Rothstein: Friday’s NCAA Tournament Primer; Picks, Best Bet For An Upset & More
By Jon Rothstein
BEST GAME: NORTH CAROLINA VS. VILLANOVA
Two storied programs. Two teams with freshman point guards. Sounds delicious, right? The Tarheels have been a different squad offensively since they went to a smaller lineup, but Villanova has been really good this season at bringing their opponents into the mud. The Wildcats are not a vintage Jay Wright team, but they’re incredibly tough and have great role allocation. For Villanova to win, they have to find a way to contain P.J. Hairston, whose scored 21 or more points in three of his last five games.
BEST BET FOR AN UPSET: LA SALLE OVER KANSAS STATE
I’ve been saying all season long that the Explorers have the most underrated backcourt in college basketball, and they showed their capabilities in the First Four against Boise State. The Explorers shot over 60 percent from the field in their victory over the Broncos, something that will be hard to replicate against Kansas State. Beating the Wildcats in Kansas City presents a daunting challenge for La Salle, but John Giannini’s team matches up fairly well with their next opponent. Like Kansas State, the Explorers play a four-out, one-in type of approach, and always have great spacing on offense. It says here that the team from Philadelphia has at least one more win left in the tank.
BEST UPSET TO AVOID PICKING: NORTHWESTERN STATE OVER FLORIDA
The Demons may play 10 guys and operate at a frenetic pace, but there’s no way they’re going to shock the Gators. There are few things that are known commodities in March but one is Billy Donovan. The Gators are too experienced, too skilled, and too savvy to lose this game.
BEST STORYLINE: CREIGHTON VS. CINCINNATI
The Bluejays are ecstatic to be in the new Big East. The Bearcats are angry they’re still in the old Big East. Creighton can score. Cincinnati can guard. If this game breaks 65, the Bluejays march on. If it’s a rock fight, Mick Cronin’s squad should advance to the round of 32 for a potential meeting with Duke.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF….
Iona pushes Ohio State. This game may be being played in Dayton, but the Gaels can fill it up and have one of the better offensive back courts in the country in Momo Jones and Sean Armand. Ohio State has been terrific defensively of late, especially since they started playing Shannon Scott next to Aaron Craft — but they’re still not a great offensive team. If Iona makes some shots early on, this one could very interesting.
Duke over Albany
Wisconsin over Ole Miss
Temple over NC State
Miami over Pacific
Cincinnati over Creighton
La Salle over Kansas State
Indiana over James Madison
Colorado over Illinois
Georgetown over Florida Gulf Coast
Ohio State over Iona
North Carolina over Villanova
Florida over Northwestern State
Oklahoma over San Diego State
Notre Dame over Iowa State
Kansas over Western Kentucky
Minnesota over UCLA
What’s your bracket-busting pick of the day? Be heard in the comments!