March Madness predictions: East and Midwest Regions


Peyton Stagliano

Part two of Peyton Stagliano’s March Madness predictions. Today the tournament begins, with its first game at 12:15 pm.

The brackets are set and fans are glued to their seats as the first March Madness games start today. The anxiety is high as any team could be knocked out of the tournament completely from one minor slip-up. The first round is not the most exciting, but in time, the energy will ramp up. Here are my first-round predictions for the East and Midwest regions.

East Conference

Baylor vs Norfolk State
North Carolina vs Marquette
Saint Mary’s vs Indiana
UCLA vs Akron
Texas vs Virginia Tech
Purdue vs Yale
Murray State vs San Francisco
Kentucky vs St. Peter’s

Norfolk has an incredibly difficult first game against first-seed Baylor for their first game in the tournament. Baylor has a strong team this year defeating other top-ranked teams left and right. They even defeated Kansas which is ranked one spot ahead of them by ten points late in the season. Norfolk has yet to play a ranked team with their toughest game so far being against Xavier, to whom they suffered a 40-point loss. This could get ugly Norfolk as Baylor is the better team.

North Carolina and Marquette are both in challenging conferences, with North Carolina facing teams like Duke and Notre Dame, and Marquette playing Villanova and Providence. The two teams both had challenging schedules this year, but North Carolina seemed to fare better finishing the season with an overall record of 24-9 compared to Marquette’s 19-12. Some could argue that Marquette still had a more difficult schedule and most of their season games were close. This game certainly will not be a blowout, but I believe North Carolina will pull out a win.

Indiana was able to pull out a win over Wyoming to face Saint Mary’s. This will be another close game that could go either way even though Indiana finished ninth in the Big 10 this year and Saint Mary’s finished second right behind powerhouse Gonzaga. Both teams played Wisconsin in their regular season and kept it game by only losing by five points. This goes to show it will be a good matchup. I think Indiana might just pull out an upset over Saint Mary’s with their leading scorer Trayce Jackson-Davis scoring an average of 18.4 points a game. Indiana may have had a losing record of 9-11 in their conference, but they had many teams that were going to give them a run for their money. Saint Mary’s threat was only Gonzaga. If Indiana wants it enough, they will come out on top.

With Akron’s overall record of 24-9 and UCLA’s record of 25-7, this will not be an easy game for either side. UCLA can proudly say that they have beaten highly ranked Villanova and USC. The highest-ranked team that Akron competed against was Ohio State, and although they lost, it was by one point. Akron also played Kent State and Toledo, who were the only finishers ahead of them in their conference championship bracket. They lost to the two teams early in the season but in rematches towards the end of their season defeated both teams in back-to-back games. Although both teams have proven to be forced to be reckoned with, I think UCLA has a little bit of an edge over Akron. The MAC conference isn’t exactly known for having strong teams that enter the tournament and pull out a win. I think UCLA has just enough to advance in this game.

Virginia Tech and Texas both seem to struggle when it comes to playing ranked teams. Neither have a good record against ranked teams seemingly getting timid and falling short. This will show to be another high-quality game, but I think it might just also result in another upset. Virginia Tech is coming off of a postseason high after capturing their first ACC title. Virginia Tech has won the last of their four games and not just to no-name teams. They claimed victories over the three big names, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Duke. Meanwhile, Texas is coming off of a three-game losing streak to Baylor, Kansas, and TCU. I believe that Virginia Tech can truly pull off the upset if they channel all of the rush from their ACC win into this game.

Coming from the Ivy League doesn’t do Yale much justice in this one. Yale’s only impressive wins this season would be to Princeton which isn’t much to brag about compared to Purdue’s wins over Illinois and Wisconsin. Purdue had a season to brag about and I could see them going very far in this tournament. Scoring almost an average of 80 points per game while only allowing 69, Purdue is your clear winner in this matchup.

