There are four first round matchups that caught my eye when the brackets came out. Each with a little differenct storyline. No I am not talking about the first timers like Portland State, UMBC and American who all got matched up with opponents they can’t beat. However, that doesn’t matter. They are there and teams like Syracuse, Florida and Ohio State are not.
NOTRE DAME VS. GEORGE MASON
The classic #5 vs. #12. In the history of the tournament there is always an upset in this game. Of the four this year this is my pick. George Mason has the experience and size inside. Campbell was on the team that made it to the Final Four and that is more than what any Notre Dame player can say. Notre Dame’s strength is in their girth inside. However, Mason can match them and their trapping defense will keep the Irish from consistently getting the ball the Harangody. As much as I like Harangody, I still like the coaching acumen of Jim Larranaga better. Go with the Patriots over the Irish.
KANSAS STATE VS. USCThis game matches two former AAU terammates in OJ Mayo and Bill Walker. It also matches three players who are one and done. Michael Beasley has the talent to take over the game at any time. The key will be weather or not the guards for Kansas State can duplicate their play from early in the confererence season. (A road win at Oklahoma and a home win vs. Kansas.) All eyes will be on Mayo and Beasley, but it will be Pullen and Walker who will determine who wins this game. I like Frank Martin’s ability to get his team ready. He will be able to hide their suspect guards for a couple of rounds.
GONZAGA VS. DAVIDSON
Two teams who have dominated their respective conferences for the last five years. Both teams stepped outside the league and played a murderous non-league schedule. Even though they lost a few of those they are battle tested. Pargo and Curry are two of the most underrated guards in the country. If they played in the PAC 10 or ACC they would be hyped as first round picks. They will both play in the NBA someday, but on this day look for Curry to get the best of Gonzaga.
BUTLER VS. SOUTH ALABAMA
Two coaches in their jobs for the first year. Albeit this is the second go round for Ronnie Arrow at South Alabama (different president hired and fired him) and Brad Stevens was an assistant at Butler prior to this year. It is a battle of styles. USA will try to press and push while Butler will try to grind you out in the halfcourt. Look for Butler’s experience and superior poirnt guard play by AJ Graves to prevail.