When making your final selection for one of your many brackets, it can be immensely difficult to come to a consensus as there are a plethora of analysts that have varying opinions on the ultimate outcome of each matchup. Honestly, regardless of how well versed you feel when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of college basketball, nothing can prepare you for the sheer madness that is about to come. With that being said, it can be helpful to have insight into some of the programs that are fairly obscure as knowing just enough about these underdogs can be the difference between winning and losing in your respective tournament pool. Regardless of who you decide to trust or what unconventional methods you decide to utilize to feel comfortable with your final selections, it is essential to enjoy this exciting tournament for what it is: an unpredictable mess that is worth viewing and enjoying even if your bracket becomes busted within the first weekend.
Oklahoma Sooners (10) vs. Rhode Island Rams (7)
As we have seen this season, the Sooners success is completely predicated on how well Trae Young is able to play. With an abominably bad defense, the Sooners will need to score early and often to move on to the next round. However, the Rams possess a resilient defense that is adept at snatching the basketball away from their opponent. Relying on just their streaky offense for success, the Sooners chances against a much more well-balanced Rhode Island program seems like nothing more than a pipe dream.
Final Score: Sooners 74 Rams 78 Spread: Rhode Island -2.0
Wright State Raiders (14) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (3)
Although you may not know much about the Raiders, they are actually an exceptional defensive program (65.7 PAPG) that is reliant on their opportunistic ball snatchers to garner extra opportunities that they desperately need to score points (seven SPG). Similar to the Raiders, the Volunteers are also adept defensively but are far better at hitting their perimeter shots, which is the catalyst for their scoring success more often than not. Without a potent offense of any kind, the Raiders will struggle mightily to keep up with a Volunteers program that has several strong rebounders and shooters.
Final Score: Raiders 68 Volunteers 78 Spread: Tennessee -12.5
UNC Greensboro Spartans (13) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (4)
One of the most efficient defenses in college basketball (62.4 PAPG), the Spartans are relentless when it comes to forcing their opponents to take ill-advised shots. However, they have not faced a team with the athletes and dynamic capabilities that the Bulldogs possess. Ultimately, it will be the Bulldogs exceptional rebounding ways (39.9 RPG), that will render the Spartans elite defense irrelevant in this contest.
Final Score: Spartans 67 Bulldogs 83 Spread: Gonzaga -12.5
Pennsylvania Quakers (16) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (1)
Traditionally, Ivy League programs have had some success in the NCAA Tournament, if only in the earlier rounds. Efficient on both offense and defense, the Quakers are capable of making this particular contest interesting in the first half because of their multi-dimensional ways. However, against the high-powered offense of the Jayhawks (81.5 PPG), the Quakers will ultimately succumb to a team that is far more talented than they are.
Final Score: Quakers 70 Jayhawks 101 Spread: Kansas -13.5
Iona Gaels (15) vs. Duke Blue Devils (2)
Incredibly bad on defense, the Gaels rely on their capable perimeter shooters and strong free throw shooting abilities to keep them competitive. Although they move the ball fairly well (16 APG), they will have a difficult time doing so against a Blue Devil defense that has been far better recently. Combine that with Duke’s size and deadly sharpshooters and the Gaels will need to play out of their minds to even stand a chance of pulling off the upset here.
Final Score: Gaels 65 Blue Devils 85 Spread: Duke -19.5
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (11) vs. Miami Hurricanes (6)
One of the most overlooked programs in college basketball, the Ramblers are far better than their points per game number would indicate (72.4 PPG). Shooting 50.7% from the field, the Ramblers are incredibly efficient at finding their shots and making them consistently. Although the Hurricanes have a capable defense, their shooting issues, particularly from the free throw line (66.3 FT%) will prevent them from overcoming a program that is incredibly consistent in more ways than one.
