Over the next few days we here at Skyway Shoutout will be previewing each region of the NCAA Tournament, providing predictions for each game with a bit of analysis sprinkled in the mix. This will culminate with a Final Four and National Champion prediction. For those of you who are desperate enough to use this analysis as your source of truth for filling out your bracket, we’ll offer up one stipulation. If, by any chance, you use our bracket predictions and analysis to win a pick ‘em pool, we’d ask that you please feel free to donate a portion of your winnings to our Adult Spring Break 2K14 slush fund (The plan is to attend the Masters). Or you can be selfish and slap the hand that feeds you. It’s totally up to you.
First up is the heartland of America, home to thick-ankled, corn-fed, farm-bred athletes that call the fly-over states home. Yep, you guessed it, the Midwest Region. Interestingly enough, three of the four play-in games impact the Midwest bracket, so we’ll start with a preview of the mid-week action in Dayton.
(12) North Carolina State University Wolfpack vs. (12) Xavier Musketeers
Tuesday, March 18 @ 9:10 p.m. on truTV
How They Got Here: NC State finished 21-13 (9-9) in the ACC, losing to the Duke Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Xavier finished 21-12 (10-8) in the Big East, falling to the Creighton Blue Jays in the conference semifinals.
Analysis: The longer fans get to watch ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren, the more exciting this tournament will be. Warren can put on prolific scoring runs, similar to Kemba Walker and Steph Curry in years past. NC State advances.
(16) Cal Poly Mustangs vs. (16) Texas Southern Tigers
Wednesday, March 19 @ 6:40 p.m. on truTV
How They Got Here: Cal Poly went 13-19 (6-10) in the Big West this season, earning their trip to the dance with a victory over Cal State Northridge in the conference finals. Texas Southern punched their ticket by winning the SWAC, going 19-14 (12-6) on the season.
Analysis: The Tigers enter the tournament as the lowest ranked team in the bracket per Ken Pomeroy’s Pythagorean metric, so don’t let the difference in their records fool you. Vegas has the Mustangs favored by 3 points and when you know nothing about either team, it’s usually best to side with the experts. Cal Poly for the win.
(11) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (11) Tennessee Volunteers
Wednesday, March 19 @ 9:10 p.m. on truTV
How They Got Here: Iowa (20-12, 9-9 Big Ten) opened the season as one of the hottest teams in the country, starting 15-3. Unfortunately for Hawkeye nation, seasons last longer than 18 games, and the team only won 5 more games on the year. The Volunteers lost to the Florida Gators in the SEC semifinals, finishing the season with a 21-12 (11-7) record. An up and down season for the Vols included losses to UTEP and Texas A&M, as well as a blowout win over Virginia.
Analysis: Iowa enters the tournament with a top 5 offense per Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, scoring 82 points per game and dominating the glass (40.7 rebounds per game). This game should make for a great matchup underneath, as Tennessee can match their play on the offensive glass (38.8 RPG). The Volunteers enter Wednesday night only allowing 61.1 points per game. This matchup is essentially a coin flip (Vegas agrees), but the edge goes Tennessee, because this author has an SEC bias…DEAL WITH IT!
Click the NEXT button to check out the First Round games.