Over the past few days we here at Skyway Shoutout have previewed 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 your March Madness 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 ROUND GAMES
(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (16) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Friday, March 21st @ 9:25 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: After winning the regular season ACC title, Virginia capped off a 28-6 (16-2) season with a victory over Duke in the conference championship game. The Chanticleers (21-12, 11-5) punched their ticket to March Madness by winning the Big South over Winthrop.
Analysis: What the f#*& is a Chanticleer? The folks at Coastal Carolina knew you’d be asking yourself that, and they were kind enough to provide an in-depth explanation on their athletic website. While I appreciate originality, this feels like a school just trying to be different for the sake of being different. They should just call themselves the Coastal Carolina Hipsters. Cavs roll.
(8) Memphis Tigers vs. (9) George Washington Colonials
Friday, March 21st @ 6:55 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: Memphis (23-9, 12-6) received an at-large bid into the Dance after falling to UConn in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals. George Washington (24-8, 11-5) received an at-large bid out of the Atlantic 10, one of six A-10 teams participating in March Madness
Analysis: If I can be honest, this is a pretty boring match-up. Nothing about this game jumps out at me other than the fact it is boring. These are two extremely evenly matched teams that rank 40 and 41 on kenpom.com. Vegas favors Memphis by 3, but I couldn’t care less who wins. I’ll take GW because he was an awesome president.
(5) Cincinnati Bearcats vs. (12) Harvard Crimson
Thursday, March 20th @ 2:10 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: The Bearcats (27-6, 15-3) received an at-large bid out of the AAC, losing to UConn in the conference semifinals. Harvard (26-4) finish with a 13-1 record in the Ivy League to clinch the automatic bid.
Analysis: Of Harvard’s four losses on the year, three of them came by 8 points or less. This includes a 5 point loss at UConn and an early 8 point loss at Colorado. They are the upset darling among many of the talking heads, with very few people paying attention to Sean Kilpatrick, the Bearcats senior guard who is averaging over 20 points per game. The Crimson’s defense will give Kilpatrick some trouble, and will prove enough to spark the upset.
(4) Michigan State Spartans vs. (13) Delaware Fightin Blue Hens
Thursday, March 20th @ 4:40 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: The Michigan State Spartans are your 2014 Big 10 conference tournament champions after a 26-8 (12-6) season. The Fightin Blue Hens of Delaware (25-9, 14-2) beat Bill & Mary to win the Colonial Athletic Conference.
Analysis: Sparty began the season on an 18-1 run, only to slip up during conference play. However, they’ve come on strong in the past few weeks, thrashing in-state rival Michigan in the Big 10 title game. Delaware presents an interesting threat in that the Hens have three scorers averaging over 18 points per game. It’s tough to bet against Tom Izzo in March, so I’m not going to this round. Joe Flacco’s alma mater exits early.
(6) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (11) Providence Friars
Friday, March 21st @ 7:20 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: North Carolina was ousted early in the ACC tournament after a 23-9 (13-5) season. Providence (23-11, 10-8) is the surprise Big East champions after upsetting Creighton in the finals at Madison Square Garden.
Analysis: After going on a 12 game winning streak late in the season, the Tar Heels enter March Madness on a two game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Friars are riding a surprising three game win streak and have won six of seven since their double overtime loss against Villanova in mid-February. Regardless of each team’s recent trends, North Carolina is the better team and will advance to play on Sunday.
(3) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (14) North Carolina Central Eagles
Friday, March 21st @ 9:50 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: The Cyclones (26-7, 11-7) enter March Madness as Big 12 champions after a solid run through the conference tournament. North Carolina Central are winners of the MEAC conference tournament, capping off a 28-5 (15-1) season.
Analysis: The Eagles are one of four teams from North Carolina to make the NCAA tournament, and they enter the round of 64 with one of the top defenses in the country (58.5 points per game). Senior guard Jeremy Ingram is averaging over 20 points per game for the Eagles, but unfortunately, that is where the offensive fire power ends. The Cyclones battled through a tough start to Big 12 play and are armed with four players averaging double digit points. Their 83 points per game ranks them 6th in the country, and that should be enough for them to avoid the upset.
(7) UConn Huskies vs. (10) St. Joseph’s Hawks
Thursday, March 20th @ 6:55 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: UConn lost to Louisville in the inaugural AAC title game, capping off a 26-8 (12-6) season for the Huskies. St. Joe’s (24-9, 11-5) enter the Big Dance as winners of the A-10 conference tournament, beating VCU to take the title.
Analysis: Shabazz Napier, senior guard for the Huskies, is one of the most fun players in the country to watch. He dabbles in a little bit of everything, averaging 17 points per game, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. St. Joe’s will have to contain Napier if they want to advance to the weekend, but the general consensus appears to be leaning towards UConn. Vegas opened the line with the Huskies favored by 4; since then, the line has moved to UConn -5.5, which is significant in less than a week. Huskies and Napier advance.
(2) Villanova Wildcats vs. (15) Milwaukee Panthers
Thursday, March 20th @ 9:25 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: Villanova (28-4, 16-2) was upset in their first game of the Big East tournament by Seton Hall, yet still held on to secure a #2 seed. The Milwaukee Panthers (21-13, 7-9) earned their way into the tournament with a Horizon conference championship after finishing the regular season with a losing conference record.
Analysis: Something doesn’t seem right about Villanova in my opinion. Personally, I don’t view them as one of the top 8 teams in the country and thus, I believe they are over seeded. They played 11 games against tournament teams this season, going 8-3 in those match-ups. Their best win was a 4 point victory over Kansas early in the year on a neutral floor. However, they were blown out in their three losses, losing to Syracuse by 16 and Creighton twice (28, 21). Their other 7 victories are padded by three wins against teams that have already been eliminated (Mount St. Mary’s & Xavier twice), and by this point, hopefully you get the point that I’m not sold on the Wildcats. Plus, Jay Wright’s acting career is off to a rocky start with his terrible Dove commercial. They’ll get past the Panthers, but I’m not even sure about that.
Click the NEXT button to check out the Second Round games.