by Pat Gunther
As another year of college basketball passes, so does the excitement of March Madness. Widely regarded as the most exciting sporting event in America, March Madness always provides interesting story lines and memorable games.
**All picks are updated through Sunday March 27, 2011**
East Second Round
1 Ohio State vs. 16 University of Texas San Antonio
Winner: Ohio State
The Buckeyes are coming off of an impressive year behind freshman sensation Jared Sullinger. With the second best RPI in the NCAA, the Buckeyes will advance fairly easily and keep the #1 seeds undefeated in the first round.
8 George Mason vs. 9 Villanova
The Wildcats of Villanova have struggled in conference play this year, and barely snuck into the NCAA tournament. Strong point guard play from Maalik Wayns will be necessary if the Wildcats want to advance to the second round. George Mason, however, is no stranger to upsets. After shocking America with their Final Four run in 2006, The Patriots could be a threat to Villanova’s tournament run.
5 West Virginia vs. 12 Clemson
Winner: West Virginia
Legendary coach Bob Huggins has taken West Virginia to the tournament all four years of his coaching tenure. After an impressive run last season, the Mountaineers will capitalize on facing a weak Clemson team. Playing two games in three days will take a toll on the Tigers, and West Virginia will dominate.
4 Kentucky vs. 13 Princeton
The Princeton Tigers’ impressive run in the Ivy League has earned them a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. The Wildcats of Kentucky are no stranger to the NCAA Tournament with seven National Championships. Kentucky will outlast Princeton with solid play from freshman guard Brandon Knight, and yet again advance into the third round.
6 Xavier vs. 11 Marquette
Xavier and Marquette is a matchup that has no clear cut victor. Led by the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Terrell Holloway, the Musketeers are deadly from outside. Marquette however has struggled in conference play with a record of 9-9 in the Big East. The Golden Eagles have advanced to their sixth straight tournament this year, but will be victim of an early exit.
3 Syracuse vs. 14 Indiana State
Had the Sycamores of Indiana State had Larry Bird, the result might have been different. Indiana State is most famous for their former superstar, and has not made a tournament appearance in eleven years. The Sycamores will have a tough time breaking the infamous Syracuse two-three zone, and the Orangemen will advance.
7 Washington vs. 10 Georgia
Although Washington has lost three of their last four, the Huskies are long overdue for a victory. Georgia has struggled in a weak SEC this year, and has advance to the tournament for the first time since 2002. Led by point guard Isaiah Thomas, the Huskies will prevail.
2 North Carolina vs. 15 Long Island University
After a disappointing 2009 season, the Tar Heels have made an impressive turnaround led by #1 overall recruit Harrison Barnes. The young freshman Barnes brings size, speed and an impressive perimeter game to an already youthful team. The Blackbirds are no match for the Tar Heels, and will be victim of a first round exit
West Second Round
1 Duke vs. 16 Hampton
The defending national champion Duke Blue Devils have shown flashes of brilliance all season long. Freshman sensation Kyrie Irving is one of the most dynamic players in the nation, and a potential top draft pick. If Irving can play like he did prior to his injury, the Blue Devils will be difficult to beat.
8 Michigan vs. 9 Tennessee
The Wolverines are coming off of an impressive season in the Big 10. Led by Tim Hardaway Jr. the Wolverines can score points in bunches when they are running on all cylinders. Look for them to capitalize on a struggling Tennessee team in the first round.
5 Arizona vs. 12 Memphis
The Wildcats are historically one of the better basketball teams in the country, and have made a return to prominence this season. Freshman forward Derrick Williams has led the Wildcats to big victories all season long, and will definitely be a factor at the end of games. Memphis has struggled since the departure of John Calipari and will lose in the first round.
4 Texas vs. 13 Oakland
The Longhorns have been rather inconsistent all season long, but should have no trouble with thirteen seed Oakland. Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton provide Texas with scoring and rebounding threats, while point guard Corey Joseph can rack up the assists in bunches. Look for the Longhorns to get a win in impressive fashion.
