Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday's NCAA Tournament preview and picks

(9) Butler vs. (8) LSU in Greensboro, N.C. (LSU by 3)
The Tigers were one of the nation's best-kept secrets with new coach Trent Johnson but were seeded low because the SEC got no respect this year. Tasmin Mitchell is one of the better scoring guards in the country and the Tigers will have enough to get past the young Bulldogs. LSU 67, Butler 61

(15) CS Northridge vs. (2) Memphis in Kansas City, Mo. (Mem by 19 1/2)
This could get ugly because the Matadors have overcome so much adversity just to make it to this point and the early start along with Memphis' press could take them out early. Look for a big game from Tyreke Evans. Memphis 86, CSUN 61

(9) Texas A&M vs. (8) Brigham Young in Philadelphia (BYU by 2)
Didn't these teams play last year? The answer is yes, and the NCAA shouldn't have matched them up again in the first round. But the Aggies are scrappy and balanced while the Cougars depends on NBA prospect Lee Cummard and a trio of outside shooters. BYU's experience edge the Aggies. BYU 61, Texas A&M 58.

(12) Northern Iowa vs. (5) Purdue in Portland (Pur by 8)
Don't sleep on the Panthers, who used an 11-game winning streak to win the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament. The Boilers will have to grind in this one but the Panthers are going to pull off the upset. Northern Iowa 63, Purdue 60.

(16) Radford vs. (1) North Carolina in Greensboro, N.C. (N.C. by 26 1/2)
The Highlanders can score, so that will make this game entertaining for a while. And while the Tarheels will likely be without Ty Lawson, they should have plenty enough to win a fun game to watch. UNC 103, Radford 84.

(10) Maryland vs. (7) California in Kansas City, Mo. (Cal by 1)
The most competitive game of the day will be a battle of perimeter teams with very little in the paint. The question is who wins the battle between Jerome Randle and Greivis Vasquez. The Bears have more balance and if Vasquez misfires, then the Terps could be in trouble. Cal 70, Maryland 67.

(16) Chattanooga vs. (1) Connecticut in Philadelphia (Conn by 20 1/2)
UConn coach Jim Calhoun said the 16-1 upset is coming and it is indeed approaching. But the Huskies are going to be a mean bunch after losing a 4-13 matchup to San Diego last season. There is no way it happens again. UConn 78, Chattanooga 61.

(13) Mississippi State vs. (4) Washington in Portland (Wash by 5)
Mississippi State is seeded way too low for an SEC Tournament champion but the Huskies are way too physical for the athletic Bulldogs, who don't have a lot of size. Over-under on Jarvis Varnado blocked shots is 4 1/2. He will be impressive but the Huskies will win. UW 70, Miss. State 63.

(10) Minnesota vs. (7) Texas in Greensboro, N.C. (Tex by 4)
The Longhorns could be in for a long tournament run because they have major talent and a veteran scorer in A.J. Abrams. Minnesota is basically led by Lawrence Westbrook and is used to winning ugly Big 10 games. This is a bad matchup for the Gophers. Texas 77, Minnesota 66.

(10) Michigan vs. (7) Clemson in Kansas City, Mo. (Clem by 5 1/2)
The Tigers are a dangerous team because they have so many athletes and play an exhausting full-court press and also have rugged Trevor Booker in the paint. Michigan is back in the tourney after a long absence and its stay will be short. Clemson 71, Michigan 58.

(14) American vs. (3) Villanova in Philadelphia (Villa by 17)
Villanova is a strong team and it also gets to play at home for the first two rounds. That's too much for the Eagles to overcome, although Seattle native Garrison Carr will be a fun player to watch. Villanova 67, American 53.

(13) Akron vs. (4) Gonzaga in Portland (Gonz by 12 1/2)
The Zips were precariously close to losing to 12-seeded Toledo in the first round of the MAC Tournament and probably are a little over their heads. Gonzaga is a motivated team and doesn't want to go out early -- again. Gonzaga 63, Akron 54.

(15) Binghamton vs. (2) Duke in Greensboro, N.C. (Duke by 21 1/2)
Duke will be motivated for this game because the Blue Devils don't want any hints of vulnerability so early in the tournament. A player looking to make a national name for himself will be Binghamton's D.J. Rivera, who led the America East in scoring. Duke 78, Binghamton 62.

(15) Morgan State vs. (2) Oklahoma in Kansas City, Mo. (Okla by 16 1/2)
Todd Bozeman's Bears won't be intimidated because of a challenge schedule that took them all the way to Seattle to play Washington. The Sooners haven't made major noise in the tournament in years and Blake Griffin will want to go out a winner. OU 86, Morgan State 69.

(11) Virginia Commonwealth vs. (6) UCLA in Philadelphia (UCLA by 7)
Don't fall for the trendy pick of VCU. UCLA is a much better team than it showed late in the season and its style is difficult to face for first-timers. The Eric Maynor-Darren Collison matchup will draw droves of NBA scouts. UCLA 69, VCU 63.

(12) Western Kentucky vs. (5) Illinois in Portland (Ill. by 4 1/2)
How many times can you say Orlando Mendez-Valdez fast? He will become a familiar name if the Hilltoppers make another tournament run and the Illini is quite vulnerable without key guard Chester Frazier. WKU 65, Illinois 64.