Bing Predicts: March Madness first round
Bing Predicts: March Madness First Round
You've been waiting all year, the office pools are printed, and March Madness is finally here. The Division I men's NCAA championship tournament starts with 68 teams, which will be whittled down to two over the course of seven rounds. The 32 conference tournament champions earn automatic entry into the tournament, regardless of their regular season record, and the rest are chosen by a selection committee and assigned a seed.
With UC Irvine, Yale, Belmont, Murray State, and Northeastern all poised for potential Cinderella runs, it's an exciting year. By the end of the month, the final two competitors will be revealed and ready to battle it out for the Championship title on April 8. Stacker used Bing March Madness data to compile an overview of Round 1, which starts with the First Four on March 19. Here's everything you need to know about who's playing, who's predicted to win, and how to watch.
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Syracuse (8) vs. Baylor (9)
- Syracuse vs. Baylor
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 9:57 PM EST
Serving at the helm of Syracuse for 43 years since 1976, Jim Boeheim is the longest-tenured coach in D-1 basketball. His top offensive weapon is Tyus Battle, but the Bears have talent, too—watch out for Tristan Clark, who averaged 14.6 points for Baylor this season. Although the Orangemen are 2-0 against Baylor this year, Syracuse limped its way into the tournament after stumbling late in the season.
Gonzaga (1) vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (16)
- Gonzaga vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 7:27 PM EST
Fairleigh Dickinson stormed back to beat Prairie View A&M for its first tournament victory ever and is now set to face #1 Gonzaga. The #16 seed faces a tall order. Gonzaga went 30-3 overall this season, averaging a whopping 89.8 points per game. Even Gonzaga's third-highest scorer puts up 15.7 points per game, with its #1 and #2 shooters, Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, scoring an average of 20.6 and 16.6, respectively.
Florida State (4) vs. Vermont (13)
- Florida State vs. Vermont
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 2:00 PM EST
Florida State hoped to open the tournament in Jacksonville, but the Seminoles' hopes were dashed at the last minute and their contest against # 13 seed Vermont will take place in Hartford, Conn. FSU will have to contend with 6-foot-6 junior Anthony Lamb, who is the reigning America East Player of the Year. The 'Noles will turn to Christ Koumadje and Mfiondu Kabengele for interior defense and post presence, but the pair is prone to foul trouble, particularly when going for rebounds. That could be a problem, considering Vermont is ranked second in the nation in terms of defensive rebounding, and the Catamounts boast three big men taller than 6-foot-8.
Marquette (5) vs. Murray State (12)
- Marquette vs. Murray State
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 4:30 PM EST
The Marquette/Murray State matchup is poised to be a shootout, considering the tournament's two highest-scoring players—guards Ja Morant and Markus Howard—will be going head-to-head at the same position. Murray State hasn't faced anyone this season as good as Howard, who scored 53 points during a career showing against Creighton, but Howard's Golden Eagles have lost five of their last six. With the exception of his 5.2 turnovers per game, the hard-working and explosive Ja Morant is arguably the most efficient player in all of college basketball.
Buffalo (6) vs. Arizona State (11)
Nationally ranked and heading to the tournament for the fourth time in five years, the Buffalo Bulls are the pride of the Mid-American Conference. They'll play Arizona State (defeated St. John's in the play-in game). Buffalo went 31-3 overall, averaging an impressive 85 points per game in the regular season.
Texas Tech (3) vs. Northern KY (14)
- Texas Tech vs. Northern KY
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 1:30 PM EST
Northern Kentucky fought its way into the tournament with a 77-66 win over Wright State, a victory that earned the Norse the right to square off against Texas Tech in Tulsa. Texas Tech is averaging 73.1 points per game compared to 79.1 for Northern Kentucky, and both teams have potent weapons. Drew McDonald tops Northern Kentucky in both scoring and rebounding with 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. The Norse, however, will have to contend with Jarrett Culver, who leads the Red Raiders with an average of 18.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Nevada (7) vs. Florida (10)
- Nevada vs. Florida
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 6:50 PM EST
The Nevada Wolfpack finished with an impressive record of 29-4 in the regular season, scoring an equally impressive 81.6 points per game. The Florida Gators ended the season with a far less illustrious record of 19-15. Watch out for Wolfpack leaders Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline, who averaged 19.6 and 17.7 points per game, respectively. KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke emerged as Florida's top scorers, although they racked up a far less impressive 11.9 and 10.2 points per game.