6 Cincinnati vs. 11 Missouri
In a classic case of over-seeding, the Missouri Tigers escaped with the eleventh seed in the west. Cincinnati should not have any trouble with the over-rated Tigers, especially if the team’s top scorer Yancy Gates, gets going early on.
3 Connecticut vs. 14 Bucknell
The Huskies are coming off of an impressive championship game in the Big East tournament, led by superstar point guard Kemba Walker. UConn should have no trouble against Bucknell, as Walker puts on a clinic. Look for the Huskies to get the win in this one.
7 Temple vs. 10 Penn State
The Temple Owls have not won a tournament game in ten years, and hope to advance against Penn State. Led by guard Juan Fernandez, the Owls can knock off the Nittany Lions. If the Lions star player Taylor Battle gets hot, however, this game could go either way.
2 San Diego State vs. 15 Northern Colorado
Winner: San Diego State
The Aztecs have put San Diego State on the map this year, with an impressive season. Coach Steve Fisher took Michigan and the “Fab Five” to two Final Fours and should provide the Aztecs with valuable experience, as they advance even further into the tournament.
Southwest 2nd Round
1 Kansas vs. 16 Boston
The Jayhawks are a perennial powerhouse, and this year was no exception. Led by the Morris brothers, Marcus and Markieff, the Jayhawks will run Boston University out of the building as they attempt to capture another National Championship this season.
8 UNLV vs. 9 Illinois
The Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV have a brief, but impressive history. After two National Championship appearances in the 1990’s (They won the first against Duke) the Rebels have struggled in the past decade. Look for guard Tre’Von Willis to lead his team to a victory.
5 Vanderbilt vs. 12 Richmond
Led by six foot ten forward Justin Harper, the Spiders can rack up the points. Behind Harper’s scoring and Kevin Anderson’s leadership, Richmond will upset the over-rated five seed Vanderbilt Commodores. If John Jenkins gets hot though, the Commodores could give Richmond a run for their money.
4 Louisville vs. 13 Morehead State
The Cardinals are coming off of an impressive run in the Big East tournament, and have the momentum going their way. Preston Knowles and company look to knock off the scrappy Morehead State, led by Dennis Rodman reincarnated Kenneth Faried. The Cardinals, however, will get the win in San Antonio.
6 Georgetown vs. 11 VCU
The Hoyas of Georgetown have struggled all season long in a tough Big East. Virginia Commonwealth, however, has played well all season. Although VCU can present problems for teams, The Hoyas will come up big and get the win.
3 Purdue vs. 14 St. Peter
The Boilermakers started the season ranked in the top five, but a second consecutive season ending injury to Robbie Hummel has decimated the team. Although they have not been at full strength for two seasons, Purdue can play with anyone when JuJuan Johnson knocks down his shots. The Boilermakers advance with ease in their first tournament game.
7 Texas A&M vs. 10 Florida State
Winner: Florida State
The Seminoles are playing their best basketball in recent memory, after a great regular season in which they defeated #1 ranked Duke. Led by junior forward Chris Singleton, Florida State could make a surprising run in the tournament if their upperclassmen step up.
2 Notre Dame vs. 15 Akron
Winner: Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish, led by point guard, Ben Hansbrough, finished the season ranked number five in the AP Poll. The Akron Zips have not won a tournament game in school history, and will not break that record against the Fighting Irish.
Southeast Second Round
1 Pittsburgh vs. 16 UNC Asheville
The Panthers are always a contender, led by Coach Jamie Dixon, and junior standout point guard Ashton Gibbs. The Panthers will not have a problem with the sixteen seed Bulldogs.
8 Butler vs. 9 Old Dominion
After Butler’s amazing tournament run last year, the Bulldogs are back as an eight seed. Although they have lost their best player Gordon Hayward, the Butler Bulldogs could make another run at the Championship game. But first, they’ll have to get past Old Dominion.
