March Madness 2015 Predictions: East Region- Tuesday, March 17th
Round of 64 picks(1) Villanova over (16) Lafayette
Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon played guard for Villanova and even coaches Villanova's players in an alumni game each summer. As Villanova coach Jay Wright notes, O'Hanlon "knows everything about us, inside and out," but that won't be enough for the 23-point underdogs.
(8) North Carolina State over (9) LSU
LSU has a talented front court with Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, but N.C. State has a trio of guards -- Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Anthony Barber -- averaging more than 12 points per game.
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(5) Northern Iowa over (12) Wyoming
The last time Northern Iowa made the NCAA Tournament, they pulled off an upset of No. 1-seeded Kansas in 2010. This year, they will have to fend off a tough Wyoming team with Larry Nance Jr. to avoid a (common) 12-over-5 upset, but I think Northern Iowa could go deep in the brackets this year.
(4) Louisville over (13) UC-Irvine
The duo of guard Terry Rozier (17.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and Montrezl Harrell (15.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG) will be too much for UC-Irvine, who is 0-2 versus tournament teams.
(6) Providence over (11) Dayton
Playing in front of their fans, Dayton should beat Boise State in their play-in game for the right to face Providence. The Friars have one of the better point guards in the nation with Kris Dunn, who ranks second in the nation in assists (7.6/G) and fourth in steals (2.8/G).
(3) Oklahoma over (14) Albany
Peter Hooley's three-pointer at the buzzer (see video) was one of the magical moments already this month that makes college basketball in March unbelievable. Unfortunately, the magic will end for the Great Danes against the Sooners, who have four players averaging double figures including Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield.
(7) Michigan State over (10) Georgia
Spartans coach Tom Izzo's nephew is Georgia's operations coordinator, which adds an interesting wrinkle to this matchup. Although Michigan State has 11 losses this season, they just beat Maryland and took Wisconsin to overtime (although they blew an 11-point lead in the second half). Don't ever count out Izzo to make a run in March despite the low seed.
(2) Virginia over (15) Belmont
Two of Virginia's three losses on the season have come in their past three games, but they should advance easily against Belmont.
Round of 32 picks(8) North Carolina State over (1) Villanova
Before their blowout loss to Duke last Thursday, the Wolfpack were 3-3 against top-15 opponents in their previous six games. Not only did they beat Louisville, North Carolina and Duke, but all three of their top-15 losses were decided by four points or less including a three-point overtime loss to Notre Dame. Based on my brackets, Villanova is the first No. 1 seed to get knocked off.
(5) Northern Iowa over (4) Louisville
There are seven teams in the nation that rank in the top 20 of both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency (via kenpom.com). Northern Iowa is one of those seven teams and Villanova is the only other team in this bracket with that distinction.
(6) Providence over (3) Oklahoma
The Sooners have won just seven of 16 games this season that were played on the road or at neutral sites. After a three-year tournament hiatus, the Sooners have been one-and-done in each of the past two years with losses to North Dakota State (2014) and San Diego State (2013).
(7) Michigan State over (2) Virginia
As noted earlier, the Cavaliers have lost two of their past three games and they haven't looked the same without Justin Anderson, who has recently returned from a broken pinky and appendectomy. In his two games back, Anderson has played a total of 26 minutes and has missed all six of his shot attempts. Virginia plays great defense and they will keep it close, but Izzo and the Spartans advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth season in a row.
Sweet SixteenAmong my brackets, this has the most early upsets with all four teams in the Sweet Sixteen outside the top-four seeds.
(5) Northern Iowa over (9) North Carolina State
Senior Seth Tuttle is having a great season for the Panthers and he should become more of a household name after the tournament. On the year, Tuttle is averaging 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 61.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.
(7) Michigan State over (6) Providence
As noted by ESPN's Stats & Info, the Friars have been inconsistent and rank 94th in net efficiency, which ranks them lowest among any top-10 seeds in the tournament. Facing a team like Michigan State that seems to be surging at the right time, I like the Spartans to advance here.
Elite Eight(7) Michigan State over (5) Northern Iowa
The last time Northern Iowa made the tournament was 2010 (as noted earlier). While they beat UNLV and Kansas to get to the Sweet Sixteen that year, they faced (and lost to) Michigan State in the regional semifinal. Will it be déjà vu all over again? Sparty advances to the Final Four.
-> 2015 March Madness Final Four Predictions
-> Other brackets: South Region - Midwest Region - West Region
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