Final Score: Ramblers 77 Hurricanes 70 Spread: Miami -2.0
South Dakota State Jackrabbits (12) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (5)
When the Jackrabbits are able to score (84.9 PPG) and rebound the basketball effectively (39 RPG), they are capable of frustrating any opponent that they face. However, their porous defense and below average ball-movement skills (74.1 PAPG, 13.5 APG) has been something that has done them in on a few occasions. Against a Buckeyes team that is adept at playing defense (66.7 PAPG), the Jackrabbits elite offense will falter when they need it the most.
Final Score: Jackrabbits 71 Buckeyes 74 Spread: Ohio State -8.0
NC State Wolfpack (9) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (8)
Despite their anemic defense (74.5 PAPG), the Wolfpack were able to stay afloat in the ACC because of their gifted offense (81.2 PPG). While the Pirates have the sizeable athletes to garner more rebounds than the Wolfpack, their inability to score and play defense consistently will be to their detriment against a team with an established identity.
Final Score: Wolfpack 80 Pirates 75 Spread: Seton Hall -2.5
Radford Highlanders (16) vs. Villanova Wildcats (1)
While you have to give credit to the Highlanders for not only making the tournament but for making it out of the First Four, their heartwarming story of success will most likely come to an end against a Wildcats team that is incredibly proficient at shooting the basketball from anywhere on the court (50.4 FG%, 39.8 3P%).
Final Score: Highlanders 68 Wildcats 90 Spread: Villanova -23.5
Davidson Wildcats (12) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (5)
Although they do not have an electric, high scoring offense (77 PPG), Davidson does possess underrated athletes that are exceptional at passing (17.1 APG) and shooting the basketball, especially from the free throw line (48.6 FG%, 79.4 FT%, 39.3 3P%). While Kentucky may have the better athletes that can rebound the ball consistently (38.8 RPG), their accuracy when shooting from the field pales in comparison to Davidson (46.9 FG%, 69.3 FT%, 35.8 3P%), which will be their undoing in this contest.
Final Score: Davidson 79 Kentucky 75 Spread: Kentucky -5.0
San Diego State Aztecs (11) vs. Houston Cougars (6)
What they lack in elevated offensive statistics, the Aztecs make up for by being fantastic at rebounding the basketball (38 RPG). However, the Cougars are equally as proficient at rebounding the basketball and are formidable offensively thanks to the dynamic contributions of Rob Gray. Despite being incredibly disciplined, the Aztecs one-dimensional yet effective nature will not be enough for them to overcome an opponent that possesses more athletes.
Final Score: Aztecs 66 Cougars 73 Spread: Houston -4.0
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (14) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3)
While their overall seeding may suggest that is barely a tournament team, the Lumberjacks are actually one of the more versatile programs in college basketball. Possessing a decent defense (68.1 PAPG) and a consistently accurate offense (48.8 FG%), the Lumberjacks are adept at making the most out of the opportunities that their defense gives them (10 SPG). While the Red Raiders defense has been exceptional all season long (64.7 PAPG), their anemic offense and poor rebounding skills will prevent them from keeping up with the Lumberjacks tenacious offense.
Final Score: Lumberjacks 77 Red Raiders 72 Spread: Texas Tech -11.5
Alabama Crimson Tide (9) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (8)
When guard Collin Sexton is effective, the Crimson Tide can beat almost anyone at anytime. Although it can be ill-advised to rely on the natural talents of one player, the Crimson Tide was able to rely on Sexton consistently when they beat the elite offense of Auburn in the SEC tournament. While the Hokies have a better offense overall, their refusal to garner rebounds will hurt them against a Crimson Tide team that is fearless when it comes to driving forcefully to the rim.
Final Score: Crimson Tide 80 Hokies 78 Spread: Virginia Tech -2.0
Buffalo Bulls (13) vs Arizona Wildcats (4)
Dominant on offense in nearly every way, the Bulls possess strong shooters (47.4 FG%) and physical rebounders (39 RPG) that can keep providing their talented offense with extra opportunities. However, the Wildcats are not only better at shooting from the field (50.5 FG%), but they also have one of the best athletes in the country in Deandre Ayton, a monster of a human being that will bully Buffalo from start to finish in this contest.