5 Kansas State vs. 12 Utah State
Winner: Utah State
The Wildcats of Kansas State have had a less than impressive year even though senior point guard Jacob Pullen has racked up the points in several games. The Aggies, however, finished the season ranked number nineteen in the AP Poll, and will pull off the upset against Kansas State.
4 Wisconsin vs. 13 Belmont
The Badgers are one of the most boring teams in the tournament, but can play with any one. Leading scorer Jon Leuer will have to knock down his shots for Wisconsin to make a run, but that should not be a problem as he scored nearly nineteen points a game this season.
6 St. John’s vs. 11 Gonzaga
Winner: St. John’s
The Red Storm of St. John’s has been a giant killer all season, defeating six teams in the top twenty-five. Led by point guard Dwight Hardy, the Johnnies can beat anyone when they are at full strength, as evident by their upset of number three ranked Duke on January 30th.
3 BYU vs. 14 Wofford
The Cougars, led by the nation’s leading scorer Jimmer Fredette, have made a return to college basketball prominence. Without a top-notch defender to shut down Fredette, the Terriers have no shot at winning this game.
7 UCLA vs. 10 Michigan State
Winner: Michigan State
Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartan’s always seem to make it to the big dance in March. The Spartans have made eight Final Fours in school history, and is always a dangerous when the tournament rolls around. The Bruins are having a down year and will fall to the Spartans in their first game.
2 Florida vs. 15 UCSB
Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators are finally back in college basketball’s upper echelon after a couple of sub-par seasons. After leading the Gators to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, Donovan began to rebuild the program around versatile players like Chandler Parsons. The Gators could be a threat late in the tournament, and will advance to the third round without a problem.
East Third Round
1 Ohio State vs. 8 George Mason
Winner: Ohio State
The Buckeyes are one of the most impressive teams in the tournament this year, and will stop former Cinderella George Mason dead in their tracks. Without a post defender to guard Jared Sullinger, the Patriots will fall in the third round.
5 West Virginia vs. 4 Kentucky
The Wildcats and Mountaineers are two teams with great perimeter scoring, but in the end the Wildcats athleticism will prevail. Led by Brandon Knight and Terrance Jones, the Wildcats will advance to their second consecutive Sweet Sixteen.
11 Marquette vs. 3 Syracuse
Scoop Jardine and the Orangemen are finally hitting their stride after a big second round victory. The Orangemen, however, lost to Marquette earlier in this season. With revenge on Syracuse’s mind, the Orangemen will prevail.
7 Washington vs. 2 North Carolina
Winner: North Carolina
One of the more interesting games in the tournament, the Huskies and Tar Heels both use speed and athleticism to overwhelm opponents. The matchup between Isaiah Thomas and Kendall Marshall will be key in the Tar Heels victory.
West Third Round
1 Duke vs. 8 Michigan
The Defending national champions face off against the up-and-coming Michigan Wolverines in a pivotal third round matchup. With Kyrie Irving back to his starting point guard spot, the Blue Devils will trounce the young Wolverines.
4 Texas vs. 5 Arizona
The Wildcats continue their magical run in the tournament against the Texas Longhorns. Derrick Williams and Tristan Thompson will be one of the more interesting matchups in the tournament. The Wildcats will get the win, as the Longhorns cap off a great season with a loss.
6 Cincinnati vs. 3 Connecticut
Kemba Walker continues to make his case for the nation’s best player in this Big East matchup. Cincinnati’s first round win seemed rather unexpected, and Connecticut’s speed and shooting will outlast the Bearcats in the end.
7 Temple vs. 2 SDSU
Kawhi Leonard and the Aztecs may not make it much further due to a difficult schedule, but will win this third round matchup. The Aztecs quickness and scoring will be too much for the Temple Owls to handle, as San Diego State keeps dancing.