Michigan (2) vs. Montana (15)
- Michigan vs. Montana
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 9:20 PM EST
Montana roared its way into the tournament this year, winning 8 of its last 10 games and winning the Big Sky tournament for the second year straight. Although the Grizzlies suffer from a paltry tournament record of 2-12, the team has Jamar Akoh and Ahmaad Rorie to lean on—the pair averaged 15.5 and 15.1 points per game, respectively, over the regular season. The Michigan Wolverines, on the other hand, have an impressive 59-27 tournament record, and this year they'll have Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole—who averaged 15.1 and 12.8 points, respectively—leading the way.
LSU (3) vs. Yale (14)
- LSU vs. Yale
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 12:40 PM EST
The LSU Tigers and Yale Bulldogs will meet in Jacksonville for round one, where the two teams will collide for the first time since 1969, the only other time the two teams have met. Yale shooting guard Miye Oni, who averages 17.6 points per game, is on track to becoming the first Ivy League player drafted into the NBA since 1995. With the exception of fairly miserable 3-point shooting, LSU has all the tools, including a serious 8-man rotation that gives the Tigers a huge advantage in depth and flexibility.
Maryland (6) vs. Belmont (11)
- Maryland vs. Belmont
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 3:10 PM EST
Belmont cruised past Temple in a battle between the East region's #11 seeds in the First Four, and will now face #6 Maryland. The Terrapins, who went 22-10 overall, will rely on their top shooter, Anthony Cowan, who averages 15.9 points per game. They have a tough road ahead—the Bruins are the #2 highest-scoring team in all of Division I, averaging 87.4 points per game.
MI State (2) vs. Bradley (15)
- MI State vs. Bradley
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 2:45 PM EST
Michigan State is gearing up for its 22nd straight visit to the tournament, an impressive streak bested by only Kansas and Duke. Conjuring flashbacks to 2016, Michigan State's coach has voiced his discontent with his team's seed, especially considering the Spartans recently beat Michigan to win the Big Ten tournament championship. Bradley's last tournament appearance was in 2006, and the team averages just 66.6 points per game with leading scorer Darrell Brown averaging just 14.7 points per game.
Louisville (7) vs. Minnesota (10)
- Louisville vs. Minnesota
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 12:15 PM EST
Both the Louisville Cardinals and the Minnesota Golden Gophers missed the tournament last year. Louisville ran hot and cold during the regular season, finishing strong but at one point losing six games out of eight. Thanks to a few key injuries, the Gophers lack depth, particularly at center, and it's hard to argue against the statement that Minnesota simply isn't a good shooting team. The Cards have players with more skill and are better in virtually every category, but winning likely depends on the ability of Louisville to grab an early lead and early momentum.
VCU (8) vs. UCF (9)
- VCU vs. UCF
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 9:40 PM EST
The UCF Knights enter the tournament strong, winning seven of their last 10 games. The VCU Rams come in even stronger, boasting 12 wins in their last 13. The Rams don't have a single shooter who averages 14 points per game or better. UCF, on the other hand, has the advantage of B.J. Taylor, who averages 16 points per game.
Duke (1) vs. NDSU (16)
Duke is as close to invincible as any team in the tournament, and not just because RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson both average more than 22 points per game. Although the Blue Devils dropped three games in the final weeks, the team is by no means vulnerable. The #1 seed went 24-1 with all four freshmen on the court from start to finish. North Dakota State (who beat NC Central in the play-in game) will take on the task of challenging Duke in the Blue Devils' 43rd NCAA appearance.
MS State (5) vs. Liberty (12)
- MS State vs. Liberty
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 7:27 PM EST
Mississippi State and Liberty University both played Austin Peay, Alcorn State, Alabama and Vanderbilt this season, and Mississippi State won all four contests. The Liberty U. Flames are largely untested and squeaked into the tournament by beating Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship Game. Although the two teams' conference schedules couldn't be more different, Mississippi State and Liberty have surprisingly similar talent pools.
