It is finally here. We waited through the long, cold winter (especially here in Syracuse, New York) for spring to finally arrive and the NCAA tournament to begin. While it might not feel anything like spring here for me, what with the snow that has fallen each of the last two days, March Madness is finally upon us. There is nothing quite like it in sports, which makes it that much more exciting. The round 64 is almost here with just two more play in games occurring tonight before the second round is all set. For all of you making last minute changes to your brackets, here are my picks for the first round of this crazy tournament.
#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Hampton: The Wildcats are undefeated and their season won’t end against Hampton.
#8 Cincinnati vs. #9 Perdue: Cincinnati is always known for its shutdown defense. That will carry them to the round of 32 for a matchup with Kentucky.
#4 Maryland vs. #13 Valparaiso: Maryland has been scary good at times this season and are probably underseeded at four. They will move onto the next round.
#5 West Virginia vs. #12 Buffalo: This Western New York team coached by Bobby Hurley is a talented group. They will be one of a couple #12 seed to move on.
#6 Butler vs. #11 Texas: I saw Butler play at the Big East tournament last week and they were overall underwhelming. Look for Texas to pull off the upset.
#3 Notre Dame vs. #14 Northeastern: The Irish were on fire in the ACC tournament. That alone will get them to the round of 32.
#7 Wichita State vs. #10 Indiana: Kansas would be much happier if the Hoosiers found a way to win but the Shockers will be dancing a little bit longer.
#2 Kansas vs. #15 New Mexico State: The Jayhawks won yet another Big 12 title and will win yet another round of 64 game.
#1 Wisconsin vs. #16 Coastal Carolina: No number 16 seed has ever beaten a one seed. That won’t change with the Badgers.
#8 Oregon vs. #9 Oklahoma State: These eight versus nine games are often a tossup but Oregon has some momentum with a PAC 12 finals appearances.
#4 North Carolina vs. #13 Harvard: Harvard is a solid team. UNC is better and their athleticism alone will carry them to the next round.
#5 Arkansas vs. #12 Wofford: I mention more 12 over 5 upsets…but that doesn’t happen here. The SEC runner up will move on.
#6 Xavier vs. #11 Ole Miss: The momentum the Rebels got from their First Four thriller against BYU will carry them past Xavier.
#3 Baylor vs. #14 Georgia State: Baylor is way too physical for Georgia State and will advance to play Ole Miss.
#2 Arizona vs. #15 Texas Southern: Another Wildcats will be moving on to the next round as Arizona coasts to the win.
#1 Villanova vs. #16 Lafayette: The East could be full of upsets. Villanova will not be one of them.
#8 North Carolina State vs. #9 Louisiana State: The Wolfpack have some marque wins this season and will squeeze by LSU.
#4 Louisville vs. UC Irvine: Some experts are picking the Cardinals to bow out in their first game. I don’t buy it.
#5 Northern Iowa vs. #12 Wyoming: UNI is probably the best mid major in the field this year and will move on to the next round.
#6 Providence vs. #11 Dayton: The Flyers will outplay the Friars as Dayton looks to spoil people’s brackets yet again.
#3 Oklahoma vs. #14 Albany: I don’t have much faith in Oklahoma, but enough to push them through for a matchup with Dayton.
#2 Virginia vs. #15 Belmont: Virginia has had some injury concerns down the stretch of the season. It won’t stop them from dispatching Belmont.
#1 Duke vs. #16 Robert Morris: Robert Morris would be a really fun Cinderella story but it won’t happen versus the Blue Devils.
#8 San Diego State vs. #9 St. John’s: The team that beat St. John’s in the first round of last year’s tournament won the National Championship. SDSU won’t get by the Red Storm though.
#4 Georgetown vs. #13 Eastern Washington: Georgetown has only won one tournament game since 2008. They won’t get another one here.
#5 Utah vs. #12 SF Austin: I said there was going to be another 12 over 5 upset. And here it is with SF Austin pulling off the unlikely once again.
#6 Southern Methodist vs. #11 California Los Angeles: UCLA was lucky to make the tournament. SMU is going to show everyone why the Bruins don’t really belong.
#3 Iowa State vs. # 14 Alabama Birmingham: The Cyclones are too good for the Blazers and will power on to the round of 32.
#2 Gonzaga vs. #15 North Dakota State: Many are calling this the best Gonzaga team ever. Whether or no that is true, the Zags will get by NDSU.
That is the whole round of 64 predicted for you. Check back in this weekend for projections on the next round of games. Feel free to join the Second Look Sports bracket challenge on ESPN as well. The winner will have their name announced on both the site and on social media.