Drake at Butler
Obviously this is the big one. Both of these teams should have all but clinched an NCAA berth by the time this game takes place, but it is a good time to take a look at two quality teams before filling in your bracket. Both teams sport the traditional mid-major look with guard-orientated teams. The difference could be Butler’s Matt Howard on the inside, who is averaging 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Spur of the moment prediction: Drake has already gone to places like Iowa, Wichita State, Bradley and Creighton and pulled off victories. The dream season continues for Coach Keno Davis.
Kent State at Saint Mary’s
Kent State backed into the BracketBusters selection process with a disheartening loss to Toledo. The Flashes now need a big win to have any realistic hope of an at-large bid and a trip to Saint Mary’s would provide just that. Even without the at-large bid, Kent State is the favorite to advance out of the Mid-American Conference and is a dangerous team that can do some damage in March. Yet, that win will be hard to come by. The Gaels have not lost at home all season and will likely keep that run going. Guard Patrick Mills, forward Diamon Simpson and center Omar Samhan are a dynamic trio that have been simply dominating. If you haven’t seen St. Mary’s play yet this year, be sure to watch this game and see why these guys are a legitimate Sweet Sixteen team.
Spur of the moment prediction: The Gaels have way too many weapons for Kent State to handle.
Rider at Cal State Northridge
This one may not sound too great, but if you are looking for a 14-seed to upset a 3-seed for the office pool, this is a good place to start. Rider is currently on top of the MAAC with a 10-2 record and Northridge is 7-1 in the Big West. Both teams will be looking to bump up their seed by a notch or two in this game and gain some momentum for the conference tournament.
Spur of the moment prediction: Jason Thompson gets 22 points and 19 rebounds and Deon Tresvant misses a last second three to give Rider the victory.
George Mason at Ohio, VCU at Akron
The Patriots have not been very consistent this year, but when they are on they can beat anybody. George Mason and VCU have separated themselves from the rest of the CAA and both will likely need wins if the conference wants to get an at-large bid. A couple road victories over two of the top three teams in the Mid-American Conference will certainly boost the overall conference RPI. Ohio and Akron are on the outside of the bubble, but they can still help their conference out by holding serve at home. Really it would help Kent State out the most, but it is not like Ohio and Akron can’t win a few games in the conference tournament and be dangerous teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Spur of the moment prediction: Will Thomas gets yet another double-double and the Patriots slip by the Bobcats, but the CAA misses the sweep over the MAC as Akron gets the win over VCU.
Davidson at Winthrop
Davidson and Winthrop have dominated their conferences over the last few years and these are couple teams who could win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Davidson is 13-0 in the Southern Conference and shouldn’t lose a conference game the rest of the year. Stephen Curry, who is averaging 24.4 points per game, is the best player you’ve never seen and that alone is a good enough reason to tune into this game. Winthrop’s dominance of the Big South is being threatened by UNC Asheville and they could use a big win before, presumably, facing off against the Bulldogs in the conference tournament final.
Spur of the moment prediction: Davidson hasn’t lost since December 21st and they won’t lose again until March 22nd or March 23rd.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Bradley
These teams might be better than some others who earned a TV game, but they are both middle of the pack teams in their conferences. Sometimes a middle of the pack team in the Missouri Valley Conference is good enough, but not this year. Without any chance of an at-large bid and little chance to knock off better teams in the conference tournaments, these look like two teams who seasons will end soon after this game.
Spur of the moment prediction: The Panthers have pulled together some nice wins lately, but on the road at Bradley will be way too difficult.
Siena at Boise State
Boise State deserves some credit for taking advantage of weak Western Athletic Conference, but this one doesn’t scream excitement. Siena is in the hunt in the MAAC and have plenty of talented guards in Edwin Ubiles, Kenny Hasbrouck, Ronald Moore and Tay Fisher, but they are going to have to save their best basketball for the conference tournament.
Spur of the moment prediction: It’s a long trip to Boise and Siena has bigger games on the schedule than this one.
Nevada at Southern Illinois
Last year I would have cared. This year, I’d rather watch Southern Illinois play Illinois State and Nevada play Utah State. Obviously these aren’t horrible teams, but both of have been quite disappointing compared to preseason expectations.
Spur of the moment prediction: Nevada turns the ball over too much and that problem will be very obvious against the tough Saluki defense and the tough Saluki crowd.
Miami (OH) at Valparaiso
These are a couple more middle of the road teams in their respective conferences. Valpo is 5-4 in the Horizon and Miami has slipped to 4-4 in conference. However, it sounds a little worse than it actually is this time. Inconsistency has been a problem, but both teams have enough talent to make some noise in their conference tournaments. Getting a little momentum in this game will certainly help.
Spur of the moment prediction: The balanced scoring attack of the Crusaders will be too much for Miami to deal with on the road.
Marist at Cleveland State
Cleveland State has slipped a little bit lately, but they are still in the thick of the Horizon League race. Marist is right there with Rider, Siena and Loyola (MD) in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Once again these aren’t teams looking for an at-large bid, but they are a couple teams who could use some momentum heading into conference tournaments that promise to be competitive.
Spur of the moment prediction: If Marist, who has won eight of their last ten, can stay hot they can get a big win on the road.
Creighton at Oral Roberts
Creighton is in that log jam of decent teams behind Drake in the MVC. This will be a much better measuring stick for Oral Roberts who is 10-0 in Summit League play. The Golden Eagles should be dancing in March in the 15 seed range and Creighton would be their best win in a long time and a great way to prepare for March.
Spur of the moment prediction: ORU is good, but the middle of the road teams in the MVC are better.
Wright State and Illinois State
Now I’m just getting sick of Horizon League and Missouri Valley Conference teams. However, these are probably the second best teams in each conference, so it can make for an interesting game. The Redbirds are considered to be a relatively big surprise in the conference and it will be a good opportunity to catch a team that most people don’t get to see very often.
Spur of the moment prediction: Illinois State has been pretty solid in the friendly confines. Wright State has won three road games in a row, but not against a team as talented as Illinois State.
UC Santa Barbara at Utah State
If you are a fan of the Big West, you’ve seen this game many times before. Utah State will welcome former conference foe UCSB to Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. After an ugly, ugly start, the Aggies have won 11 of their last 12 games. UCSB has plenty of talent, but have yet to find much consistency and, as Gaucho fans may remember, it is extremely tough to play in Logan.
Spur of the moment prediction: USU does not lose at home.