I will be previewing every first round game.
Pittsburgh vs East Tennessee St.
This should be the best 1-16 matchup in the entire NCAA tournament. ETSU really should have been seeded lower because they have the offensive firepower to compete. Courtney Pigram should give Pitt some problems and Mike Smith is a versatile player. With that said, Pitt is just too big inside with Dejuan Blair and Sam Young. ETSU has no one who can match up with the physicality of this Panther squad. It should be a fairly easy win, but the score is not indicative of just how dangerous this midmajor is.
Oklahoma St. vs. Tennessee
Florida St. vs. Wisconsin
This should be one of the more interesting first round games. It features a complete contrast in styles. Wisconsin plays slow, grind-it-out basketball, while Florida St. has a high octane offense. While normally this would be in consideration for an upset, the Seminoles are a more than capable team in the half court. They are able to penetrate and certainly can hit their shots from behind the arc. Singleton and Douglass should fill it up. Alabi is really emerging as an inside force and Leuer and co should have their hands full.
Victor: Florida St.
Xavier vs. Portland St.
This game should be a three point shoot out. If Dante Jackson can handle the ball and Xavier can control the glass, they should come out on top. Jeremiah Dominguez and co. should give this team some headaches along the way though. However, if Xavier is able to penetrate inside and get easy shots from Love, Brown and Anderson, this could be more of a blowout than most would anticipate. Portland St. is not great at defending on the perimeter, so they could allow a team like Xavier to get back in the game, or push a lead further out of reach. Their post defense is also poor. All and all, Jackson and Holloway's abilities to control the tempo of this game and defend on the perimeter will truly determine how well the Vikings fair.
UCLA vs. VCU
When watching UCLA, you notice that they are a tough defensive team that rarely allows easy three point shots. However, it seems like they are vulnerable to penetration, they tend to slack on the perimeter. This is exactly the what VCU and Eric Maynor will exploit. Also, UCLA tends to get most of their offense off of screen and jump shot plays. Also, they use the high ball screen and attempt to role to the basket. This UCLA team is somewhat effective in transition and they have many options that can catch fire from the perimeter- including Roll, Shipp, and Dragovic. If Holiday and Collison can stop Maynor's attack, this should be a long night for VCU. While this may be the case, UCLA's commitment to man-to-man defense may prove to be a critical error in stopping the VCU attack. When you examine the common denominator amongst their losses, it becomes clear that they lose when Maynor shoots poorly and when they face teams with large, physical big men. Although Sanders faired well against Blake Griffin, the focus on Blake allowed Crocker to get into a rhythm. Other losses were to ODU and Nevada, where Gerald Lee and Luke Babbitt had excellent games respectively. Because UCLA does not have such a dominant presence inside, VCU should not struggle as much. Aboya should have a big game, but he is the sole weapon inside. In their previous contest, VCU shut down Darryl Monroe, giving him no room to score. I expect VCU to be patient on offense and stifle UCLA defensively by not letting them get into a rhythm. (by intercepting their screen and role passes)
Villanova vs. American
American has some solid players that can slash to the basket. Their strengths are in their outside shooting and perimeter play. Garrison Carr is able to create his own offense and should be a difficult threat to contain for the Villanova defense. Look for American's guards to attack the Nova defense and draw some fouls. I expect Nova's guards to have some open three point shots. If they can hit these attempts, they should be able to pull away virtually at home. Also, this must occur because it will extend the American defense and open up the game for Anderson, Clark, and Cunningham. This American team is a tough squad capable of upsetting a 3 seed. But, Villanova is a rising team, who is streaking at just the right time. Look for Corey Fisher's ability to penetrate as a major key in this game. Defensively, Nova's defense is tremendous at times. It should be very difficult for American to hit perimeter jump shots. All in all, American is a fundamentally sound team that should keep this game fairly close- but I highly doubt there will be an upset.
Texas vs. Minnesota
When considering who will come out on top in this contest, one must consider the superior frontcourt play of Texas. While Ralph Sampson III is a rising young star, he must contend with a frontline of James, Pittman, and Atchley. He does possess some promise, but Texas's bigs are simply too strong inside. They will outmuscle the improving freshman and should dominate on the glass. On the offensive end, Lawrence Westbrook is a dynamic scorer that can score in a variety of ways. He is effective off the dribble, but can also distribute the ball. Minnesota is a great defensive team that clamps down on the passing lanes. On the offensive end, they are not a great three point shooting team, but they can hit midrange jumpers and are patient in looking for the best shot available. Texas may be able to exploit Damion James as a pick and roll player because Minnesota's defense tends to converge on the hedge. If AJ Abrams can hit his shots and control the pace of the game, Texas should win in a fairly low scoring contest.
Duke vs. Binghamton
This Bearcat team is a nightmare matchup for the Bluedevils. They play a four guard lineup and are extremely athletic on the perimeter. DJ Rivera is a tremendous scorer who can slash to the hoop. He uses his length to separate himself from defenders. Point guard Tiki Mayben has been tremendous controlling the tempo and hitting shots. If this team can somehow outrebound Duke, they should at least make it competitive. Do not look for this game to be as close as the Belmont contest a year ago. That is because Duke is much improved this season. Singler and Lance Thomas should hurt this team inside. And, Gerald Henderson should be a difficult player for this team to guard. Look for Duke to be challenged early, but pull ahead in the end.