Final Score: Bulls 80 Wildcats 88 Spread: Arizona -8.5
Montana Grizzlies (14) vs. Michigan Wolverines (3)
Unlike so many programs in college basketball this season, the Grizzlies clearly take a tremendous amount of pride in being well-balanced and competitive on both offense and defense (78.1 PPG, 68.7 PAPG). Yet, even with their dynamic abilities, the Grizzlies will struggle mightily against a Wolverines team that is deadly when shooting from the perimeter while being stingy on the defensive end of the court.
Final Score: Grizzlies 65 Wolverines 76 Spread: Michigan -11.5
St. Bonaventure Bonnies (11) vs. Florida Gators (6)
Although the Bonnies may not be particularly strong defensively (70.6 PAPG), they are able to make up for this weakness by being disciplined when it comes to ball security and deadly when it comes to shooting from the perimeter (39.3 3P%). While the Gators have looked great defensively recently, their inconsistent offense will be to their detriment against a team that rarely make mistakes on the court.
Final Score: Bonnies 73 Gators 68 Spread: Florida -5.5
Providence Friars (10) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (7)
Say what you will about the Friars wavering competitiveness during the regular season, but this is a team that turned it on at the right time during the Big East tournament where their defense stifled St. Johns, Creighton and Xavier. Although the Aggies have the massive athletes that can force themselves to the basket to garner rebounds, their lack of a serious scoring presence will hurt them noticeably against the scrappy and fearless Friars.
Final Score: Friars 78 Aggies 71 Spread: Texas A&M -3.5
CS Fullerton Titans (15) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (2)
While the Titans have flashed moments of being a solid defensive team, they have at times been particularly dreadful as they relinquished 100+ points in two games this season. Against a Boilermakers team that is exceptional on both offense and defense, the Titans barely have a chance to pull off the upset against a far superior opponent.
Final Score: Titans 63 Boilermakers 86 Spread: Purdue -21.0
Marshall Thundering Herd (13) vs. Wichita State Shockers (4)
Efficient at both passing and shooting the basketball (84.3 PPG, 17.2 APG), the Thundering Herd are at their best when they can get to the basket in transition. While the Shockers offense is equally elite at makings plays, their lack of size will prevent them from staving off a relentless Marshall program that never backs down when it comes to pursuing the basket.
Final Score: Thundering Herd 83 Shockers 81 Spread: Wichita State -12.0
Georgia State Panthers (15) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (2)
When their defense is clicking effectively (67.5 PAPG), the Panthers are a difficult team to overcome as they are cerebral in covering their opponents consistently. Unfortunately, the Bearcats are far better at playing both defense and rebounding, which will be deciding factors in allowing Cincinnati to move on to the next round.
Final Score: Panthers 62 Bearcats 81 Spread: Cincinnati -14.0
Lipscomb Bisons (15) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (2)
If you can look past their odd name, you will find an offensively adept program in the Bisons that can both shoot and rebound the basketball at a high level. However, against a Tar Heels program that is one of the best in the college basketball at rebounding and scoring the basketball, the Bisons will most likely be on the wrong side of the scoreboard throughout this affair.
Final Score: Bisons 70 Tar Heels 95 Spread: North Carolina -19.5
Butler Bulldogs (10) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (7)
When the shots are sinking for the opportunistic Bulldogs, they are decidedly difficult to beat. The problem is, the Bulldogs have been wildly inconsistent offensively, which has prevented them from reaching their competitive potential. Although the Razorbacks are dreadful defensively, they are highly skilled at hitting perimeter shots (40.1 3P%), which will serve them well against the lackadaisical defense of the Bulldogs.
Final Score: Bulldogs 82 Razorbacks 89 Spread: Butler -1.5
Murray State Racers (12) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (5)
Disciplined defensively (65.5 PAPG) and highly efficient offensively (48.5 FG%), the Racers are methodical yet unafraid to shoot the basketball when they have an open look. While the Mountaineers defense as a whole has struggled this season, their full court press in conjunction with their strong athletes should allow them to win what should be a back and forth contest.