Southwest Third Round
1 Kansas vs. 7 UNLV 9 Illinois
The Jayhawks are possibly the deepest team in the tournament, and will cause several matchup problems for the Fighting Illini. Freshman Josh Selby will have to step up, while Brady Morningstar will have to knock down his shots from outside for the Jayhawks to cruise into the Sweet Sixteen.
12 Richmond vs. 4 Louisville 13 Morehead State
Led by Justin Harper, the Spiders could end up as this year’s Cinderella team. Richmond will have to keep Kenneth Faried off of the boards, and lock down Demonte Harper to keep them in the game. Morehead State’s improbable second round victory was historic, but their tournament run ends against Richmond.
6 Georgetown 11 Virginia Commonwealth vs. 3 Purdue
The Rams and Boilermakers could be one of the better games of the tournament, as both teams can light up the scoreboard. VCU is quicker and more athletic than Purdue, but the Boilermaker’s inside scoring and power will outlast the Rams.
10 Florida State vs. 2 Notre Dame
Winner: Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish will have to knock down nearly all of their shots to defeat the number one total defense in Florida State. Ben Hansbrough will need to make the extra pass and lead the transition offense for the Irish to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Southeast Third Round
1 Pittsburgh vs. 8 Butler
After last seasons incredible run, the Butler Bulldogs are back. They have a nearly identical team, with their only loss in Gordon Hayward. Although he played a key role in their tournament run, he was not the entire team. Pittsburgh has a tendency to choke this time of year, and the Butler Bulldogs will be the team to knock them off.
4 Wisconsin vs. 5 Kansas State
Winner: Kansas State
Jacob Pullen is a deadly outside scorer, who will be difficult to contain. The Wisconsin Badgers are simply not quick enough to match up with the run-and-gun Kansas State guards. The Wildcats will get the win in a close one, and advance to their second consecutive Sweet Sixteen.
3 BYU vs. 6 St. John’s 11 Gonzaga
The battle between Gonzaga’s Stephen Gray and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette will be one of the most interesting in the tournament. Both players can score at will, but Jimmer is having a season for the ages. Fredette and the Cougar’s will get a big win in Denver and keep on dancing.
2 Florida vs. 10 Michigan State 7 UCLA
Ben Howland and the Bruins have had a roller-coaster season that has helped define them as a team. Tyler Honeycutt and company will need to light it up from beyond the arc, as the Gators are much quicker and can score more prolifically. Look for Irving Walker to come up big in a Gators victory.
East Sweet Sixteen
1 Ohio State vs. 4 Kentucky
Winner: Ohio State
Jared Sullinger r and the Ohio State Buckeyes have their hands full against Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. Sullinger should have no problem with Kentucky forward Josh Harrelson, while Brandon Knight could take over the game against the sub-par Buckeye perimeter defense. Sullinger and the Buckeyes should escape with the win in this one.
2 North Carolina vs. 3 Syracuse 11 Marquette
Winner: North Carolina
The Tar Heels were struggling early on this season, but finished strong with several wins; none bigger than their shellacking of their arch rival Duke. Forward John Henson will need to step up down low and grab rebounds, while Harrison Barnes will need to continue to provide the Tar Heels with clutch scoring down the stretch. The Golden Eagles have made a good run, but their season ends here.
West Sweet Sixteen
1 Duke vs. 5 Arizona
The Blue Devils and Wildcats are two teams that play very similarly. With arguably the best backcourt in the game, the Blue Devils will give the Wildcats fits up front, while Derrick Williams can abuse Kyle Singler or the Plumlee brothers down low. This game could go either way, but the Blue Devils will get the win in a game that goes down to the wire.
3 Connecticut vs. 2 San Diego State
Both the Huskies and the Aztecs are coming off of great regular seasons, and are led by two veteran coaches. Jim Calhoun and the Huskies will defeat the rather one-dimensional Aztecs in a blowout, while Kemba Walker continues to light up the box scores.
