Top 2015 NCAA Tournament Matchups
The question on everyone’s minds coming into the 2015 NCAA Tournament, is will Kentucky run the table, and finish a perfect season? Despite playing numerous close games in a weak SEC, the Wildcats are by far the favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis this year. But focusing on Kentucky will mean missing out on some fantastic opening round matchups. Here are my picks for the top matchups in the 2015 NCAA Tournament opening rounds.
BYU vs. Ole Miss – While many people disregard the opening round of the NCAA Tournament as a “play in game for teams no one has heard of,” the truth is the opening round has provided some fantastic basketball over the last couple years. This year the most exciting matchup looks to be BYU vs. Ole Miss. The Rebels come into the NCAA Tournament having lost 4 of their last 5 games, but have posted some impressive wins over the course of the season. Ole Miss gave Kentucky just about all that they could handle in a 89-86 overtime loss, and has beaten fellow tournament teams Cincinnati, Oregon, and Arkansas. They will take on a Cougars team that is largely an enigma. BYU has one of the highest powered offenses in the country and the Cougars have won 8 of their last 9 games coming into the Big Dance. The question surrounding the Cougars this season was always if they had played quality competition, they will have plenty in Ole Miss on March 17th.
Runner up – Boise State vs. Dayton
Texas vs. Butler – The Texas Longhorns came into the 2015 season riding hopes of a final four. They returned all 5 starters from last year’s tournament team and added probable NBA lottery pick Miles Turner. The Horns are one of the tallest teams in the nation and block shots at a furious rate. But the team has been plagued by turnovers, cold shooting, and just plain uninspired basketball. Down the stretch Texas found itself fighting for its NCAA Tournament life and ended up playing some of its best basketball of the season. They will take on a Butler team that has all the qualities that have given Texas fits this season. After being picked to finish 8th in the Big East to start the season, the Bulldogs put together quality win after quality win to finish 2nd in the tough conference. Where Butler lacks in athleticism they make up for in discipline and watching their offense click is a thing of beauty. Both Butler and Texas have played numerous close games over the course of the season and this one looks to be no different. Expect a back and forth battle until the final buzzer.
Runner up – West Virginia vs. Buffalo
North Carolina vs. Harvard – Okay this pick is a little out there, but hear me out. Everyone knows that the Tar Heels are good. Not only that, but Roy Williams squad is playing its best basketball down the stretch, picking up wins over Louisville and Virginia in the ACC Tournament. Junior Brice Johnson has been one of the most dynamic players in the ACC all season and will likely give the Crimson fits. But Harvard comes into the NCAA Tournament riding a high. A loss to arch-rival Yale in the 2nd to last game of the season looked like it would keep Harvard out of the NCAA Tournament. But a surprise Bulldogs loss setup an Ivy League playoff, with the Crimson taking down Yale in a fairy tale ending for Harvard fans. While beating their arch-rival in a playoff to win the Ivy League, and make the NCAA Tournament will have Harvard clicking on an emotional level, the team is incredibly experienced in the NCAA Tournament. Seniors Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi will be playing in their fourth NCAA Tournament and will know how to handle the pressure and emotion. Look for this game to be much closer than anticipated and for the with the Crimson believing they can upset the Tar Heels.
Runner up – VCU vs. Ohio State
NC State vs. LSU – This is by far the most exciting 8 vs. 9 mathcup in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. NC State has proven that they are capable of beating anyone in the nation this season and have picked up wins over top teams like Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina. What has plagued the Wolf Pack has been consistency. After beating Duke they proceeded to lose 4 of their next 5 games. Inconsistency has also plagued the Tigers, but LSU has quietly played some fantastic basketball this season. The Tigers have impressive road wins at West Virginia and at Arkansas. Both LSU and NC State average more than 70 points per game, and both are in the top 20 in the nation in blocks per game. Look for both the Tigers and Wolf Pack to play inspired basketball and for this to be a back and forth battle.
Runner up – Michigan State vs. Georgia
Iowa vs. Davidson – No this Davidson team doesn’t have Steph Curry, but the Wildcats are an exciting team to watch. In the top ten in both points per game, and assists per game, Davidson knows a thing or two about scoring and the A10 regular season champs enter March Madness after winning 10 of their last 11 games. The last time Davidson was a 10 seed they were the darlings of the tournament, and they are talented enough in 2015 to do it again. They will take on an Iowa team that played its best basketball down the stretch. The Hawkeyes roared through their final 7 games, picking up 6 wins, and going from Tournament outsider to a 7 seed. The Hawkeyes are used to playing sharpshooting teams like Davidson and will look to rely on their superior inside presence.
Runner up – SMU vs. UCLA
What are games are you looking most forward to in the opening round?