Alright let's go. No more waiting. The real tournament starts today. And if the results of the First Round play in games are any indication of how the 32 games to be played today and tomorrow are going to play out then we are in for some grade A insanity. Be sure to have your mouse curser hovering over that "boss button" while your streaming the games today. For those of you who claimed to have Ebola to avoid coming in the rest of this week, God bless you and may your health miraculously return around midnight on Sunday.
To the men who chose this week to get a vasectomy (according to a CNN report, doctors say there is a 50% rise in vasectomies the week the NCAA Tournament starts), now that's some well planned out multi-tasking. Proud of ya'll! Go grab some frozen peas and settle into the couch.
No more talking. It's Tournament time baby!
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In the last of these region rundowns, we look at the East. In my assessment, it's the second softest bracket in the field. However, unlike the culled left overs in the south, the East has some teams with serious talent up and down the line. No reason to drag this out, the games are about to begin!
Winmore's East Region Round of 64 Predictions
1 Villanova - v - 16 Lafayette: Thursday, March 19, @ 5:50 p.m. (CST) on TBS
A lot of people are labeling Villanova as the most vulnerable 1 seed in the field. That may be true, but don't sleep on head coach Jay Wright's Wildcats. This team set a school record for wins this season at 32-2, and they haven't lost since January 19. Wright has a Final 4 appearance on his resume and his team is a smooth moving, efficient, offensive machine. The main reason to be suspect of Nova is that they hail from that new holy watered down version of the Big East. Villanova doesn't have to apologize for whose on their schedule. Soft or not, Villanova showed how good they were by steam rolling right through all but two games. Plus, the Wildcats may have a touch of remembered magic on their side this year. It's the 30th anniversary of Nova's crazy 1985 run to the title as an 8 seed, still the lowest seed to ever win it all. Their opponent in the first game are the Leopards from Lafayette. Lafayette finished 4th in the Patriot League's final standings and were sitting with a 16-12 record before going on a run to claim the Patriot League Tournament Title. The Leopards are one of the best shooting percentage teams in the nation with an overall FG% ranked 7th and 3 pt% ranked 2nd nationally. In their last three wins, the Leopards have shot 55%, 44%, and 53% from behind the arc. If the Committee gave Nova a 1 seed begrudgingly, like they did the Shockers last year, they've definitely decided to make them earn it by putting them up against the most dangerous 16. Winner: The Other 1 Seed Wildcats.
8 N. C. State - v - 9 LSU: Friday, March 20, @ 8:20 p.m. (CST) on TBS
The Selection Committee didn't do Villanova any favors with this 8/9 matchup winner waiting for them come Saturday. Both LSU and NC State are loaded with talent. The reason the Wolfpack and Tigers find themselves as an 8 and 9 is because they don't always come to play with full energy. But, man, when they are on, they can be as dangerous as anybody in the field. LSU is one of just a handful of teams to almost get Kentucky this year. LSU's sophomore forward Jarell Martin was a beast in that game, one of the few people I've seen all year willing to go right at the teeth of Kentucky's size. Martin leads the Tigers in scoring with 17 a game, but his low post mate in fellow sophomore Jordan Mickey throws in 16 a game for himself. The two of them together consistently wipe the glass as well, averaging 10 boards a game, a piece. NC State does not have the size and strength to match the Tigers down low, but they do have a trio of guards in Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner, and Anthony Barber who can absolutely light it up on any given night. This a game of the inside versus the outside. Winner: La Su
5 Northern Iowa - v - 12 Wyoming: Friday, March 20, @ 12:40 p.m. (CST) on TBS
Everybody loves themselves some Wichita State, but it was the Panthers of Northern Iowa who turned out to be the strongest team in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. They split the season series with the Shockers, but absolutely crushed them at Northern Iowa back in January. This is the first appearance for the Panthers in the tournament since they shocked the world by downing the #1 overall seed Kansas back in 2010.