Southwest Sweet Sixteen
1 Kansas vs. 4 Louisville 12 Richmond
The Jayhawks, one of the more talented teams in the tournament, can shut down the opposition without problems and knock down their shots when they need to. The Richmond Spiders however, have made an impressive, unexpected run in the tournament, which will end in its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1988.
3 Purdue 11 Virginia Commonwealth vs. 2 Notre Dame 10 Florida State
Winner: Virginia Commonwealth
The Rams will use their speed and high-octane offense to their advantage, as the Florida State guards cannot cover Joey Rodriguez or Jamie Skeen. In a classic ten vs. eleven matchup, the Rams will outlast the Seminoles and advance to their first ever Elite Eight.
Southeast Sweet Sixteen
8 Butler vs. 5 Kansas State 4 Wisconsin
Shelvin Mack and the Butler Bulldogs will have to use their experience and scoring ability to knock off the Wisconsin Badgers in the Sweet Sixteen. Although the Badgers can hang with anyone when healthy, Butler’s experience and will-to-win will keep them alive for their second consecutive Elite Eight.
2 Florida vs. 3 BYU
The BYU Cougars, led by fan favorite Jimmer Fredette, are unfortunately extremely one-dimensional. If the Gators get to Jimmer early, the Cougars will not stand a chance. The Gators defense will shut down Jimmer and as a result blow out the BYU Cougars.
East Elite Eight
4 Kentucky vs. 2 North Carolina
Winner: North Carolina
After an absolutely awful season in which the Tar Heels made a great NIT run, they are finally back in college basketball’s elite. A battle between young teams will be a barnburner in the end as Brandon Knight and Harrison Barnes go back an forth in the Tar Heels victory.
West Elite Eight
3 Connecticut vs. 2 San Diego State
The Huskies will continue their dream season after a Big East tournament championship and a Final Four appearance for the first time since 2009. The Aztecs are just too one dimensional to hang with the fast paced Huskies, and it will show in defeat as the Huskies keep on dancing.
Southwest Elite Eight
1 Kansas vs. 11 Virginia Commonwealth
The Jayhawks and Rams are nearly polar opposites. One of the most storied basketball teams in the country vs. the “other team” from Richmond Virginia square off in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks experience and overall talent will end the Rams impressive post-season run.
Southeast Elite Eight
2 Florida vs. 8 Butler
The Gators and Bulldogs are two tenacious teams who play until the final whistle. Both teams get on the ground for loose balls and are scrappy enough to leave it all on the floor. In the end, the Gators talent will overwhelm the Bulldogs and they will advance to their first Final Four since 2007.
2 North Carolina 4 Kentucky vs. 3 Connecticut
Although John Wall and the Kentucky Wildcats had a great season last year, the 2010-2011 Wildcats are an even better team. Brandon Knight has carried the team in the final seconds of every game while Josh Harrellson has racked up the points down low. The Wildcats will look to Brandon Knight in the final seconds of this game, and will advance to the national championship for the eleventh time in school history.
1 Kansas 11 Virginia Commonwealth vs. 2 Florida 8 Butler
The Butler Bulldogs have captured the hearts of basketball fans all over again, while Virginia Commonwealth has become this year’s George Mason. The Rams have used their quickness to their advantage, but Shelvin Mack and the Butler frontcourt will neutralize them and advance to their second consecutive national championship.
4 Kentucky vs. 8 Butler
Coach John Calipari and the Wildcats will bring home the schools seventh national championship against America’s sweetheart Butler. While everyone is hanging on the edge of their seats, Mr. Clutch Brandon Knight will come through like he has so many times late in the game. Butler will get a clear shot at the basket and in Gordon Hayward fashion fall just short once again. The Bulldogs should not worry though, as I’m sure we will see them here again next year.