Murray State and San Francisco are not much of an exciting game, since I predict neither will advance very far in the tournament. But one must advance this round and deep down I think Murray will win this one in a tight matchup. San Francisco had to play Gonzaga three times, and even knowing their style of play they still couldn’t pull out at least one win or a game less than 10 points apart. This just goes to show that San Francisco can not adjust well to other teams. It will be a tight one but I have to go with Murray State on this one.

Saint Peter’s had a good season for a team like them and deserves some recognition for making it to the tournament. Unfortunately, their tournament triumph will come to an abrupt end facing off Kentucky in their first-round game. Kentucky is number seven in the country at the moment and has only lost to ranked teams. Kentucky scores almost 80 points per game ranking them the 18th best point-scoring team in the nation, which is even more impressive if you consider the teams they are playing. Congratulations to Saint Peter’s but be prepared to take a brutal beating.


Midwest Conference

Kansas vs Texas Southern
San Diego State vs Creighton
Iowa vs Richmond
Providence vs South Dakota State
LSU vs Iowa State
Wisconsin vs Colegate
USC vs Miami
Auburn vs Jacksonville State

The Kansas and Texas Southern game is another unfortunate matchup. Not for Kansas who will whizz past the tigers. There isn’t much to say about this matchup other than the fact that Kansas finished first in the Big 12 winning their last five games of the season. Texas Southern had an easy schedule and still was only able to secure a record of 19-12. Texas Southern better get ready to say their goodbyes to the tournament now.

San Diego State has a better record on paper than their first opponent Creighton, but Creighton’s schedule should be noted when comparing the two teams. Yes, San Diego State has Colorado State and Boise State in their conference but Creighton has Providence, Villanova, and UConn. Creighton also just beat Providence by a whopping 27 points. San Diego State is a sturdy team but so is Creighton. I think Creighton will secure this match-up.

Richmond is another team that will take an unfortunate beating, having to go against number 16 ranked Iowa. Iowa has proven itself time after time this season, especially after their recent win over Purdue to secure the Big 10 title. Looking more closely at stats, Iowa also puts up an average of 10 points more per game on their opponents than Richmond. Richmond had an overall weak schedule and isn’t ready for what’s coming for them against Iowa.

Providence has only lost five games this season and they are not about to lose another one to South Dakota State. South Dakota didn’t lose a single game in their conference this year and has only lost four games overall but that is nothing to be proud of when the teams you are trouncing are Oral Roberts and Omaha. Meanwhile, Providence finished with the best record in the Big East which is a way more respectable conference than South Dakota’s Summit conference.

Iowa State isn’t going down without a fight, but they will be knocked out early by LSU. Neither team had a season to show off, but especially not Iowa who had a loss in conference record. You could cut Iowa some slack since they are in the same conference as Kansas and Baylor, but when you are playing in a conference that you know will be tough, you need to come out better prepared if you want to come out with wins. Iowa State can’t brag about any impressive wins either. LSU on the other hand can shout from the rooftop that they beat Tennessee and Kentucky.

Colgate made some major improvements this year, losing nearly all their games at the beginning of the season, to winning all of their past 15 games. Colgate has caught the eye of many, but Wisconsin has caught the eye of many others. Wisconsin didn’t stumble and played hard throughout their whole season. They have shown promise in every game finishing with the best in-conference record in the Big 10. Wisconsin will defeat Colgate effortlessly.

USC and Miami will make for a close game, but I think Miami will create another upset in the first round. Miami has experience playing Duke, North Carolina, and Notre Dame. With a more difficult conference schedule, Miami was still able to finish with a conference record of 14-6, the same as USC. Miami is in the perfect position to pull out a win after losing early to Duke in the ACC tournament.

To end off the Midwest conference, Jacksonville State will take a brutal defeat to Auburn. Auburn has only lost five games this season compared to Jacksonville’s ten. Auburn allows an average of 67 points per game, the same as Jacksonville. But while Jacksonville only scores an average of 74 points, Auburn scores an average of 79. I could see Auburn as an elite 8 team, Jacksonville on the other hand, not so much.