First of all if you want to play along with the BGS Crew join this ESPN League:
The password is bgsbracket. Also, I cannot stress enough that this is not a bracket building piece. I’m not here to help you win your pool. I’m here to preview the tournament.
Most Interesting Match Ups of the First Round
These games offer the possibility of exciting and close match-ups in the first round, unlike Kentucky and Manhattan/Hampton. I know that Hampton won. But it doesn’t matter who wins that game; those teams are interchangeable cannon fodder. Calipari’s death machine (or should I say “depth machine” ha!) will eviscerate one and or both of them. Also, all of the 8/9 seed games will probably be good, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. If for some reason you can only pick three games to watch, here are some good choices.
Butler vs Texas – I am really surprised at how well Post-Brad Stevens-Butler has done. But after having one forgettable season last year in which they finished 9th in the East, first-year Coach Chris Holtman has them tied for second and nationally ranked. I’m not saying the guy is the next Stevens, Matta, or Collier, but he has done very well so far. Just when you think Butler is done, they promote some assistant you have never heard of to head coach and make the Sweet Sixteen. Butler plays lock down defense and has the most rebounds in the Big East, but they face a Texas team that is bigger and has more star power.
Texas is even better on defense than Butler–they’re holding opponents to a stingy .368 shooting percentage–anchored by a pair of forwards in Myles Turner and Jonathon Holmes. Turner, an NBA-bound freshman, has been one of the best defensive players in the country this year, as he’s top 10 in block percentage and top 20 in defensive rating. Turner has been good on the offensive end too, putting up 11 points and 6 rebounds a game, while being a very efficient. Holmes, a four-year starter, has been very effective on the offensive glass, solid on defense, and almost as good a scorer as Turner. However, if one player from Texas is going to take over the game, my money is on play-making guard Isaiah Taylor. Taylor is as inconsistent as they come, but has had huge games against tournament competition like Kansas (twice) and Iowa State (twice) and Oklahoma State (once). He’s also had some terrible games against awful teams like Texas Tech (Twice) and TCU, though. With Wildcard Taylor it seems like you either get 16 – 23 points, 7-10 assists and a win, or 5-10 points, 3-6 turnovers and a loss. This game is the most likely to have the lowest combined score of the first round as two defensive juggernauts try desperately to get the ball in the basket. It should be a close, entertaining battle that’s won or lost in the paint.
VCU vs Ohio State – Thad Matta and Shaka Smart, two of the best coaches in basketball, face off in the first round. Both have career win percentages of about 75% and both have been to the Final Four, though neither has ever won the big one. This should be the best game of the first round and it’s almost sad we have to see one of these teams leave early. VCU will be running its havoc system which relies on a fast-paced, up-tempo game plan that generates tons of possessions. The press VCU runs on defense generates the fourth most turnovers in the NCAA. This, along with its speedy motion-weave offense, produces the second most extra scoring chances per game in the NCAA. Ohio State pushes the pace in terms of possessions per game, but still doesn’t run the floor at tempo with Smart’s Rams.
Ohio State’s chances hinge on freshman superstar D’Angelo Russell. Russell has been one of the best players in the country this season and ranks in the top 10 in NCAA win shares. This comes largely from his offense, as Russell is ranked in the top 20 in points produced per game and offensive win shares. A big part of his game is his deadly three point shot, which he hits at a blistering 42% rate. If D’Angelo goes off and Ohio State slows VCU down an upset is very possible, but if VCU is allowed to push the pace to breakneck speeds, Ohio State won’t be able to keep up. Either way, this is must watch TV.
Iowa vs Davidson – Davidson could be one of the most fun teams in the country if you are into three point shooting, run and gun, high-scoring offenses. They play a four guard line up with a 6′-7″ “big man”. To put that in perspective, Kentucky doesn’t have a forward or center on their roster that is that small. Davidson gets over 40% of its total points from three pointers–the fourth highest rate in the NCAA. Davidson also has has the sixth highest points per game. They are coming off of a ten game win streak, where they destroyed opponents by an average of 15 points and blew out VCU by 27 points. Unfortunately, that streak came to an end when VCU handed them a 20 point blowout in the conference tournament.
Iowa, on the other hand, is a very good defensive team. They hold opponents to 62 PPG on 39% shooting. They are led by forward Aaron White, who is a beast of a two-way player. White’s net rating of +39.4 is one of the best in the nation, highlighted by a defensive rating of 93.3. While they won’t have the firepower of Davidson, being able to lean on an interior anchor like White should help in cutting down some of the slash and kick three’s the Wildcats’ four guard offense generates.
UCLA vs SMU – This game is going to be close, even though UCLA fell ass-backwards into the tournament
Ole Miss vs Xavier – Ole Miss provided a look at what they can do when they catch fire in the second half of the BYU game. Don’t count them out of this one until the final buzzer.
Buffalo vs West Virginia – They are two of the fastest teams in the NCAA, and thus dominate possession-based stats. Buffalo has one of the best chances to pull an upset per 538 bracket odds, but when two teams have similar play styles you have to go with the more talented one right?
13’s vs 4’s – I think this year 13 v 4 upset becomes the new 12 v 5 upset. The 5th seeds just have better match ups in the first round. Valparaiso, UC Irvine, and Eastern Washington could give Maryland, Louisville, and Georgetown some trouble.
These are games you wouldn’t think to watch, but could be fun for a variety of reasons.
Georgia State vs Baylor – I think GSU is criminally under-seeded. This team has some serious talent transferred from Power 5 schools in Ryan Harrow (Kentucky), Kevin Ware (Louisville), and Curtis Washington (USC). They also have a fantastic home-grown player in RJ Hunter, who has been shooting up NBA draft boards recently and will likely be drafted in the first round.
LaFayette vs Villanova – Watch for Lafayette’s Dan Trist. He’s a volume shooter who makes almost 60% of his shots and is ranked top 20 in Player Efficiency Rating.
SFA vs Utah – You probably only get one nationally televised game a year of SFA’s beautifully efficient offense. Savor it.
Eastern Wash. vs Georgetown – Tyler Harvey is one of the best offensive players in the country. Look for him to take over and put in a fantastic losing effort (or be the reason Eastern Wash. squeaks by).
Belmont vs UVA – Belmont’s Reece Chamberlain is an assist wizard and Evan Bradds leads the nation in field goal percentage.
That wraps up this Thursday and Friday! Good luck with your pool and have fun watching some good basketball!