has the better offense but Houston has the better defense. I think it’ll be a high-scoring game and Wofford’s three-point shooting will make the difference.
Wofford is very experienced and I think they continue their run on to the Elite Eight.
Auburn vs Wofford
I think this pick is simple. Auburn will go cold eventually and I think it happens in the Elite Eight.
Without a strong performance from long range, they will not be able to beat a good team like Wofford and the Terriers will advance to the Final Four to be this year’s high seed Final Four representative like Loyola-Chicago last year and South Carolina the year before that.