Virginia Tech (4) vs. Saint Louis (13)
- Virginia Tech vs. Saint Louis
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 9:57 PM EST
Virginia Tech will square off against the Saint Louis Billikens in the first round, with the Hokies coming out of the regular season with a record of 24-8 compared to St. Louis' 22-12. The Billikens earned a guaranteed spot with a conference championship win over St Bonaventure, which positions them to play Virginia Tech for the ninth time in history—Tech has won seven of the eight contests so far. Virginia Tech averages 74.5 points per game compared to St. Louis' 67.4 points per game.
Kansas (4) vs. Northeastern (13)
- Kansas vs. Northeastern
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 4:00 PM EST
Perennial competitor Kansas University takes on the Northeastern Jayhawks for Midwest regional action in the first round. Kansas averaged 75.6 points per game during the regular season, from which they emerged with a record of 25-9, compared to Northeastern's 23-10 record and 76 points per game. Northeastern will rely heavily on standout Vasa Pusica, who averaged 17.9 points per game. Kansas' top shooter is Dedric Lawson, who averaged an even more impressive 19.1 points per game.
Auburn (5) vs. NM State (12)
- Auburn vs. NM State
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 1:30 PM EST
The Auburn Tigers excel at forcing turnovers—17.7 per game, on average—and they landed enough threes to earn the #8 spot in terms of offensive efficiency. The team is coming off a convincing win in the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament. New Mexico pulled off an impressive 30-4 regular season record. The team's top scorer is Terrell Brown, who averaged just 11 points per game.
UNC (1) vs. Iona (16)
- UNC vs. Iona
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 9:20 PM EST
Iona finished the regular season on a 10-game win streak and won an automatic bid after winning the MAAC conference, albeit with a mediocre 17-15 record. The Gaels will have their hands full on Friday. The University of North Carolina Tarheels went 27-6 to earn the #1 seed for the 17th time in program history and are on the short list of teams expected to go deep into the tournament or perhaps even to win it all.
Utah State (8) vs. Washington (9)
- Utah State vs. Washington
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 6:50 PM EST
The Utah State Aggies are one of the hottest teams in the league, racking up 10 straight victories and winning 17 of their last 18 games. Team leaders Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta are a large part of the reason that the Aggies are one of the leading rebounding teams in the NCAA and an offensive powerhouse—Merrill alone averages 21 points per game. Washington's average of 32 rebounds per game can't compete with the Aggies' 40, nor can their 70.4 points per game match up against Utah State's 79.1 points per game.
Wofford (7) vs. Seton Hall (10)
- Wofford vs. Seton Hall
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 9:40 PM EST
This will be the Seton Hall Pirates' 13th trip to the tournament and the fourth straight in the Kevin Willard era. Wofford has made four appearances, all since 2010, and they've come home with exactly four losses. Wofford went 29-4 during the regular season, putting up an impressive 83 points per game—Fletcher Magee alone averaged 20.7 points per game. Seton Hall, however, has Miles Powell, an offensive powerhouse who averages 22.6 points per game.
Kentucky (2) vs. ACU (15)
- Kentucky vs. ACU
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 7:10 PM EST
The battle of the Wildcats goes down in Jacksonville, Fla., where one group of Wildcats is the relatively unknown mid-major Abilene Christian University, and the other is the vaunted University of Kentucky. Kentucky is chasing its ninth national championship, whereas ACU is only in its sixth year as a D-1 team. ACU has seven juniors and seniors on the roster, so their experience might make up for the fact that they don't have a single starter over 6-foot-7.
Iowa State (6) vs. Ohio State (11)
- Iowa State vs. Ohio State
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 9:50 PM EST
Ohio State barnstormed into the season, making themselves a near guarantee for the tournament before crashing into one of the saddest Januaries on record, turning in a miserable 1-6 performance. The Buckeyes met Iowa State in the tournament as recently as 2013, only that year, Ohio State was the #2 seed and the Cyclones were #10. Both teams have a superstar that the other would be wise to worry about. Ohio State's Kaleb Wesson is known for slithering out of double coverage, and Iowa State's Marial Shayok averages 18.6 points per game.
Houston (3) vs. Georgia State (14)
- Houston vs. Georgia State
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 7:20 PM EST
The Houston Cougars dominated the regular season, finishing with a record of 31-3, while the Georgia State Panthers went 24-9. Houston's top scorer is Corey Davis, who averaged 16.6 points per game, reaching double digits in 13 straight games. The Panthers' D'Marcus Simonds averaged an impressive 18.9 points per game, and the point guard also picked up an average of five rebounds.
