Kalen is a fourth year BGSU student from Toledo, Ohio. He is a sports management major with a minor in journalism. His primary sport interests include football and tennis, but he also has an interest in a wide variety in other sports, from baseball to hockey. His dream job outside of college is to be a sportswriter for an organization like ESPN or Sports Illustrated.
March 15, 2023
BOWLING GREEN, OHIO — March is a favorite for many. It is when the weather warms up, the flowers start blooming and the snow turns into rain.
The main reason, however, is because that is when the best competition in sport starts.
Those two words are sure to get any person excited whether they are a basketball fan or not. Looking at the brackets this year could get fans even more excited for the tourney to start.
The first-round matchups could be the best we have ever seen. However, that means that brackets will be harder to predict.
Well, just like last year, I am here to help. This time around, though, I will take a different approach.
For this first round, there will be no confirming or denying of anything from me. Instead, I will simply state what I do/do not like and state facts to keep in mind when you are making your first-round picks.
So, let us not wait any longer, shall we?
Do keep in mind (All Stats are via ESPN Tournament Challenge):
- 9-seeds are 11-5 vs 8-seeds in the past four tourneys
- At least one 12-seed has beaten a 5-seed in 32 of the last 37 tourneys
- 11-seeds are 14-10 vs 6-seeds since 2014
- 7-seeds have beaten 10-seeds about 60% of the time
- A 15-seed has made the Sweet 16 in the last two tourneys (Oral Roberts and St. Peter’s)
- 3-seeds have only lost once in the first round in the past five tourneys
12 Oral Roberts over 5 Duke
Two tourneys ago, Oral Roberts went on a magical run by making the Sweet 16 as a 15-seed. This time around, they are going for more than a feel-good story.
The Golden Eagles, led by Max Abmas (22 PPG), are the third highest-scoring offense in the country (84.2 PPG). They also take great care of the ball.
Duke, led by Kyle Filipowski (15 PPG, 9 RPG) could match this with the team’s strong rebounding. The Blue Devils’ problem, though, is that they can go cold from distance, which has hurt them in conference games.
If Duke struggles to shoot, it could be a long night for the blue bloods.
13 Kent State over 4 Indiana
It may have been a shock to MAC fans when Kent State dominated Toledo in the conference title game. KSU is here to show how great they are.
Kent State was able to make Houston and Gonzaga sweat earlier in the season by holding both teams to some of their lowest point totals. KSU possesses a top-30 adjusted defense efficiency rating.
The game plan for Kent should be to contain the phenomenal Trayce Jackson-Davis (20.5 PPG, 11 RPG, 2.8 BPG). He leads a balanced Hoosiers team that is also stout on the defensive end.
The difference in this game could be Indiana’s lack of second-chance opportunities and Kent taking advantage of them.
Be careful with picking KSU-IU, this game screams bracket-breaker.
12 VCU over 5 St. Mary’s
This matchup is between two teams that seem to be tourney mainstays. It is also a matchup between teams that are looking for their first tourney win in a while.
For VCU, this is the third appearance in the Mike Rhodes’ era, and they look to give the coach his first win. The drought has been longer for St. Mary’s, who have only advanced once since 2002.
VCU will come into this game with a defense that forced turnovers on almost 20% of A-10 opponent possessions. That is a stat that should terrify opposing teams.
That holds especially true for the Gaels, who prefer to play at a slower pace. Aidan Mahaney (14.7 PPG, 41% from 3) has done a better job spreading the floor, but it may not be enough.
If VCU can get a lead early, they could keep St. Mary’s at arm’s length the whole way.
I don’t like…
11 Mississippi State/Pittsburgh over 6 Iowa State
Iowa State has struggled lately (5-10 in the last 15) and is a popular pick to be upset by the winner of the Miss State/Pitt match-up. It is not a good idea to forget that the Cyclones still hold a top-10 adjusted defensive efficiency, though.
Pair that with the extremely slow pace of Pittsburgh (176 teams play faster) or the abysmal three-point shooting of Mississippi State (27.3%), and that spells trouble for these bubble teams.
Do not be surprised if the Cyclones find their rhythm again and move to round two.
10 USC over 7 Michigan State
Even with a top-50 adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rating, USC still found itself near the bubble.
That is because the Trojans rely heavily on their starters, which has caused fatigue in key moments.
The fatigue could come quicker than usual when they face a Michigan State team that shoots 40.11% from three, the third highest in the country. The Spartans are playing for more than a championship as well after the mass shooting that took the lives of three students.
USC and MSU match up well, but the Spartans should be able to shoot the ball well enough to advance.
12 Charleston over 5 San Diego State
The Cougars have not lost a game in over a month, and the 31-3 team has shown that they are not a fluke. Boasting a top-30 tempo and a top-40 offensive rebounding rate, this team is ready to play in the Big Dance.
The problem that could arise is Charleston’s dependency on shots beyond the arc. 47% of their shots this season have been three-pointers, and they made 33% of them.
That would have been fine if they were not playing San Diego State. The Mountain West champs have a top-10 defense in the nation and allow under 30% from behind the arc.
The Aztecs also have an experienced roster that has played in this tourney before and can create quality shots for their teammates.
Of course, Charleston can adjust, but why change something that has led them to 31 wins? The Cougars are a good team, but they may have a humbling experience after playing SDSU.
Other Tourney Notes (via NCAA.com)
- Tennessee has the best defense in the nation, but an injury to Zakai Ziegler has affected the team’s play.
- Memphis is hot and just beat Houston to win the American conference.
- Florida Atlantic has a top-40 offense and defense.
- Kentucky can outrebound anyone.
- Providence is 7-8 in their last 15 games.
- Marquette has a top-5 offense, but poor 2PT defense.
- Miami’s offense keeps them in games.
- Texas A&M has poor shooting, but only allows 40% FG.
- Will Kansas Head Coach Bill Self be ready for the tourney?
- UConn gets 13+ offensive rebounds per game.
- Northwestern has a top 20 defense.
- Boise State has a solid offense and allows just 63.7 PPG.
- Gonzaga has the highest-scoring offense in the nation (87.5 PPG).
The NCAA Men’s Tournament Round of 64 is set to start on March 16 at 12:40 p.m. Happy bracket-making!