2015 NCAA Tournament Predictions: First Four

March 16, 2015

Before I begin, here is the obligatory disclaimer that shows up in my first NCAA Tournament prediction article each year. Everything in this post and subsequent tournament posts are my opinions on the NCAA Tournament. I cannot guarantee that taking my advice on anything will help you win your respective office pool or any other bracket game you may play. The truth is, a lot of it comes down to luck and circumstance and no matter how much I analyze and stress over the matchups, I am not really giving myself (or anyone else who decides to listen to me) a true advantage over anyone else. Although I have won a bracket pool with more than five people in it in previous years, my argument still holds water. With that being said, I do this purely out of joy for the game and out of hope that I can stir up conversation between anyone who reads my work.

And per usual, here is a picture of a smoking hot chick as a reward for reading that again. Apologies if you’re a chick, but honestly, what girls read this?

You say I’m getting too old to be doing that, but nobody likes you when you’re 23 anyway.

This article officially has my three favorite things: college basketball, girls and blink 182. March!

But seriously, let’s get to the part where I tell you a bit about the NCAA Tournament. Here are my predictions and much more for the First Four games taking place in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

First Round Games to Watch

#11 Mississippi vs. #11 BYU (Tuesday, following Manhattan vs. Hampton game)

Mississippi is proof that the selection committee does consider the entire body of work when choosing the 68 teams that make the NCAA Tournament. After a solid stretch between late January and mid-February in which the Rebels won eight of nine, Andy Kennedy’s squad limped to the finish line, dropping four of its last five games. Contrarily, the Cougars come into the Big Dance as hot as anyone, winning eight of their last nine contests including an important victory over Gonzaga. However, this should be one of the better games being played in Dayton if only because of the star power that will be on display.

Expect a lot of scoring in this game, because both teams rank inside the top 25 in KenPom’s adjusted offense rankings. The Cougars are second in the nation in scoring with an average of 83.6 points per game, and it’s both an individual and team effort. Four players average double digits for BYU and the Cougars are fifth in the country in assists per game, but senior Tyler Haws can also take over by himself. The 6’5″ guard is fourth in the country averaging 21.9 points per game and can score from anywhere on the floor. Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers are a dangerous backcourt tandem for the Rebels, but neither one can take over a game like Haws. If Ole Miss wants to survive the first round, it will need to find a way to slow down the Cougars on offense. The more points that are scored, the more this game will favor BYU.

#11 Boise State vs. #11 Dayton (Wednesday, following North Florida vs. Robert Morris game)

Not only are the Flyers one of the most under-seeded teams in the entire tournament according to ESPN’s BPI ranking, but they also get to play a literal home game, something that is only possible for Dayton in the NCAA Tournament. Boise State must travel across multiple time zones, deal with what will likely be one of the most one sided crowds of the 2015 tournament and rebound from a tough loss to Wyoming in the Mountain West tournament semis that ultimately put the Broncos in this precarious position. It doesn’t seem like one of the more interesting first or second round matchups, but it is.

Many fans are familiar with Dayton after its improbable run to the Elite 8 in last year’s tournament, but it’s hard to say that this is anything close to the same Flyers team. Graduating players, injuries and suspension have left Archie Miller’s team shallow on the bench, which is something that the Flyers have struggled with at times this season. Additionally, a lack of height has resulted in rebounding issues. Luckily for Dayton, Boise State doesn’t exactly own the boards, either, but does capable forward play in James Webb III. Throw in the fact that Derrick Marks is one of the better scorers in the country, constantly finding creative ways to get to the basket, and you’ve got an underrated Broncos squad. Location heavily favors the Flyers, but Boise State was actually playing better near the end of the year. This one isn’t as cut and dry and many people would think.

Team That Could Make a Run

Boise State

Quite honestly, either team that makes it out of the Boise State vs. Dayton matchup has a shot to continue its success in later rounds, but since I think the Broncos will emerge victorious we’ll focus on them in this section. Derrick Marks was mentioned earlier as a creative scorer and the country will witness that firsthand on Wednesday night. Against a suspect Dayton backcourt, Marks has the ability to create a lot of problems in the block, where he has a knack for ending up following a strong drive to the basket. He isn’t the best free throw shooter (78.9%), but could really give Boise State an advantage if he hits his shots.

The winner of the game in Dayton takes on Providence Friday night in nearby Columbus, which is a great matchup for either squad. The Friars have beaten just one tournament team since February 7 and are one of the most over-seeded teams according to ESPN’s BPI ranking. Boise State loves to shoot the three and is good at it, too, hitting 39.4 percent of its shots from behind the arc which is good for 15th best nationally. That could be the X-factor for this team, especially against a team like Providence. The Friars are bad from behind the arc and won’t be able to use quick shooting to come back from any sizable deficit in the second half.

My Picks

#16 Manhattan over #16 Hampton

#11 BYU over #11 Mississippi

#16 North Florida over #16 Robert Morris

#11 Boise State over #11 Dayton

– K. Becks

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