Villanova (6) vs. Saint Mary's (11)
- Villanova vs. Saint Mary's
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 7:20 PM EST
Villanova and St. Mary's met nearly a decade ago in the second round of the tournament, and St. Mary's went home the winner. The tiny West Coast school put up 73.5 points per game during the regular season with Jordan Ford leading the way with an average of 21.5 points per game. 'Nova did a little better with 74.6 points per game. Phil Booth averaged 18.6 points per game, making him Villanova's leading scorer.
Purdue (3) vs. Old Dominion (14)
- Purdue vs. Old Dominion
- Game time: Thursday, 3/21, 9:50 PM EST
Purdue fans have endured nearly four decades of March heartbreak, with the last four years alone dishing out two overtime losses, a late-game regulation meltdown, and a painful stomping at the hands of Kansas. This year, Purdue takes on Old Dominion, whose top scorer is senior guard B.J. Smith, who puts up an average of 16.9 points per game. It will be Purdue's fifth straight appearance in the tournament, one of only 10 teams to earn that distinction, and if they make it that far, it will be the Boilermakers' third straight trip to the Sweet 16.
Cincinnati (7) vs. Iowa (10)
- Cincinnati vs. Iowa
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 12:15 PM EST
Twelve of the 21 games the Cincinnati Bearcats played against fellow American Conference teams were decided by 2 points or less—and they won all but two. The Iowa Hawkeyes had six of their 11 final games come down to 2 points or less, which has many pundits predicting this matchup will be one of the most exciting of the entire first round. Cincinnati will look to Jarron Cumberland, who averages 18.4 points per game. Iowa's top scorer is Tyler Cook, who puts up 15 points per game.
Tennessee (2) vs. Colgate (15)
- Tennessee vs. Colgate
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 2:45 PM EST
Colgate is gearing up for its first visit to the tournament since 1996, and if they play spoiler and beat Tennessee it will be the first March Madness win in the team's history. Colgate earned a spot by beating Bucknell in the title game after coming out of the regular season with a record of 24-10. They'll be led by Rapolas Ivanauskas, who averages 16.3 points and eight rebounds per game. The Tennessee Volunteers, however, racked up an average of 82.3 points per game with a record of 29-5.
Virginia (1) vs. Gardner-Webb (16)
- Virginia vs. Gardner-Webb
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 3:10 PM EST
The Gardner-Webb Bulldogs have their work cut out for them against the #1 seed Virginia Cavaliers. The Bulldogs emerged from the regular season 23-11, led by David Efianayi, who scored an average of 18.3 points per game. The Cavs, on the other hand, tore through some of the toughest teams in basketball on the way to a 29-3 record. Kyle Guy is Virginia's top scorer, racking up 15.6 points per game, with De'Andre Hunter not far behind at 15.1 points per game.
Mississippi (8) vs. Oklahoma (9)
- Mississippi vs. Oklahoma
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 12:40 PM EST
The Ole Miss Rebels will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in a South region matchup between two teams with nearly identical regular season records. Mississippi went 20-12 and Oklahoma went 19-13. Even the Sooners' top shooter averaged less than 15 points per game, although the Oklahoma roster does include three players with double-digit points-per-game averages. Ole Miss is led by Breein Tyree, who put up 18.5 points per game, also one of three double-digit average shooters.
Kansas State (4) vs. UC Irvine (13)
- Kansas State vs. UC Irvine
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 2:00 PM EST
The UC Irvine Anteaters are a solid team with a roster full of veterans, and some tournament watchers are betting on them to play spoiler to the #4 seed Kansas State Wildcats. The Anteaters are scorching hot, coming off 16 straight wins for a regular season record of 30-5. The hot, confident team will take on Kansas State, who lost more games than the Anteaters and won fewer during the regular season.
Wisconsin (5) vs. Oregon (12)
- Wisconsin vs. Oregon
- Game time: Friday, 3/22, 4:30 PM EST
The Oregon Ducks come into the tournament hot, winning eight straight for a regular season record of 23-12, despite the fact that they're coming from the often-mocked Pac-12. Wisconsin ended the season in similar shape, entering the tournament with a record of 23-10. The Badgers will count on a big performance by Ethan Happ, who averages 17.8 points per game. The Ducks, on the other hand, have top scorers in Louis King and Payton Prichard, who averaged 12.6 and 12.2 points per game, respectively.