Louisville vs. Morehead St.
Kenneth Faried is one of the best rebounding players in the country and few have heard of him. He should challenge Clark and Samuals inside. However, Morehead has a tough time playing controlled basketball, failing to turn the ball over. Louisville on the other hand, is arguably the best defensive team in the country. Not exactly a fair matchup.
Ohio St. vs. Siena
Ohio St. and Siena both have lengthy players on the perimeter that can cause headaches. Siena is a very patient team offensively that make the extra pass and are excellent at spacing the floor. Kenny Hasbrouck is coming off of a minor injury, so he may not be as effective as usual. Edwin Ubiles and Rossiter are crafty inside. Watch for these two to be the X factors. Watch for Moore to really push the ball and catch Ohio St. off guard. While Siena is probably the better defensive team all around, able to clog the passing lanes and collect breakaway steals. But, Ohio St. has more muscle down low in Mullens and Lauderdale. Lately, the Saints have done a nice job collapsing on big men and defending in the paint. If Diebler and Turner catch fire, it could be a long night for Siena. However, look for Siena to play the more patient basketball and clamp down on defense. Ohio St. may come out a bit anxious, and expect Siena to take advantage of this.
Utah vs. Arizona
While Arizona possesses the bigger names, they also make some silly mistakes and have a tendency of blowing big leads. Look for Shawn Green and Lawrence Borha to really hit their perimeter shots. Luke Nevill may be too much inside at 7'1. His matchup with Jordan Hill will determine who wins this contest. If Utah can control the ball and hit their three point bombs, they should come out on top.
Wake Forest vs. Cleveland St.
Many people expect Cleveland St. to pull off this upset. Cedric Jackson is a solid guard to work around, and if he can shoot the basketball, Cleveland St. is a very efficient team. However, they have not gone up against such a lengthy athletic squad. Look for the combination of Al Farouq Aminu and James Johnson to shut down J'Nathan Bullock and render the Cleveland St. offense largely ineffective.
Victor: Wake Forest
West Virginia vs. Dayton
Both of these teams are capable defensively and can get to the basket. Desean Butler vs. Chris Wright should be the highlighted matchup. Look for Butler to catch fire from the perimeter and outscore this hard nosed, defensive Flyers squad. The difference maker in this contest is certainly emerging freshman Devin Ebanks. His length and scoring inside should really hurt Dayton. If Ruoff can hit his perimeter shots and shut down Dayton's dribble penetration through Bob Huggins' tough defense, WVU should come out on top.
Victor: West Virginia
Kansas vs. North Dakota St.
Kansas is one of the most talented young teams in the country. They certainly have the advantage inside with the Morris twins and Cole Aldrich. Lucas Moormann cannot matchup with these talented players. However, North Dakota St. is one of the best upset picks because they shoot lights out from the field. Ben Woodside is extremely quick and may give even Sherron Collins a hard time. Add to that the fact that Bill Self teams have a tendency of falling first round. Moreover, the Bison will have many of their fans making the trek to see this squad. If North Dakota St. can play any semblance of defense inside and can collect rebounds, they may surprise Kansas in a thriller.
Victor: North Dakota St.
Boston College vs. USC
Al Skinner's club is one of the most hot-and-cold teams in the country. They have defeated UNC, but they also lost to Harvard. That makes this contest one of the most difficult to predict considering USC is one of the hotter teams in the nation. At times, Boston College plays out of control basketball. Their guards have a tendency to force the issue. For example, when Tyrese Rice is not shooting well, he will take some questionable shots. Burly guard Rakim Sanders should be the key perimeter spark that can lead this team past USC. USC should have some trouble defensively against the flex, an offensive scheme which they probably have not seen. On the other end, Demar Derosan If Trapani and Sanders can hit their outside shots, they should come out on top. Southern is going to have to play some tough defense on Taj Gibsen as well.
Victor: Boston College
Michigan St. vs. Robert Morris
While Jeremy Chappell is one of the most underrated guards in the country, Michigan St. is simply too fast and tough on the perimeter. Lucas and Lucious are electric in the open floor, and they should easily defeat this team by throwing the ball inside. Look for Suton to have a big night.
Victor: Michigan St.
UConn vs. Chattanooga
While Chattanooga does have some serious perimeter scoring threats, UConn is much bigger inside and should dominate them on the glass. Look for AJ Price to initiate the offense and defeat this team by a large margin.
BYU vs. Texas A&M
It is difficult to defeat a tough Mountain West opponent like BYU two years in a row. Lee Cummard is a matchup nightmare for Josh Carter and the rest of the Aggies defense. This Texas A&M squad has several weapons, but is not as solid inside as they were a year ago. Similarly, the loss of Trent Plaisted hurt for BYU. Forward Jonathan Tavernari should be the X factor in this matchup. The Aggies should have difficulty defending him.