Final Score: Racers 74 Mountaineers 75 Spread: West Virginia -10.0
Texas Longhorns (10) vs. Nevada Wolf Pack (7)
One of the head-scratching programs that were inducted into the tournament this year, the Longhorns only competitive contributions is their capable albeit wavering defense. Even though the Wolf Pack’s defense could leave them open to being upset, their exceptional abilities when it comes to shooting the basketball should allow them to persevere down the stretch of this affair.
Final Score: Longhorns 78 Wolf Pack 85 Spread: Nevada -1.0
Kansas State Wildcats (9) vs. Creighton Blue Jays (8)
As strong and resilient as the defense of the Wildcats is, their inability to rebound the basketball has to be a concern against a Blue Jays program that rarely fails to make their shots on a consistent basis. Even if the Wildcats can get multiple stops and force some turnovers, it may not be enough to hold off what is a dynamic scoring team.
Final Score: Wildcats 69 Blue Jays 79 Spread: Creighton -1.5
Bucknell Bison (14) vs. Michigan State Spartans (3)
If the Bison’s prolific offense is able to get going against a Spartans program that has struggled to shoot the basketball recently, they could very well pull off a massive upset over a highly talented opponent. While it is possible that Michigan State’s dynamic athletes struggle early on, it’s hard to imagine the versatile Spartans going home early again in the NCAA Tournament.
Final Score: Bison 72 Spartans 78 Spread: -14.5
Texas Southern Tigers (16)/North Carolina Central Eagles (16) vs. Xavier Musketeers (1)
Regardless of which program ultimately makes it to the first round, they will have to contend with one of the most prolific offenses in college basketball. While the Musketeers defense could pose a problem for them later on in the tournament, it is highly unlikely that either the Tigers or the Eagles will be able to exploit this weakness.
Final Score: Tigers/Eagles: 63 Musketeers 89 Spread:
Charleston Cougars (13) vs. Auburn Tigers (4)
While their defense is capable of doing some damage from time to time, the Cougars are rarely able to take advantage of this advantage as they struggle mightily to move the ball effectively on offense. Against the high-scoring and incredibly physical Tigers, the Cougars will struggle to get anything going against what is an insanely intimidating opponent.
Final Score: Cougars 73 Tigers 86 Spread: Auburn -10.0
UMBC Retrievers (16) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (1)
If the Bulldogs can find a way to take the ball away from the disciplined Cavaliers, they may have a chance at keeping this contest relatively close. However, the Cavaliers top-ranked defense is simply too potent and tenacious in minimizing the chances of their opponent to make something happen on offense.
Final Score: Retrievers 55 Cavaliers 77 Spread: Virginia -22.5
Arizona State Sun Devils (11)/Syracuse Orange (11) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (6)
Whether it’s the high-volume shooting offense of the Sun Devils or the tough defense of the Orange, either one will struggle mightily to contend with a Horned Frogs offense that is extremely accurate when shooting from the field (49.9 FG%). While the Horned Frogs defense could leave them open to being upset, their scorers are too prolific to be shut down regardless of who they face in the first round.
Final Score: Sun Devils 77 Orange 65 Horned Frogs 80 Spread:
Florida State Seminoles (9) vs. Missouri Tigers (8)
Fantastic at both scoring and rebounding the basketball, the Seminoles have the pieces that can get to the basket early and often. However, the Tigers have the ultimate x-factor piece in Michael Porter Jr., an immensely talented athlete that can score and rebound the basketball at a high level. If Porter Jr. gets into a comfortable rhythm early on, the Seminoles will have a tough time suppressing what is an exceptional defensive rounding program.
Final Score: Seminoles 70 Tigers 74 Spread: Florida State -1.0
New Mexico State Aggies (12) vs. Clemson Tigers (5)
If the Aggies had an offense that was as gifted as their dynamic defense, they would have a great chance of making it to the Sweet Sixteen. As is stand though, the Aggies will have a tough time getting anything going against a Tigers team that is proficient at playing shut down defense and shooting perimeter shots.
Final Score: Aggies 68 Tigers 71 Spread: Clemson -5.0