Here's the last of the regional previews for the first and second round games. The Southwest region includes some powerhouses, but I could realistically see any of the top 4 seeds reaching the Final Four. Of course there will be an upset or two thrown in there as well. Like usual, every part of the NCAA Tournament is awesome, and this region is no exception. Let's have a look at my picks.
USC Trojans (19-14) vs. VCU Rams (23-11)
March 16 9:00 PM ET
Say what you want about whether these teams deserved to be in the field of 68 or not, but someone has to win this game. I'll be the first to admit that teams such as the Colorado Buffaloes, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Boston College Eagles were more deserving than VCU or perhaps USC. Regardless, it is what it is. I have USC advancing because I think they are better and have faced better competition this year. Of two teams that may or may not belong here, you can make a stronger case for USC. Therefore, I believe they are a better team and will thus move on.
Second Round Games
(1) Kansas Jayhawks (32-2) vs. (16) Boston University Terriers (21-13)
March 18 6:50 PM ET
It's becoming really hard to come up with a few sentences to write about these #1 vs. #16 match-ups. The #1 seed is going to win, deal with it.
(8) UNLV Rebels (24-8) vs. (9) Illinois Fighting Illini (19-13)
March 18 9:20 PM ET
I previously had Illinois winning this game, but upon further review, picked the Rebels. Wins over the Kansas St. Wildcats, Wisconsin Badgers, and Virginia Tech Hokies are impressive. Sometimes the teams in the 8 vs. 9 match-ups are too similar in ability to make a confident pick. Sometimes you have to just make your best educated guess. This is one of those times. I'm picking the Rebels, although I could change my mind again by the time I finish this article.
March 17 4:10 PM ET
Prediction: Richmond **UPSET SPECIAL**
One of the staples of the NCAA Tournament, a twelve seed upsets a five seed. I think it happens here this year. Vanderbilt has some strong early season wins, but kind of faded down the stretch, losing 4 of its last 7 games. Richmond, meanwhile, cruised through the Atlantic 10 tournament and hasn't lost in nearly a month. This is probably a pretty popular pick, as many think Richmond has what it takes to pull off the upset.
March 17 1:40 PM ET
This is another case of a team from a small conference winning the tournament to gain an NCAA bid. Then, that team has to go in and play a powerhouse team from a legitimately good conference. Generally, the team from the small conference gets blown away. That is precisely what I expect here.
(6) Georgetown Hoyas (21-10) vs. (11) Winner of USC/VCU
March 18 9:50 PM ET
Based on my previous prediction, I think USC will be playing against the Hoyas in this game. If that's the case they could probably give G-Town a tough game. Regardless, I think the Hoyas just have too much experience and are used to paying on the big stage after putting together a very impressive season in the Big East. Georgetown has not played well as of late, but still boast the 12th best FG% in the country. Georgetown survives, barely.
March 18 7:20 PM ET
I simply refuse to pick a team called the "Peacocks." I cannot do it. Similarly, I refuse to pick a team that is bound to get destroyed. Coincidentally, St. Peter's is both of those things. Purdue cost itself a chance at a number one-seed by dropping games to the Iowa Hawkeyes and Michigan St. Spartans at the end of the year, but I think they bounce back. I have Purdue as one of the teams that will make a big impact in this tournament and needless to say, I think they can handle the ferocious Peacocks from St. Peter's.
(7) Texas A&M Aggies (24-8) vs. (10) Florida St. Seminoles (21-10)
March 18 4:10 PM ET
Prediction: Texas A&M
I think this game comes down to the impact the Chris Singleton has on the FSU defense. If he doesn't play, then I would guess that his impact will be limited. Florida State is an extremely good defensive team when Singleton is healthy, and is capable with playing with the big boys (as shown by their win over the Duke Blue Devils). However, their defensive leader has been hurt for several games now, and will likely not be at full strength, even if he manages to play in this one. Therefore, I do not think this one will be as difficult for the Aggies as it could have been. Aggies are moving on.
March 18 1:40 PM ET
Prediction: Notre Dame
I know many people reading this may be especially close to this Akron team, however, Notre Dame is so good. The Irish may have had the best claim to a number one-seed out of all of the 2-seeds. Losing just 4 times in the Big East is unbelievable. My apologies to any Akron natives, Notre Dame is cruising to the next round.
That concludes the preview for the play-in and second round games. Make sure to check back for updates about the tournament and previews of rounds to come. Enjoy the madness!
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