Mar 16, 2014; Greensboro, NC, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett reacts against the Duke Blue Devils in the championship game of the ACC college basketball tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Over the past few days we here at Skyway Shoutout have previewed each region of the NCAA Tournament, providing predictions for each game with a bit of analysis sprinkled in the mix. This will culminate with a Final Four and National Champion prediction. For those of you who are desperate enough to use this analysis as your source of truth for filling out your bracket, we’ll offer up one stipulation. If, by any chance, you use our bracket predictions and analysis to win your March Madness pool, we’d ask that you please feel free to donate a portion of your winnings to our Adult Spring Break 2K14 slush fund (The plan is to attend the Masters). Or you can be selfish and slap the hand that feeds you. It’s totally up to you.
We’ve already covered the Midwest, South, and West regions earlier this week. Last (and probably least), is the East region.
FIRST ROUND GAMES
(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (16) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Friday, March 21st @ 9:25 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: After winning the regular season ACC title, Virginia capped off a 28-6 (16-2) season with a victory over Duke in the conference championship game. The Chanticleers (21-12, 11-5) punched their ticket to March Madness by winning the Big South over Winthrop.
Analysis: What the f#*& is a Chanticleer? The folks at Coastal Carolina knew you’d be asking yourself that, and they were kind enough to provide an in-depth explanation on their athletic website. While I appreciate originality, this feels like a school just trying to be different for the sake of being different. They should just call themselves the Coastal Carolina Hipsters. Cavs roll.
(8) Memphis Tigers vs. (9) George Washington Colonials
Friday, March 21st @ 6:55 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: Memphis (23-9, 12-6) received an at-large bid into the Dance after falling to UConn in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals. George Washington (24-8, 11-5) received an at-large bid out of the Atlantic 10, one of six A-10 teams participating in March Madness
Analysis: If I can be honest, this is a pretty boring match-up. Nothing about this game jumps out at me other than the fact it is boring. These are two extremely evenly matched teams that rank 40 and 41 on kenpom.com. Vegas favors Memphis by 3, but I couldn’t care less who wins. I’ll take GW because he was an awesome president.
(5) Cincinnati Bearcats vs. (12) Harvard Crimson
Mar 6, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Sean Kilpatrick reacts to a closing seconds jump shot at the end of the first half of the game against the Memphis Tigers at Fifth Third Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday, March 20th @ 2:10 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: The Bearcats (27-6, 15-3) received an at-large bid out of the AAC, losing to UConn in the conference semifinals. Harvard (26-4) finish with a 13-1 record in the Ivy League to clinch the automatic bid.
Analysis: Of Harvard’s four losses on the year, three of them came by 8 points or less. This includes a 5 point loss at UConn and an early 8 point loss at Colorado. They are the upset darling among many of the talking heads, with very few people paying attention to Sean Kilpatrick, the Bearcats senior guard who is averaging over 20 points per game. The Crimson’s defense will give Kilpatrick some trouble, and will prove enough to spark the upset.
(4) Michigan State Spartans vs. (13) Delaware Fightin Blue Hens
Thursday, March 20th @ 4:40 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: The Michigan State Spartans are your 2014 Big 10 conference tournament champions after a 26-8 (12-6) season. The Fightin Blue Hens of Delaware (25-9, 14-2) beat Bill & Mary to win the Colonial Athletic Conference.
Analysis: Sparty began the season on an 18-1 run, only to slip up during conference play. However, they’ve come on strong in the past few weeks, thrashing in-state rival Michigan in the Big 10 title game. Delaware presents an interesting threat in that the Hens have three scorers averaging over 18 points per game. It’s tough to bet against Tom Izzo in March, so I’m not going to this round. Joe Flacco’s alma mater exits early.
(6) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (11) Providence Friars
Friday, March 21st @ 7:20 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: North Carolina was ousted early in the ACC tournament after a 23-9 (13-5) season. Providence (23-11, 10-8) is the surprise Big East champions after upsetting Creighton in the finals at Madison Square Garden.
