Wednesday, March 14, 2007

NCAA Tournament First Round Picks for Thursday, March 15


Thursday, March 15

12:20 pm Maryland (-7) Davidson - Maryland got a lot of good press as they won 7 straight before losing to Miami in the ACC tourney, but Davidson will give them a game for sure. The 29-4 Wildcats have won 25 of their last 26 and are riding a 13-game win streak. Stephen Curry, son of NBA star Dell Curry, is 2nd in the nation in scoring for freshmen behind Texas' Kevin Durant. An upset looms. Take the points though the Terps should survive.

12:25 pm Boston College (-3) Texas Tech - Tough call between two sub-par units, but Bobby Knight's Red Raiders know how to prepare for an opponent and will handle the tournament pressure better than BC, which has lost 5 of their last 7 and hasn't beaten a ranked team on the road this season. Tech takes it.

12:40 pm Louisville (-5.5) Stanford - Stanford starts a pair of 7-footers, twin brothers Brook and Robin Lopez, but Louisville has handled their share of height in the Big East and should cruise here. This is Cardinal (Stanford) vs. Cardinals (Louisville). Plurality means more, as in points.

2:40 pm Washington State (-6.5) Oral Roberts - The Cougars will need to stop Oral Roberts' Caleb Green, who has been the Mid-Continent player of the year three years running. He's averaging 20.8 points and 9.3 rebounds this season. Washington State would like to keep this game in the 60s, but the Golden Eagles have other ideas, averaging 72 points per game. If they find ways to score, it could lead to a big upset for Sean Sutton's gang. Oral Roberts is the pick.

2:50 pm Butler (-1) Old Dominion - No mid-majors have gotten more mention as bracket busters than these two. Unfortunately, one of them will be gone after just one game. Old D's Drew Williamson may be the key to the game if he can handle pressure at the point guard spot and get his guys good looks. Minor upset here, as Butler hasn't been playing well late (4-4 down the stretch).

2:55 pm Georgetown (-16.5) Belmont - No contest unless the Hoyas come in complacent and that's unlikely. Belmont won't be able to handle Georgetown's overall size advantage. A rout is in store.

3:10 pm Texas A&M (-13.5) Pennsylvania - Penn won't be close after the first 12 minutes, especially if Acie Law gets off early. Mark down a win for the Aggies.

5:10 pm Vanderbilt (-3.5) George Washington - GW finished third in the Atlantic-10 but won the conference tourney, while Vandy was 2nd in the SEC East behind Florida. The Commodores have some big wins on their resume including six wins against Top 25 teams. Derrick Byars, Shan Foster and Dan Cage average a combined 43 points per game. Expect that number to be closer to 60 here as Vandy romps.

7:10 pm Ohio St (-21.5) Central Connecticut St - There may not be a bigger mismatch in this tourney. The Buckeyes could win by as many as 35.

7:10 pm Duke (-6.5) Virginia Commonwealth - Duke should be playing in the NIT. They've lost 3 straight and 7 of their last 11. 27-6 VCU won the Colonial Athletic Assn. conference title and tournament, beat last year's Cinderella, George Mason, three times during the season and have won five straight. An early exit for the Blue Devils is a near certainty.

7:20 pm Michigan St (-1.5) Marquette - Marquette will be missing one of their starters, Jerel McNeal, out with a sprained thumb, but expect subs to fill in, especially David Cubillan, who can bomb from beyond the arc. Michigan State will try to keep the score low, but it may not matter as the Golden Eagles have won their fair share of low-scoring games. Michigan State's only win against a Top 25 opponent was at home win over then-#1 Wisconsin, 64-55. One and done for the Spartans as Marquette wins this handily.

7:25 pm UCLA (-19.5) Weber State - Another 2-15 matchup which may not be much of a game, though the Bruins haven't looked quite themselves the past few weeks. Don't expect an upset, but the surprising Wildcats will score enough to keep it under the line.

9:40 pm Xavier (-1.5) at Brigham Young - While the 8-9 matchups are usually tough to call, this one should go Xavier's way. The Musketeers are 5-1 against tournament teams with wins over VCU, Villanova, Miami (OH), Illinois and George Washington. That experience provides an edge.Sports Training Products

9:40 pm Pittsburgh (-10) Wright St. - Look no further for buzzer beaters. Pitt has struggled down the stretch, and against Horizon League regular-season and tournament titlist Wright State, they'll have to be on top of their game. The Panthers went 5-4 down the stretch, ended up 2nd in the Big East standings and lost in the finals of the Big East tourney to Georgetown, 65-42. The Raiders of Wright State chased down Butler - ranked as high as #10 at one point - and then beat them in the tourney championship game. The Raiders are ready for anything and have already shown an ability to rise to the occasion. Even if they don't win here, the game should be much closer than the line suggests.

9:50 pm North Carolina (-26) Eastern Kentucky - This will be as close to a home game for the Tar Heels as the game will be played in Winston-Salem, just 80 miles from the North Carolina campus. Eastern Kentucky will try to keep the score low, but that's easier said than done against Carolina, which comes at their opponents in waves. Expect coach Williams to use his bench extensively, which could play into the Colonels hands. Take the points and pray for Eastern Kentucky to display some shooting skills late in the game.

Indiana (-1) Gonzaga - How the oddsmakers figure Indiana to be the slight favorite is anybody's guess, but Gonzaga isn't about to depart after just one game. The Bulldogs have played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country and that should help them overcome a stingy Hoosier defense. Gonzaga shows wins over North Carolina, Texas and Stanford, while Indiana's only claim to quality is a home win over Wisconsin and a number of Big 10 conquests. This one goes to the Zags.

This just in: One of our sponsors, Jeff, from Big Daddy Tickets weighs in with his Final Four of Ohio St., Florida. North Carolina and Kansas, with Ohio St. winning the championship game.

Tomorrow: Loads of recaps and picks for Friday's First Round games.

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