If the my bracket picks are anything like my picks for the "First Four" so far, I'm in big trouble. The Stack is here with reaction from the two games last night in Dayton plus a look ahead to tonight's games, fun facts, Final Four prediction and more. So let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Wednesday, March 20:
NC A&T, St. Mary's advance to second round
Two of the "First Four" games tipped off last night in Dayton and the first game was a good one. #16 North Carolin A&T built a lead against #16 Liberty, but Liberty fought back. The Flames were down 36-25 in the second half and kept making a run, but couldn't quite get over the hump. A&T would not relinquish the lead. Still, Liberty had a chance with six seconds left in the game after A&T missed a free throw but could not get a shot to fall. A&T won 73-72 and they advance to play #1 Louisville Thursday in Lexington. Enjoy the fun while it lasts A&T. It won't be so much fun Thursday.
In the nightcap of the doubleheader, #11 St. Mary's gave #11 Middle Tennessee State a pretty good beating. They held Middle Tennessee to just 20 first half points and played great defense that Middle Tennessee normally plays. Middle Tennessee cut the lead to 41-38 in the second half, but Matthew Dellavedova was just too much for Middle Tennessee to stop. Middle Tennessee is a good defensive team. Not on this night. St. Mary's won 67-54 and will play #6 Memphis Thursday in Auburn Hill.
As for tonight's games, #16 Long Island Brooklyn takes on #16 James Madison at 6:40 PM ET on Tru TV. I was 0-2 picking yesterday, but I really like how Long Island plays. This team plays some great ball and they ran away with the NEC tournament. I think they'll run away from James Madison.
Pick: Long Island Brooklyn
The other game is a battle of #13 seeds between #13 Boise State and #13 LaSalle with tipoff at 9:10 PM ET on TruTV. Boise State kind of came out of nowhere this year. LaSalle was very competitive in the Atlantic 10 this year. This game is a tossup (really aren't they all?) But I think I like LaSalle to pull of the win here. The winner gets to take on Kansas State in Kansas City on Friday.
NCAA Fun Facts
Yesterday, I presented a few fun facts about the schools in the NCAA tournament. Here are five more about the teams involved in this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament...
- The last nine champions have all had at least a shade of blue in their jerseys.
- The city of Philadelphia is sending three teams (LaSalle, Villanova and Temple). The states of Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee each sent three.
- There's only one team with the name Jackrabbits in the NCAA and they're in the tournament, South Dakota State.
- Two teams with natural disasters as their nicknames (Iowa State Cyclones and Miami (FL) Hurricanes).
- The state of New Mexico is sending 100% of their D-I eligible schools to the tournament (New Mexico and New Mexico State). They are the only state who can boast that.
Final Four prediction
I plan to fill out close to fifteen brackets and almost all of them will have the Final Four that I am about to give you (at least the one's that matter most...$$). I'll admit, I'm probably not going to win with this combo this year, but sometimes you have to go out on a limb.
Midwest: #1 Louisville
West: #3 New Mexico
South: #5 VCU
East: #1 Indiana
New Mexico and VCU are long shots to be sure. Ohio State is the team I'm afraid will knock off New Mexico. They've underachieved in recent tournaments. Florida or Kansas is the team that will be the thorn in the Rams' side, but I really like head coach Shaka Smart and what he has done with this team. This is his best team since the team that went to the Final Four. I believe in Shaka. Miami (FL) could knock off Indiana, but Indiana has a ton of talent and I think they advance.
In the championship game, I like Louisville against Indiana and Louisville to win it all. Their defense is great and if they get production from their guards, they'll win pretty easily.
Before I go, congrats to the Dominican Republic for winning the World Baseball Classic following a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico. They went undefeated. Amazing.
Coming up Thursday: Thursday NCAA tournament game picks