Analysis: After going on a 12 game winning streak late in the season, the Tar Heels enter March Madness on a two game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Friars are riding a surprising three game win streak and have won six of seven since their double overtime loss against Villanova in mid-February. Regardless of each team’s recent trends, North Carolina is the better team and will advance to play on Sunday.
(3) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (14) North Carolina Central Eagles
Friday, March 21st @ 9:50 p.m. on TNT
How They Got Here: The Cyclones (26-7, 11-7) enter March Madness as Big 12 champions after a solid run through the conference tournament. North Carolina Central are winners of the MEAC conference tournament, capping off a 28-5 (15-1) season.
Analysis: The Eagles are one of four teams from North Carolina to make the NCAA tournament, and they enter the round of 64 with one of the top defenses in the country (58.5 points per game). Senior guard Jeremy Ingram is averaging over 20 points per game for the Eagles, but unfortunately, that is where the offensive fire power ends. The Cyclones battled through a tough start to Big 12 play and are armed with four players averaging double digit points. Their 83 points per game ranks them 6th in the country, and that should be enough for them to avoid the upset.
(7) UConn Huskies vs. (10) St. Joseph’s Hawks
Mar 15, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Shabazz Napier (13) reacts after being called for a foul during the second half against the Louisville Cardinals in final of the American Athletic Conference college basketball tournament at FedEx Forum. Louisville defeated Connecticut 71-61. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday, March 20th @ 6:55 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: UConn lost to Louisville in the inaugural AAC title game, capping off a 26-8 (12-6) season for the Huskies. St. Joe’s (24-9, 11-5) enter the Big Dance as winners of the A-10 conference tournament, beating VCU to take the title.
Analysis: Shabazz Napier, senior guard for the Huskies, is one of the most fun players in the country to watch. He dabbles in a little bit of everything, averaging 17 points per game, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. St. Joe’s will have to contain Napier if they want to advance to the weekend, but the general consensus appears to be leaning towards UConn. Vegas opened the line with the Huskies favored by 4; since then, the line has moved to UConn -5.5, which is significant in less than a week. Huskies and Napier advance.
(2) Villanova Wildcats vs. (15) Milwaukee Panthers
Thursday, March 20th @ 9:25 p.m. on TBS
How They Got Here: Villanova (28-4, 16-2) was upset in their first game of the Big East tournament by Seton Hall, yet still held on to secure a #2 seed. The Milwaukee Panthers (21-13, 7-9) earned their way into the tournament with a Horizon conference championship after finishing the regular season with a losing conference record.
Analysis: Something doesn’t seem right about Villanova in my opinion. Personally, I don’t view them as one of the top 8 teams in the country and thus, I believe they are over seeded. They played 11 games against tournament teams this season, going 8-3 in those match-ups. Their best win was a 4 point victory over Kansas early in the year on a neutral floor. However, they were blown out in their three losses, losing to Syracuse by 16 and Creighton twice (28, 21). Their other 7 victories are padded by three wins against teams that have already been eliminated (Mount St. Mary’s & Xavier twice), and by this point, hopefully you get the point that I’m not sold on the Wildcats. Plus, Jay Wright’s acting career is off to a rocky start with his terrible Dove commercial. They’ll get past the Panthers, but I’m not even sure about that.
Click the NEXT button to check out the Second Round games.
Mar 14, 2014; Greensboro, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward J.P. Tokoto (13) reacts on the bench in the second half. The Panthers defeated the Tar Heels 80-75 in the quarterfinals of the ACC college basketball tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
SECOND ROUND GAMES (REGION QUARTERFINALS)
(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (9) George Washington Colonials
Sunday, March 23rd
Analysis: Virginia has played spectacular this season under Tony Bennett, who will be one of the front runners for Coach of the Year. Ken Pomeroy has UVA listed as a top five team in the country and they should cause some major issues for the Colonials. I expect the Cavs top ranked defense to shut down GW and this one could get ugly quickly.
