Spoiler: the top seeds will win out in this region — and that includes No. 1 Michigan State making it to the Final Four. You may have come across this article to help you pick some upsets, but you won't find any here. Louisville is a sleeper, but the Spartans are experienced, have a top player and one of the best coaches in the country.
Play-In Game on Tuesday, March 15, 2012 - 6 pm PT No. 14 Iona Gaels beats No. 14 BYU Cougars
Save for one ten-point victory over Gonzaga at home, BYU has never really competed with Gonzaga and Saint Mary's in WCC conference play. BYU simply has won the games they were supposed to win and lost games against superior teams like Wisconsin and and Baylor in the non-conference. I'm not saying Iona's strength of schedule is any better, but I do think the Gaels will get solid performances from seniors Mike Glover and Scott Machado in this game.
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans beats No. 16 Long Island Blackbirds
I wonder what it feels to be a No. 16 seed team. Are they pissed off they have to play the No. 1 seed? Do the coaches and players of these teams REALLY believe they have a chance? Tom Izzo begins his quest for another final four appearance with a blowout win in this game.
No. 8 Memphis Tigers beats No. 9 Saint Louis Billikens
It is tempting to pick Saint Louis after seeing them crush Washington in the preseason at home, but then we found at that Washington is not a very good basketball team. Meanwhile, the Tigers have won nine of their last 10 contests and have a star player in Will Barton. The Bilikens first trip to the NCAAs since 2000 will be cut short by the Tigers.
No. 12 Long Beach State 49ers beats No. 5 New Mexico Lobos
This mid-major matchup should be a good one, and I'm picking Long Beach State for another No. 12 over No. 5 upset. Head coach Don Monson's squad is well-rounded and has only lost two games in this calendar year. Both losses came by a margin of three or less points.They also played Kansas and North Carolina close in their non-conference schedule, although they did lose both games.
No. 4 Louisville Cardinals beats No. 13 Davidson Wildcats
Point guard Peyton Siva has had a rough junior season for the Cardinals, but he has hit his stride after an impressive performance at the Big East tournament. He's the key for Louisville in this tournament. Davidson needed two overtimes to get past Western Carolina? Louisville moves on in a blowout.
No. 6 Murray State Racers beats No. 11 Colorado State Rams
Can Colorado State keep the Racers from lighting them up from the outside? Murray State is ranked No. 5 in three point percentage in the country. Containing Racers' junior Isaiah Canaan will be key for CSU.
No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles beats No. 14 Iona Gaels
Iona executes well on offense, they rarely take bad shots and they take care of the basketball, but I think Marquette's defense will put them out of sync in this game. The duo of Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder on both ends of the court will help the Golden Eagles move on to the second round.
No. 7 Florida Gators beats No. 10 Virginia Cavaliers
One of the nation's best offenses (Florida) takes on one of the nation's best defenses (Virginia). Tony Bennett's squad will make the game difficult for Florida because of the snail-like pace his team controls the basketball on offense. Despite this, I think Florida will be able to take care of the basketball and execute on offense behind the play of junior guard Kenny Boynton who is averaging 16 PPG.
No. 2 Missouri Tigers beats No. 15 Norfolk State Spartans
Missouri will take care of Norfolk State, it's just a matter of how quickly the game gets out of hand for the Spartans. This will be a blowout.
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans beats No. 9 Memphis Tigers
Losing freshman Branden Dawson hurts the Spartans, but the chemistry of this team along with the coaching ability of Tom Izzo will move them on to the Sweet 16. Draymond Green finished No. 1 in Ken Pomeroy's player of the year standings. He might be the most important player to the success of his team in the nation. Watching Green go up against Memphis' Barton should be fun.
No. 4 Louisville Cardinals beats No. 12 Long Beach State 49ers
The 49ers' run will end here against Louisville. Keep your eye on Louisville sophomore Gorgui Dieng; he's one of the top shot-blockers in the country and will disrupt Long Beach State's offense.
No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles beats No. 6 Murray State Racers
Buzz Williams' squad is too solid defensively to lose this game against Murray State. The Golden Eagles are easily the best team the Racers will have had to face this entire season.
No. 2 Missouri Tigers beats No. 7 Florida Gators
Ken Pomeroy's No. 1 offense (Missouri) takes on his No. 2 offense (Florida) in this matchup. While senior guard Marcus Denmon gets a lot of attention for the Tigers, Phil Pressey is a pest on defense (averages 2.1 steals per game) and also distributes the basketball well (6.3 assists per game). Florida's plethora of guards are dangerous on offense, but I think Denmon and Pressey will be able to hold them off.
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans beats No. 4 Louisville Cardinals
Both teams can play defense, but Draymond Green is a go-to player that the Spartans can depend on against top tier teams like Louisville. Green keeps up his stellar play in this game and will help the Spartans move on.
No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles beats No. 2 Missouri Tigers
The senior leadership of Johnson-Odom and Crowder will help the Golden Eagles pull off this minor upset. The two seniors are incredibly versatile and will help Marquette grind this game out. It won't be a pretty win, but it'll be good enough to keep the Eagles' run alive.
No. 1 Michigan State Spartans beats No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles
Is it lame that I picked all No. 1 seeds to advance to the final four? The scenario isn't common, but I think this year is one of those years. The most important player on the court for both teams will be standing on the sideline: Tom Izzo and Buzz Williams will turn this game into a chess match. I'm betting on Izzo to win this game.
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