Knight Crier March Madness

Dukes Jahlil Okafor (15) and Michigan States Gavin Schilling (34) battle for a ball at the tip off during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


Duke’s Jahlil Okafor (15) and Michigan State’s Gavin Schilling (34) battle for a ball at the tip off during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Technically, the college basketball season tips-off in mid November, but in reality, the season really starts in March. 64 teams play for the chance at winning a National Title, but only one can hoist the trophy in San Antonio, Texas on April 2nd. Here’s who the Knight Crier staff picked to win their first game of the NCAA Tournament, and get one step closer to a Championship.  

East Region- Andrew

#1 Villanova vs #16 LIU Brooklyn/Radford

Regardless of the outcome of the play in game, Villanova is built for March. 16th seed will be no worries for a Villanova team that is led by a hall of fame coach in Jay Wright, Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, and a top pick in the 2018 Draft in Mikal Bridges. Pick: Villanova

#8 Virginia Tech vs #9 Alabama

One of the toughest games to pick in the region, as a streaky Alabama team takes on a solid Virginia Tech team. Alabama is led by freshman phenom Collin Sexton, with quality players like Donta Hall and John Petty. Virginia Tech stays under the radar as they play in the hardest conference with no star recruits on their team. However, head coach Buzz Williams got his team in as a 8th seed. Virginia Tech has wins against Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina this year, but has been very inconsistent all year losing 3 of their last 4. Alabama will move on behind the play of Sexton and company. Pick: Alabama

#5 West Virginia vs #12 Murray State

Great guard play and defense simply wins in the month of March and West Virginia is one of the best to do both. Jevon Carter and Sagaba Konate lead a defense that pressures any offense and  forces turnovers. Murray State is led by senior guard Jonathan Stark who averages around 22 PPG. While Murray State could put West Virginia on their heels, West Virginia will pull out a win.  Pick: West Virginia

#4 Wichita State vs #13 Marshall

Wichita State each year seems to find their way into the tournament and find just enough to ruin anyone’s bracket. A well coached and fundamentally sound team that shoots and rebounds the ball exceptionally well is a good recipe for success in March. However Marshall has a three headed monster in C.J Burks, Ajdin Penava, and Jon Elmore. These are one of those games that might end up being the first to 100, and I like Marshall getting their first, putting Wichita on Upset Alert. Pick: Marshall

#6 Florida vs #11 UCLA/St. Bonaventure

Florida is one of the most up and down teams in the country as they have wins over Kentucky (twice), Auburn, Gonzaga, and Cincinnati, but they also have losses to the bottom teams in the SEC. UCLA/St. Bonaventure will battle it out, however with the way Florida has been playing, the winner of the play in game will beat a shaky Florida team. Pick: UCLA/St. Bonaventure

#3 Texas Tech vs #14 Stephen F. Austin

One of the biggest question marks entering the tournament is the health of Keenan Evans. Bothered by a toe injury, he is one of the most dangerous guards in all of college basketball. If he can stay healthy, the Red Raiders of Texas Tech should have no trouble with SFA. Pick: Texas Tech

#7 Arkansas vs #10 Butler

One of the most interesting opening round match ups in the tournament. Arkansas is led by 5 seniors and one high flying freshman, Daniel Gafford. Arkansas struggles on defense but can shoot the three ball almost better than anyone. Butler comes in at 20-13 and barely sneaked in the tournament with a one point win over Seton Hall in the Big East tournament. Butler will stay in this game led by their 1-2 punch of Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin, but Arkansas will win with experience and senior driven motivation. Pick: Arkansas

#2 Purdue vs #15 Cal St. Fullerton

The duo of Isaac Haas and Carsen Edwards is a match up nightmare for anyone to go up against, let alone a #15 seed. Purdue, who has been struggling as of late, will handle Cal St. Fullerton easily as they just have too many weapons on offense. Pick: Purdue


Midwest Region- Noah

#1 Kansas vs #16 Pennsylvania

Kansas has been rolling. Kansas beat West Virginia 81-70 in the BIG 12 championship, in a very tight match up. The way Kansas has been able to handle teams like WVU shows that they will easily take care of the Ivy League Champs. Pick: Kansas

#8 Seton Hall vs #9 North Carolina State

NC State plays a very tough schedule coming out of the ACC, and because of this they managed to get wins over top seeds like Arizona, UNC, Duke, Clemson, and FSU. NC State has proven themselves against the best of the NCAA this season and should put up a great fight against Seton Hall. Pick: NC State

#5 Clemson vs #12 New Mexico State

UPSET ALERT! With Clemson losing one of their top players in Donte Grantham, the Tigers just haven’t been the same. New Mexico State has won 17 of their last 19 games and are coming into the tournament with a 28-5 record and their fifth straight WAC Title. Look out for Clemson to flop early in the tournament to this New Mexico State team. Pick: New Mexico State

#4 Auburn vs #13 College of Charleston

I think this is pretty cut and dry. Charleston’s strength of schedule is nowhere near that of Auburn who led the SEC for most of the season. Charleston’s conference is weak and when they did play good teams such as Wichita and Rhode Island they came up way short. Auburn will not disappoint in the first round. Pick: Auburn

#6 TCU vs #11 Arizona State/Syracuse

Contingent on Syracuse winning the play in game against Arizona State, Syracuse brings a special magic to the tournament every year that teams cannot seem to handle. Watch out for a big upset here by ‘Cuse, but even if Arizona State comes in, TCU could still fall early.

