Christopher’s Picks: NCAA Tournament Second Round (Thursday)

Let the madness begin! The most exciting sporting event of the year really gets under way today and I decided to pick the games. For the second round, many of my picks are drawn straight from my bracket. But as the tournament goes on, I will probably vary from the bracket quite often.

As big of a fan as I am of football, soccer, MMA, etc. I just don’t see how their biggest events come close to March Madness. And the first day is exactly what makes the tournament so great. With sixteen games tipping off in ten hours, there’s overlap. And when you couple that with the upsets (that will undoubtedly come), well, that’s where the madness comes in.

Now I haven’t picked many upsets for today, which is strange considering the landscape of college basketball coming into the postseason. Throughout the season, we’ve seen numerous teams come and go from the discussion of “best team in the country”. Let it be clear that there’s no Kentucky this season – the title is literally up for grabs and if the regular season was any indicator, we could be in for some of the best action we’ve seen in years.

The intrigue is built up even more when looking at each region:

West: It’s wide-open. Not only is little being made about the top seeds (#1 Gonzaga, #3 New Mexico, #4 Kansas State), but many of the double-digit seeds (#10 Iowa State, #11 Belmont, #14 La Salle) seem to have what it takes to pull off a few upsets. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the Regional Final.

East: Indiana’s to lose, but they’ll have some stiff competition. Potential third and fourth round games against NC State and Syracuse/UNLV will certainly test the team that I believe is the best in the tournament. But looking at their side of the region, I don’t see Indiana falling before the Sweet Sixteen.

South: The 2013 NBA Draft region. Kansas guard Ben Macklemore, Georgetown forward Otto Porter, and UCLA center Shabazz Muhammad are all seen as Top 10 prospects according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. Throw in Michigan guard and National Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke and there’s plenty of star power to be found here.

Midwest: Stacked. Stacked. Stacked. Take the top overall seed Louisville, add Duke and Michigan State, then throw in a few possible Cinderella teams in Saint Mary’s and Creighton and you’ve got one hell of a region. That’s not even mentioning the “Giant Killing” qualities of Colorado State, Mizzou, and Cincinnati.

Five Last-Minute Tips For Filling Out Your Bracket

  1. This year’s go to upset may be the 6-11. The three highest odds for upsets this year come from a 6 vs. 11 game. Many feel that #11 Minnesota knocking off #6 UCLA is nearly inevitable at 74 percent.
  2. #1 Seeds are still a long shot to lose in the second round. Don’t let the parity in college basketball this year fool you – there’s still virtually no shot of a 16 beating a 1.
  3. High bid conferences are a relatively safe pick for deep tournament runs. It’s usually a safe move to pencil at least one team from the top bid conferences into the Elite Eight or Final Four. The Big Ten and Big East are likely to send teams far, the question is what teams?
  4. When in doubt, choose schools with histories of deep runs. Some schools just know how to advance. Think Michigan State and Syracuse most years – it’s rare to see them make a tournament exit prior to the Sweet Sixteen.
  5. Balance on both ends of the floor is the safest bet. If you want to know why Pittsburgh is such a popular pick to get to the Final Four, it’s their balance. They don’t live or die by one side of the ball.

A few other things before we pick. First off, the odds are you know what channel CBS, TBS, and TNT are on your television. But to save you a little time today, the channel guide for truTV is in the top-right corner of the website. Enter your zip code, find your provider, and voila. You can also watch live on your computer as well as replays of games.

(3) Michigan State over (14) Valparaiso (12:15pm, CBS)

It seems like every year, Tom Izzo’s Spartans are built to last deep into the tournament. They haven’t received the fanfare this season, but I expect their defense to step up and force turnover-prone Valparaiso team to make mistakes.

(6) Butler over (11) Bucknell (12:40pm, truTV)

It may be tough to contain Bucknell’s Mike Muscala in the middle, but like Michigan State, winning in March has been second nature to the Bulldogs as of late.

(8) Pittsburgh over (9) Wichita State (1:40pm, TBS)

A strong defense led by center Steven Adams has many thinking Final Four for Pitt. It may not be easy, but I expect them to ease by Wichita State.

(4) Saint Louis over (13) New Mexico State (2:10pm, TNT)

The Billikens won’t wow you on either side of the ball, but they’re careful with the basketball and have great balance on offense. Getting over New Mexico State may not be hard, but they’ll have to show that they’re worthy of a #4 seed.

(11) Saint Mary’s over (6)Memphis (2:45pm, CBS)

The Gaels are ranked as one of ESPN Insider’s top “Giant Killers” of the tournament. Star Matthew Dellavedova is a big reason for that and they’ll need lots of him to pull it off.

(3) Marquette over (14) Davidson (3:10pm, truTV)

Another high seed that hasn’t garnered much attention are the Golden Eagles of Marquette. They’ll need to prove themselves in this tournament, but unless Stephen Curry comes back I don’t see Davidson posing much of a threat.

(1) Gonzaga over (16) Southern (4:10pm, TBS)

The West Region is just full of “mystery” teams and the No. 1 seed is the most perplexing of the bunch. Their regular season schedule left much to be desired, so the jury is out on whether they win string together a few wins. But this one will be a breeze.

(5) Oklahoma State over (12) Oregon (4:40pm, TNT)

A lot is being made about Oregon being seeded so low, despite winning the Pac-12 tournament. The 5-12 upset is a popular choice among bracketologists, but this isn’t the one to choose. Oklahoma State’s trio of Marcus Smart, LeBryan Nash, and Markel Brown should put up enough points to win this.

(1) Louisville over (16) North Carolina A&T (6:50pm, CBS)

Easy choice. Louisville is on fire and North Carolina A&T won’t stand a chance.

(4) Michigan over (13) San Diego State (7:15pm, truTV)

Remember how hot Michigan started off this season (16-0 to be exact)? If they can recapture half of that form, they could easily find themselves in the Elite Eight. Trey Burke will likely be too much for the Aztecs to stop.

(11) Belmont over (6) Arizona (7:20pm, TBS)

Arizona ended the season on a very sub-par note. Plus, they have trouble defending the three. This could spell doom for them. Originally had the them winning, but Belmont’s seniors and great shooting percentage all over the court have forced my hand. I’m taking the Bruins.

(5) UNLV over (12) California (7:27pm, truTV)

Did I mention that I don’t like any of the 5-12’s this year? Well regardless, this one is a treat: a rematch in which the Runnin’ Rebels escaped with a one-point victory earlier in the season. Just wait until you see UNLV forward Anthony Bennett play.

(8) Colorado State over (9) Missouri (9:20pm, TBS)

Two more potential “Giant Killers” facing off should be quite the treat. But if Colorado State can keep it close in the first half, I believe their stellar rebounding and low turnover rate should give them the edge here. Either team could be a handful for Louisville next round.

(5) VCU over (12) Akron (9:45pm, CBS)

Akron’s without their starting point guard and leading assist man, Alex Abreu, after his suspension due to a drug incident. This also isn’t the 5-12 upset to choose. The Rams should wipe the floor with Akron.

(3) New Mexico over (14) Harvard (9:50pm, TNT)

The Lobos are another West Region team looking to make a formal introduction to the rest of college basketball. Harvard has made it to their second consecutive tournament, but unfortunately, they’ll likely be one-and-done again.

(4) Syracuse over (13) Montana (9:57pm, truTV)

This Orange teams doesn’t seem nearly as heralded as Jim Boeheim-led teams of the past, but they have the leadership and experience to go pretty far in the East Region. The odds are stacked in their favor here.

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