by David Stratton |
Xavier –9 over Georgia
Georgia stunned its SEC opponents in the conference tournament by winning three games in a span of 30 hours. But Xavier has a senior-laden squad that is tournament tested and, because they’re only 2-2 in their last four games, will be focused on this contest. Drew Lavender appears healthy after spraining his ankle last month, and guard Stanley Burrell – the Atlantic 10’s defensive player of the year – will wreak havoc with Georgia’s star guard, Sundiata Gaines. The Bulldogs’ Cinderella run is cut short by a solid Musketeer squad capable of a deep tournament run. Xavier.
Bonus coverage: NCAA tournament first round action
Marquette –6 over Kentucky
Kentucky lost all hope when its freshman big man, Patrick Patterson, went down with a season-ending ankle injury. The Wildcats have a capable front court with Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford, but they will have their hands full with Marquette’s tandem of Jerel McNeal and Dominic James, along with shut-down guard Wesley Matthews coming off the bench. Add big man Dan Fitzgerald, who can step outside and hit the three-pointer, and you have a Golden Eagle squad that will be difficult to slow down. Unlike their glory days of the past, Kentucky makes an early exit. Marquette.
UCLA –32 over Mississippi Valley State
Ordinarily, you look for big underdogs in the first round, but UCLA has too much firepower and too many defenders for a team that lost 71-26 to Washington State. Even though UCLA coach Ben Howland will most likely substitute freely and rest ailing big men Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (ankle) and Kevin Love (back), the Bruins are deep enough to run away from the Delta Devils and practically name the score. UCLA.
Temple +7 over Michigan State
Neither team appears to be on a roll as they enter the tournament – Michigan State is only 6-6 in its last 12 games and Temple had to win the Atlantic 10 tournament to sweeten a 12-loss season. The outcome of this contest will probably decided by the hotter shooting team, and that looks like it should be Temple with guard Dionte Christmas draining shots from the perimeter. He has the ability to put the team on his back and the Owls’ up-tempo style should be enough to keep them in the game. Temple.
USC –3 ½ over Kansas State
The game features the heralded match-up of super freshmen O.J. Mayo of USC and Michael Beasley of K-State. At 26.5 points a game, Beasley has earned the accolades, but the Wildcats as a team are not a great 3-point shooting team (32.1 percent). Overall, USC has superior athletes who can provide the defensive pressure to force turnovers and blanket the perimeter. That spells trouble for Kansas State, which has looked sloppy at times and could have trouble keeping its composure. With better players and better coaching, USC cruises into the second round. USC.