Pick: Syracuse

#3 Michigan State vs #14 Bucknell

Although Bucknell has won 18 of their last 19 games, Michigan State is just too strong. Especially since it seems Michigan State’s only real kryptonite is their rival Michigan. Miles Bridges should put his special touch on the game and send Bucknell home early.

Pick: Michigan State

#7 Rhode Island vs #10 Oklahoma

The committee should be ashamed with themselves. Oklahoma may have one of the most explosive players in college basketball right now, but they have not won an away game since December. It is a disgrace Oklahoma is in the tournament, let alone a #10 seed. Rhode Island by 20. Pick: Rhode Island

#2 Duke vs #15 Iona

Duke is heavily favored in this matchup against Iona. Duke is clearly one of the most talented teams in the whole tournament and should dispose of Iona like 3 year old cheese. However, Duke has had some hard losses where they play down to lesser teams. Fans are hoping Duke comes into the first round hungry and ready to play. Pick: Duke


South Region- Matt

#1 Virginia vs #16 Maryland-Baltimore County

Virginia’s playing the best defense we’ve ever seen. They’ve only had two losses this season, and they’re going up against UMBC. Regardless of UMBC finishing the season on a 5-0 run, they stand no chance against Virginia. A pretty easy pick. Pick: Virginia

#8 Creighton vs #9 Kansas State

This pick’s a tough one as both teams have key players that were struck with injuries. Kansas State lost both Dean Wade and Barry Brown, who both average about 16 points per game, but the Creighton Bluejays have Marcus Foster, who averages about 20 points a game. The Bluejays lost key 6’9” sophomore Martin Krampelj (11.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG) to a torn ACL, but I still have faith in Marcus Foster and the Creighton Bluejays. Pick: Creighton

#5 Kentucky vs #12 Davidson

Even with Peyton Aldridge (21.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and a pair of victories over the best teams in their conference, the Davidson Wildcats don’t really stand a chance against Kentucky. Davidson will still put up a good fight, but Kevin Knox and the Kentucky Wildcats will pull through a win, especially if you consider how they wrapped up the season with a 3-0 run (keep in mind that one of the three games was a 20 point win over Alabama, quite an impressive feat). Davidson will be eliminated early but not without putting up a tough fight.  Pick: Kentucky

#4 Arizona vs #13 Buffalo

Almost every single March Madness, Buffalo time and time again has dangled the possibility of an upset, and every year they never pull through, and I don’t see any difference this year. And then there’s Arizona; their offense is almost as good (if not better) than their top 30 defense, and they are entering the tournament with the national title in their pockets. Despite Buffalo being a semi-strong team, Arizona is still the stronger, better team. Pick: Arizona

#6 Miami vs #11 Loyola-Chicago

UPSET ALERT! Even though Miami went 4-1 in their final five games, their games were all decided by a combined 8 points. I think the foot injury of Bruce Brown is really the deciding factor for the Hurricanes. And the Loyola-Chicago’s 28-5 record and their consecutive 10 game-winning streak to finish their season. And the fact that the Ramblers three point-percentages is above 40% is just another reason why I feel so good about this team.

Pick: Loyola-Chicago

#3 Tennessee vs #14 Wright State

Tennessee – With the powerhouse duo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, the Tennessee Volunteers could easily dominate the Wright State Raiders. The Raiders do have a 46% inside the arc and Grant Benzinger (who is 36% on threes), but none of that is up to the task of defeating the #1 ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Pick: Tennessee

#7 Nevada vs #10 Texas

This is a tough matchup. Nevada has the scoring and ability to handle Shaka Smart’s Longhorns, but Texas will give a Nevada team that lacks size problems the 6-11 Mohamed Bamba, who averages a double-double and nearly 4 blocks per game. The Martin Twins, Cody and Caleb, who average over 30 points per game combined, as well as Junior College transfer Jordan Caroline will carry the load on offense for Nevada. However, Bamba, and Texas guards Kerwin Roach II and Matt Coleman will get the job done, bouncing Eric Musselman’s Wolfpack from the tournament earlier than expected. Pick: Texas

#2 Cincinnati vs #15 Georgia State

Gary Clark and the Cincinnati Bearcats should easily sweep the Georgia State Panthers. The Bearcats are backed up by an impressive Senior Gary Clark, who averages 13 points a game as well as 8.5 rebounds per game. The Panthers don’t really bring much to the table besides a Sun Belt title, which is still not enough to beat the #1 team in the American conference. Pick: Cincinnati


West Region- Jake

#1 Xavier vs #16 North Carolina Central/Texas Southern

Xavier may be looked at as an overrated #1 seed, but let’s not forget that the Musketeers only lost 5 games all year, and were the regular season champs of the Big East. Xavier, fresh off an Elite Eight run last year, returns most of their team, including Seniors Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura who average over 30 points per game combined. Xavier’s depth and production from their bench will ultimately lead to a big win over the #16 seed, and watch out for the Musketeers’ Kaiser Gates, who can fill it up from the 3 point line, and started to heat up this time last year.           