(12) Harvard Crimson vs. (4) Michigan State Spartans
Saturday, March 22nd
Analysis: Major publications and talking heads throughout the country agree with the Spartans #4 seed, given their struggles throughout the season. However, they enter March Madness as one of the most dangerous teams in the country. They are getting healthy and are fresh off a beat-down of in-state rival Meat Chicken in the Big 10 title game; not to mention they beat #2 seed Wisconsin during their conference tournament run as well. The East region is probably the weakest of the four, and there is a legitimate chance that Michigan State and Tom Izzo make a deep run after ending Harvard’s season.
(6) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (3) Iowa State Cyclones
Sunday, March 23rd
Analysis: For starters, if you haven’t yet read Tommy Tomlinson’s piece on Dean Smith, you need to do so immediately. Now that I’m finished with my UNC plug, I can move on to Iowa State, a team that I think is poised to make a deep tournament run (especially with overrated Villanova joining them in the bottom half of the bracket). Behind the senior leadership (and play) of Melvin Ejim, the Cyclones should roll over the Tar Heels. Ejim won the AP Big 12 Player of the Year award over two early season favorites, Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart. He also went off for 48 points (Big 12 record) and 18 rebounds against TCU!! And if you need anymore convincing, there is also this:
(2) Villanova Wildcats vs. (7) UConn Huskies
Saturday, March 22nd
Analysis: This is a classic dog versus cat match-up, and I’ve already gone off on why I think cats are terrible, selfish, horrible creatures. History will show that dogs always beat cats: in basketball, in life, and in the pursuit of happiness. So rather than get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s just say the Huskies will win and enjoy this awesome dog video:
Click the NEXT button to check out the Sweet Sixteen match-ups.
Mar 19, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard/forward Branden Dawson (22) dunks during practice before the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
SWEET SIXTEEN (REGION SEMIFINALS)
(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (4) Michigan State Spartans
Friday, March 28th
Analysis: If you ever saw the movie 300, you’d know that it’s best not to mess around with Spartans. How awesome would it be if Tom Izzo walked to center court to talk with Tony Bennett and straight drop kicked him in the chest?
While I doubt that will happen, I do believe that Michigan State will find a way to pull off the upset. #IzzoMagic
(3) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (7) UConn Huskies
Friday, March 28th
Analysis: Nate Silver believes the Cyclones have a 20% chance of advancing to the Elite Eight, but they’ll need to get past Shabazz Napier and the Huskies in order to do so. These teams have contrasting styles of play, with the Huskies preferring a more half-court approach to the Cyclones up and down tempo. Whoever controls the tempo of the game will have the upper hand and unfortunately for UConn fans, I think Melvin Ejim and the Cyclones end the “Kemba Walker-esque” run of the Huskies.
Click the NEXT button to check out who advances to the Final Four.
Mar 15, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; The Iowa State Cyclones players celebrate after their game against the Baylor Bears in the championship game of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. The Cyclones won 74 – 65. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
ELITE EIGHT (REGION FINALS)
(4) Michigan State Spartans vs. (3) Iowa State Cyclones
Sunday, March 30th
Analysis: Vegas currently has the Spartans listed as the second favorite to win the National Championship, trailing only the Florida Gators. Vegas is usually pretty good at their job, and they may see/know something that has tipped their hat towards Sparty. However, they are also very good at understanding the current mindset of the nation’s gamblers. The NCAA tournament is a big-time revenue generator, and thus, they want to get action from people. The average fan knows Michigan State well enough to recognize the name, which cannot necessarily be said for the Cyclones. On top of that, college basketball has become a game of coaches. With all of the one and done players that churn through the college ranks, the coaches are the one stable piece of the puzzle. Sure enough, Tom Izzo is one of the top coaches in the game and recognized nation-wide. I tend to believe that Vegas is toying with our heart strings with the Michigan State odds. While I do believe that the Spartans are a great team, the Cyclones are flying under the radar…flying all the way to Dallas.
Look for a preview of the Final Four & National Championship game coming up soon. For more March Madness coverage, as well as other Tampa Bay area sports content, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook