Yes, that is my actual bracket for this year, for the curious. Zags over the Irish in my final.
It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year.
I could go on about the NCAA Tournament for ages. I love this time of year, so much, that the first vacation days I request every year are this Thursday and Friday. From the first tip to the final buzzer, I’ll gorge on basketball, cheese dip, and beer, and not feel a single pound of regret when it’s all over with…although there will be plenty of extra pounds.
Belmont takes the floor tomorrow — still alive for a national title, though the odds are quite large. That’s really, though, what this first weekend is about. No one thinks that North Dakota State, or Northeastern is going to make a run to the Final Four. Try telling them that
Everyone wants to be the next George Mason, or the next Butler. (Even the current Butler)
Next weekend is about the contenders. Can anyone beat Kentucky? Which one-seed survive? Why did I put four catholic schools in my Final Four. (By not realizing I had done so) This weekend is about the Belmont’s of the college basketball world.
And even though it would hurt my bracket, (yes, I picked against the Bruins) it doesn’t mean I won’t be rooting for them against Virginia.
The tournament is weird like that. Which is part of the reason I love it so.
Our Belmont preview from Monday: …in case you missed it
CIT: UT Martin at Northwestern State
The Skyhawks finish out the first round of the CIT as they travel to Northwestern State, a team from the Southeast, namely Louisiana. I have a very simple prediction for this game:
There will not be a lot of defense played.
(So, go ahead and prepare for a 40-38 final)
Northwestern State is a great offensive team, and played at the second-fastest tempo in the nation this year. Their 1-2 punch is quite good, with sophomore Zikiteran Woodley and junior Jalan West combining for more than 40-points a game. Both are 40% three-point shooters, and Woodley, despite being just 6’2, shot 56.5% from the field for the season. The Demons averaged 84-points a game this season.
…and gave up 82 points a game. Again, this doesn’t exactly have defensive struggle written all over it.
One big advantage the Skyhawks have in the numbers over the Demons is rebounding, something, along with defense, that’s not exactly in Northwestern State’s DNA. The Demons, in a purposeful attempt to play up-tempo, don’t crash the defensive glass, meaning UT Martin could have quite a lot of second chances. For the season, Northwestern State ranked fourth-worst in defensive rebounding percentage.
Defense has been a struggle for UT Martin all season long, but their methodical offensive attack has kept them in games. If the Skyhawks can limit turnovers, and control tempo, it could cause problems for Northwestern State, a team that’s struggled to win games when they don’t score at least 80.
Second-round Matchups announced: In the NIT, Murray State will head to Tulsa for a Monday night tip. The good news for fans: it’s on ESPN. In the CIT, Eastern Kentucky will host High Point on Friday, and Eastern Illinois will host Evansville on Monday. Both those games are available online for free. We’ll of course have previews for those in the coming days.