OK, on to the games that will be played on Friday afternoon:
2. West Virginia vs 15. Morgan St. (12:15, Buffalo)
Spread: West Virginia -17.5
My Pick: Morgan St., I think WVU is gonna have a letdown in their first round game. They had to play 3 tight, physical games to win the Big East and now there surely think they are getting a break in playing Morgan St. But, the Bears have some talent on their squad, especially at the guard spot. If they shoot the ball well, I could see this game being inside 10 points. I am not sold on West Virginia, because they lack a skilled big man and their point guard play has been spotty. Now, nobody can match up with Desean Butler, and he likely makes the difference in this game, but I like Morgan St. with the points. West Virginia wins 71-60.
6. Xavier vs 11. Minnesota (12:25, Milwaukee)
Spread: Minnesota -1
My Pick: Xavier, REALLY LOVE THIS PICK. It’s amazing how odds makers have forgotten how terrible the Gophers were for most of this season. Then they make a good run in the Big Ten Tournament (and get crushed in the final), and suddenly they are favored over a 14-2 A-10 school? This is not as good a Xavier team as in the past, but they still won 14 games in a very good A-10. This pick seems very obvious to me, and I think big money can be made here.
5. Temple vs 12. Cornell (12:30, Jacksonville)
Spread: Temple -4
My Pick: Temple, I am not sure where all the hype behind Cornell comes from. When is the last time an Ivy League team won a NCAA game? I think it was Princeton in maybe 1999. And this Cornell team’s best win this season was…..Alabama? We all remember that Alabama wasn’t exactly the greatest team in the world, right? I just don’t see it. Yes, Cornell has a couple guys who can shoot, but so does Temple. And the Owls have athletic size in the post as well as FANTASTIC guards in Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez. Temple plays that same slow style that Cornell does, so I am little worried the score will be low enough where Cornell covers, but for now, I am sticking with Temple winning 56-50.
4. Purdue vs 13. Siena (2:30, Spokane)
Spread: Purdue -4
My Pick: Siena, This spread can’t be this easy, can it? Siena is making it’s third straight NCAA Tournament and they won games in the first two. Purdue has shown a complete lack of ability to score since Robbie Hummel went down. The game is nowhere near either school, so Purdue won’t have a homecourt advantage. I just think Siena has the experience and talent to beat a depleted Boilermakers squad. But, generally the odds makers know something that we don’t, so maybe Purdue has some advantage I can’t think of. Siena 69-60
7. Clemson vs 10. Missouri (2:35, Buffalo)
Spread: Clemson -1.5
My Pick: Missouri, Clemson is in their typical late season slide, but they are lucky that they get a Missouri team coming off an embarassing loss to Nebraska in the Big 12 title game. I consider the two teams to be fairly even, and you will not find a more entertaining, fast paced game in the first round than this one. So, how do I pick Missouri in this one? The coaches. I really like Mike Anderson of Missouri, and I think most UK fans remember him well. Oliver “Don’t Call me Al” Purnell has wasted a ton of talent at Clemson, and has done the same this season. I just think in a close, late game situation, I like Missouri’s chances over Clemson. Missouri wins 90-86.
3. Pittsburgh vs 14. Oakland (2:45, Milwaukee)
Spread: Pittsburgh -10
My Pick: Oakland, I hate Pittsburgh’s team. Before last year’s run to the Elite Eight, Pitt was notorious for flaming out early in the tournament, and this years team is built in that same mold. They struggle to score, and basically beat teams with rebounding and physical play. They have also struggled the last month of the season as teams have figured out how to beat them. Oakland was 17-1 in conference this season, which is impressive in any conference. I am still gonna pick Pitt to win this game, because despite my skepticism of their long term plans, they have more talent than Oakland and should dominate the boards. Pittsburgh 65-63
4. Wisconsin vs 13. Wofford (2:50, Jacksonville)
Spread: Wisconsin -10
My Pick: Wisconsin, Really love this Badger team, they seem to have a knack for playing well away from home. They are your typical Badger team, tight defense and good shooters with a big goofy center in the middle. All I know about Wofford is they are the smallest school to ever make the tournament, which is about all I need to know because I think Wisconsin and UK are on a crash course for a Sweet 16 game. Wisconsin 73-54.
5. Texas A&M vs 12. Utah St. (4:45, Spokane)
Spread: Texas A&M -3
My Pick: Texas A&M, I really love this Aggie team because they seem to play a consistent game, no matter who the opponent is. The were only blown out in one game, and that was against Kansas St. They play well on the road, they are hard nosed and have some athletic big men. Utah St. is another one of these teams who try and slow down the game, limit the possessions of the their opponents, and keep the games in the 50’s. But I think Texas A&M can play that style, or basically any style that their opponent wants to play. The Aggies are my sleeper to the Elite Eight this year and I think they are impressive in this game. A&M 68-52.