March Madness First Round Predictions and Analysis-West


#1 Gonzaga vs. #16 Georgia State – Chris King

Gonzaga was the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament field and they are as dangerous a team as you’re going to find in the field. The Bulldogs led the NCAA in scoring offense (87.8 ppg), were second in FG % (52.7%), second in two-point shooting (60.9%) and fourth in rebounding (41.5) this season. Georgia State turned in a solid year in the Sun Belt and Rob Lanier has done a terrific job with the Panthers but this is a horrible matchup. The Panthers are 344th in effective field goal percentage (45.1%) according to KenPom, which means they don’t have the firepower to keep up with Gonzaga. Georgia State is good at forcing turnovers, ranking 19th defensively in turnover percentage (22.7%) this season. If the Bulldogs avoid the turnover issue that cropped up at times down the stretch, they should be able to cruise into round two. Prediction: Gonzaga -23.5

#8 Boise State vs. #9 Memphis – Chris King

A pair of mid-majors that turned in solid campaigns look to knock each other off to move on to round two. Boise State won the Mountain West regular-season title and followed that up with a win in the Mountain West Tournament by edging San Diego State in the title game. Memphis won six straight and 12 of their previous 13 before getting stopped in the AAC tournament title game by Houston. We’re looking at a clash of styles as Penny Hardaway’s team loves to run, ranking 34th in tempo with 70.3 possessions a game. Meanwhile, Boise State is 307th with 64.6 possessions a night. One other thing that is problematic about the Broncos is their struggles at the line. Boise State is only 347th in the nation with a 64.9% success rate. That keeps Memphis in the game and sinks the Broncos’ chances when the game hangs in the balance. Prediction: Memphis -2

#5 UConn vs. #12 New Mexico State – Chris King

UConn pushed themselves into the semifinals of the Big East Tournament before losing to Villanova. The Huskies do have a great trio of R.J. Cole, Adama Sanogo and Tyrese Martin, which can make them tough to defend. New Mexico State is no pushover, however, winning the WAC Tournament crown while finishing with a 26-6 record on the year. The Aggies own wins over Davidson and Washington State this season so they won’t be intimidated. New Mexico State can defend well, ranking 20th in effective field goal percentage defense (45.5%) on the year. Their problem might be on the glass as UConn leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (37.9%) this year. The Huskies are effective on both ends and should earn the win but I like the Aggies to hang around close enough to cover the line here. Prediction: New Mexico State Aggies +6.5

#4 Arkansas vs. #13 Vermont – Chris King

Arkansas was a victim of the Texas A&M express that also claimed Florida and Auburn in the SEC Tournament. JD Notae is a force to be reckoned with but he was a non-factor in the loss to Texas A&M, going two of eight from the field and put up five points. Eric Musselman is going to have to get his key contributors to step up because Vermont isn’t going to be intimidated by anyone. The Catamounts hung in against Providence, Maryland and Oakland before falling in those contests. Vermont has decimated teams in the America East and punched their ticket to the tournament by walloping UMBC 82-43 in the title game. The Catamounts have five battle-tested seniors, led by Ben Shungu and Ryan Davis. Vermont is 3rd in two-point shooting (59.1%), 6th in FG % (49.3%) and is 10th in scoring defense (60.3 ppg) on the year. Arkansas should win this one but the Catamounts are no pushover: take the points and the Catamounts in a closer game than many would expect. Prediction: Vermont Catamounts +5.5

#6 Alabama vs. #11 Notre Dame/Rutgers winner

This one will be covered in detail on our websites at Winners and and Stat

#3 Texas Tech vs. #14 Montana State – Chris King

Texas Tech battled in the Big 12 tournament title game before falling to Kansas. The Red Raiders didn’t miss a beat after Chris Beard left to go to Austin as the team continued their stifling defensive ways under Mark Adams. Texas Tech is 11th in scoring defense (60.3 ppg), 6th in FG % defense (38.4%) and 15th in two-point defense (44.3%) this season. Montana State was tough in the Big Sky, winning 26 of their final 30 games after a 1-3 start to finish 27-7 overall. The Bobcats get to the free-throw line a lot, ranking fourth in FT attempts per FG attempt (.403) this season. Montana State is going to struggle to put the ball in the basket here and you have to back Texas Tech, especially with the potential that a guy like Kevin Obanor could go off for 25+ points and obliterate a team. Prediction: Texas Tech -15.5

#7 Michigan State vs. #10 Davidson – Chris King

Michigan State has been an up-and-down team this season, which is fitting for a power conference team to hold a middle-of-the-road seed. The Spartans have to find a way to establish a go-to scoring option on the offensive end of the floor. Tom Izzo has plenty of experience when it comes to being in March Madness but this is arguably one of the weakest teams he’s brought to the dance in his career. The Spartans have five guys averaging at least 8.2 points a game but have just one player (Gabe Brown) averaging in double figures on the year. Davidson was edged in the Atlantic 10 tournament title game but still got a decent seed seeing that they were 27-6 overall, including wins over Delaware, Penn and Alabama. The Wildcats are a dangerous team from the perimeter, knocking down 38.5% of their attempts from three-point range. Foster Loyer, Luka Brajkovic, Hyunjung Lee and Michael Jones are a talented quartet for coach Bob McKillop and Davidson has been a giant slayer before. Take the points and the Wildcats here. Prediction: Davidson +2

#2 Duke vs. #15 CSU Fullerton – Chris King

This is the final run for coach Mike Krzyzewski, barring him pulling a Tom Brady and deciding he’s not ready to retire. The Blue Devils certainly didn’t get a favorable draw as far as the bracket goes seeing the strong teams like Gonzaga, Texas Tech, Arkansas and UConn in the mix. There were plenty of people who thought the Blue Devils would have avoided some of these teams after falling in the ACC Tournament title game to Virginia Tech. Fortunately, at least in the opening round, they face a small-school team that they have a massive talent edge on, so they’ll at least make it to the weekend. CSU Fullerton slipped past Long Beach State in the Big West tournament title game Saturday night to get here. This is a chance for Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels to send a message right out of the gate. Duke was 11th in the country in scoring offense with an average of 80.2 points per game this year. That’s too much for Dedrique Taylor’s guys to handle. The Blue Devils move on to round 2 by pulling away in the second half to handle the Titans. Prediction: Duke -17.5

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