Pick: Xavier

#8 Missouri vs #9 Florida State

Between the Tigers and the Seminoles, this game has all the makings to be a competitive, evenly-matched game, as the two teams can match each other very well. Florida State has a huge post presence in Christ Koumadje, but the Tigers have Freshman Jahntay Porter to counteract the 7-footer. Florida State’s Terrance Mann leads the Seminoles, averaging just over 13 points per game, but Missouri more than matches that, getting 16 points per game from Kassius Robertson. The Tigers second-leading scorer, Jordan Barnett will miss this game due to a suspension, but Missouri will replace him with 5-Star recruit Michael Porter Jr., who isn’t a bad second-option. I’ll give Missouri the edge, because they’ll have most talented player on the court, in Michael Porter Jr.  Pick: Missouri

#5 Ohio State vs #12 South Dakota State

UPSET ALERT! Mike Daum (23.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG) and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits will disappoint Ohio State fans all across the country. Ohio State is short-handed, they went 2-3 in their final five games, and they lost to Penn State… three times. They haven’t lost to a “bad” team all season and they still have their superstar player Keita Bates-Diop (19.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG), but that’s still not enough to overcome the Jackrabbits. Pick: South Dakota State

#4 Gonzaga vs #13 UNC – Greensboro

After coming up just short in the National Championship Game last year, Mark Few’s Gonzaga squad will be out for revenge. The Bulldogs have a balanced attack, led by point guard Josh Perkins, who averages 12 points and over 5 assists per game, one of five players on the team to average over 11 points a game. The size of Gonzaga will give the Spartans of UNC-Greensboro trouble, as forwards Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie lead the way for the Bulldogs, and be sure to watch out for Japan native Rui Hachimura, who played a big role in Gonzaga winning the West Coast Conference Tournament. Pick: Gonzaga

#6 Houston vs #11 San Diego State

Although Houston lost to Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game, there’s a lot to like about the Cougars. Do-it-all point guard Rob Gray (18.2 ppg) spearheads a trio of guards that includes sharpshooter Corey Davis Jr., who shoots 44% from three, and Galen Robinson Jr., who had 5 steals in the Cougars nail biting loss to the Bearcats. As for San Diego State, they’re led by Senior Malik Pope, who averages nearly 13 points per game, and shoots over 50% from the field. The Aztecs have a win over Gonzaga and two wins against Nevada on their resume, including a 17 point thrashing of the Wolfpack in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. SDSU will give Houston some good competition, but the Cougars will be moving on. Pick: Houston

#3 Michigan vs #14 Montana

For the second time in as many years, the Michigan Wolverines won the Big Ten Conference Championship. They’re led by center Moritz Wagner and forward Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the teams leading scorers, and Duncan Robinson, the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year. The size and shooting of Michigan will give Montana problems, especially because the Grizzlies are not a great 3 point shooting team in their own right, and don’t have much rim protection down low. Look for Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews to give Michigan some scoring, and point guard Zavier Simpson to lead the Wolverines to a win. Pick: Michigan

#7 Texas A&M vs #10 Providence

I guess you could call this an upset. Between injuries and suspensions, it’s been an up and down year for Texas A&M, and personally, I believe a 7 seed is too high for the Aggies. The Providence Friars, led by coach Ed Cooley and point guard Kyron Cartwright, are no stranger to upsets, having beat Villanova this season and Xavier twice, including this past Saturday in Overtime. The Aggies might have a nice tandem of big men inside, in Tyler Davis and Robert Williams III, but the consistency and guard depth that Providence has with Cartwright, Alpha Diallo, Rodney Bullock, and Jalen Lindsey will be enough to push Providence over the top. Pick: Providence

#2 North Carolina vs #15 Lipscomb

Lipscomb is in the NCAA Tournament. If it sounds odd, it’s because they’ve never been here before, as it’s their first appearance in school history, and what better way to start off then taking on the defending champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels. North Carolina’s balance will give the Bisons trouble, with their combination of leadership, size, and shooting. Joel Berry II and Luke Maye lead the charge, with the latter averaging a double-double, and being the best 3-point shooter the Heels have. Maye, along with Freshman Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks will have their way inside, and the duo of Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams will fire away from the three point line. Roy Williams will have his team ready as always. Pick: North Carolina