Friday, March 21, 2014

NCAA Tournament: Day 2 Preview

This lousy bum fell on the floor a bunch and cost me a billion dollars.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

So, my dreams of a billion dollar bracket were dashed yesterday, when all those reject Ohio basketball recruits beat the kids that were better than them in high school.

I'm talking, of course, about stupid Dayton beating Ohio State, and busting 83 percent of the brackets in the Quicken Loans Bracket Challenge. I know we're supposed to root for underdogs and all, but dang it Dayton, did you have to end my dreams of what I'd do with a billion dollars so quickly?

Oh well, as the kids say today, onto the next one.

Here is your day two preview.

Most Likely To Be An Upset (11 Seed or Higher)

(11) Tennessee over (6) Massachusetts
(12) Stephen F. Austin over (5) Virginia Commonwealth
(11) Providence over (6) North Carolina

Monday I picked whichever team won the Tennessee-Iowa play-in game (and I picked Tennessee) to knock off UMass because I just don't trust the Minutemen. Up until mid-January, UMass looked great, but they've dropped seven games since then, including three of their last five, and haven't beaten a ranked team since November 22nd (New Mexico).

Leading scorer Chaz Williams is a talent, but also a streaky shooter prone to poor shot selection and turnovers. With the way Tennessee is playing defense, and finding ways to generate offense, I would almost label the Vols as a favorite in this one.

Oh wait, Vegas is way ahead of me. They're giving UMass 2.5 points.

Everyone loves VCU after their Final Four run a few years back, but this season's group lacks the length and athleticism of Shaka Smart's best team. SFA, on the other end, has the potential to be this year's "Dunk City."

The frenetic pressing defense, and chaotic transition offense run by the Lumberjacks make them an ideal Cinderella, but junior combo forward Jacob Parker's all around game, and leading scorer Desmond Haymon's penchant for knocking down jumpers he has no business taking help even more.

As for North Carolina, this is really about which Tar Heel team shows up. Will it be the team that won 12 in a row from late January to early March, or the squad that lost to UAB and comes in losers of back-to-back games?

If they're more the latter than the former, Bryce Cotton and the Friars are good enough to knock them off.

Most Likely To Be A Blowout

(1) Wichita State over (16) Cal Poly
(3) Duke over (14) Mercer
(1) Virginia over (16) Coastal Carolina

Well, obviously I have to take the two 1vs16 games, since those are always blowouts. In Wichita State's case, I think the Shockers will be looking for a statement blowout to get things started, hoping to build momentum for what could be a brutal Round of 32 date with Kentucky.

Like Wichita State, Virginia should also play the "no respect" card. The Cavaliers won both the regular season and conference championships in the ACC, and everyone is still talking about Duke and Jabari Parker.

Speaking of those guys, I have no knowledge about Mercer whatsoever, but I think it's safe to say they don't have anyone that can match Parker physically, and Coach K has a history of deep tournament runs that began with breezy blowouts.

Players to Watch

Chasson Randle, Stanford
Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
Cory Jefferson, Baylor

If Stanford is going to pull off the minor upset over New Mexico, it will need a big day from scoring guard Chasson Randle. The undersized, but explosive Randle, has tight handles, and can really pour it on when he's feeling it. Shooting 49% from the field, including 40% from downtown, the Cardinal have a chance whenever he's picking his shots well.

VanVleet is the Missouri Valley Conference's best player, and the point guard is just as effective slashing as he is distributing. With an explosive first step, and excellent court vision once he enter the paint, VanVleet is a fantastic drive and kick guard that makes each of his teammates more effective offensively.

Then you have Jefferson, who is often overshadowed by teammate Isaiah Austin. Still, Jefferson is the most complete player on Baylor, leading the Bears in scoring and rebounding, while shooting 50% from the field. Like I said, Austin gets more attention, but Jefferson is a game-changing big on both ends, and a big reason why Baylor thinks it can make a deep tournament run.

They'll need a big game from him to hold off underrated Nebraska.

Today's Picks

12:15 PM: (3) Duke over (14) Mercer
12:40 PM: (6) Baylor over (11) Nebraska
1:40 PM: (7) New Mexico over (10) Stanford
2:10 PM: (1) Arizona over (16) Weber State
2:45 PM: (11) Tennessee over (6) Massachusetts
3:10 PM: (3) Creighton over (14) Louisiana-Lafayette
4:10 PM: (2) Kansas over (15) Eastern Kentucky
4:40 PM: (9) Oklahoma State over (8) Gonzaga
6:55 PM: (8) Memphis over (9) George Washington
7:10 PM: (1) Wichita State over (16) Cal Poly
7:20 PM: (6) North Carolina over (11) Providence
7:27 PM: (5) Virginia Commonwealth over (12) Stephen F. Austin
9:25 PM: (1) Virginia over (16) Coastal Carolina
9:40 PM: (8) Kentucky over (9) Kansas State
9:50 PM: (3) Iowa State over (14) North Carolina Central
9:57 PM: (4) UCLA over (13) Tulsa

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