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Two things: What the hell was Tyrell Reid doing backing off of that shot? And how great is Kevin Harlan at calling games? That Northern Iowa team set a school record with 30 wins that year. This year's team has already matched that and looks now to pile on even more wins. Northern Iowa is a bit offensively challenged though. Their game hinges on the performance of their senior forward and the Larry Bird Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award winner Seth Tuttle. Tuttle is a big capable of stretching out an opponent's defense because of his solid shooting touch. Wyoming will look to match the heart of the Panthers' team with their own senior forward Larry Nance Jr. against Tuttle. The two seniors are near physical clones of one another, even though their games are very different. This one might be a low scoring slugfest as one of the most evenly matched games of the opening weekend. These Cowboys had to rally and win the Mountain West Conference Tournament just to be here, essentially stealing the bid right out from under their top rival Colorado State. Winner: The Ali Farokmaneshes
4 Louisville- v - 13 UC Irvine: Friday, March 20, @ 3:10 p.m. (CST) on TBS
Pitino's Cardinals put together a solid first year in the ACC, but seemed to be running out of gas by the end of the season. They got off to a red hot start at 11-0 before playing tough against Kentucky in their first loss of the season. 4 of 5 of Louisville's starters average double digits, led by sophomore guard Terry Rozier's 17 a game. The Cardinals offense can disappear from time to time, as they average a sickly 42% of made field goals. Their opponent, UC Irvine, may have the best mascot in the entire tournament in Peter the Anteater. The Anteaters were yet another mid-major conference tournament winner after a year of mediocrity. The Cardinals offensive schizophrenia will be enough to keep this game close. The Cardinals should bust out those old hideous Adidas zoo-bazz beach shorts they wore during their 2013 title run for good luck. Winner: Lou-alllllllll-vule KFC Yum Centers
6 Providence - v - 11 Dayton: Friday, March 20, @ 8:57 p.m. (CST) on truTV
Providence and Dayton will tip off as the very last game of the final day of the opening round Friday night. That's like having only one test finals week, but having that one test scheduled on a Friday. That is a long time to wait for Providence. Dayton has already ready gotten to stretch their legs and get the jitters out of their system as the NCAA Selection Committee gave them an absolute gift of a home tournament game against poor Boise State Wednesday night. Providence is another one of those middling teams from the now mid-major version of the Big East. However, the Friars have a big time baller on their squad in senior forward LaDontae Henton. He averages 20 points a game and went for 38 earlier this year against Notre Dame in which the Friars almost took down the Irish before losing 75-74. Dayton definitely needed that home atmosphere to get by Boise State Wednesday night, overcoming a poor night of shooting. Had Boise State's best player Derrick Marks had any help from his other Broncos, Dayton probably wouldn't be here for Henton to now throw 30 points through the rim on them. Winner: Friar Tucks
3 Oklahoma - v - 14 Albany: Friday, March 20, @ 6:27 p.m. (CST) on truTV
A lot of people are picking Oklahoma as their dark horse to survive the East Region. And I gotta tell ya, I like the pick. Mainly because I like Sooners' coach Lon Kruger. Kruger, much like Larry Brown, wins at every school he stops at in his vagabond travels. Kruger led his alma mater, K-State, to the brink of the 1988 Final 4 before losing in the Elite 8 to rival Kansas. He then took Florida to the first Final 4 in the school's history in 1994. From there he built the foundation in Illinois that Bill Self took to the next level, and after a stint in the NBA returned to resurrect UNLV's basketball program and now has assembled the best Sooners team since Blake Griffin was throwing down nasty dunks in 2009. Kruger knows how to win in the tournament and he brings with him one of the best offensive teams in the nation led by Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield and his 17 points a game. As long as the Sooners don't have to face Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State Cyclones they might be capable of a very deep tournament run. Then there's Albany. Their mascot looks like Scooby Doo. Only playing basketball since 2000, this year's Great Danes team posted the best record in the program's history. Six of the Great Danes' eight total losses came in the first eight games of the season. They finished the year on a 22-2 run. If the Sooners hope to make good on everyone's pick of them being a surprise team in this tournament, then they better not look past an Albany team that is rolling right now. Winner: The Laters.
7 Michigan State - v - 10 Georgia: Friday, March 20, @ 11:40 a.m. (CST) on truTV
If you just blindly picked Tom Izzo's Spartans to make the Final 4 in any given year, you'd wind up being right about 50% of the time. Especially, if Izzo has a senior star on his team. Hey look at that Travis Trice is a senior this year! The Spartans have been up and down this season, but looked to be stabilizing at just the right time when they met Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game and took the Badgers to overtime before finally falling. In Georgia the Spartans will be going up against their near mirror image in both style of play and scoring output. Bulldogs' head coach Mark Fox was the architect behind the Nevada team that was a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament in the mid 2000s, but he's yet to put it together at Georgia. He's making just his second tournament appearance in six years in Athens. Winner: This! Is! IZZO!
2 Virginia - v - 15 Belmont: Friday, March 20, @ 2:10 p.m. (CST) on truTV
Virginia felt themselves cruising toward a 1 seed most of the season until their junior star guard Justin Anderson's appendix burst and then he busted up his shooting hand. The Cavaliers were sitting at 28-1, but finished 1-2, with Anderson, still the team's second leading scorer, not nearly the same player. This fact, I believe, is the reason Nova is on the 1 line and Virginia is on the 2 in the East. Virgiana seemed to come out of nowhere in 2014 as coach Tony Bennet's team locked up an ACC title and a 1 seed in last year's tournament. Then Tom Izzo went all March Madness Maestro with his 4 seed Spartans and took Virginia out in the Sweet 16. Now Virginia faces the possibility of having to face Izzo a round earlier. But before that rematch can happen, Virginia needs to get past the Murray State heart breakers, the Belmont Bruins. The Bruins were sitting on a 15-10 record before going nuts to finish the season and steal the Ohio Valley from Murray State. For Belmont to have any chance here, their star junior Craig Bradshaw will have to carry his brilliant performance from the Ohio Valley Conference championship game into the NCAA tournament. Bradshaw normally goes for 18 points a game. Winner: Cavallaros.