2016 NCAA Tournament Preview

First Four


A year after Kentucky entered the NCAA Tournament unbeaten and an overwhelming favorite, there are no teams that are viewed as absolute locks to reach the Final Four. Kansas goes in as the top seed, but in recent seasons that saw the Jayhawks go in with such high expectations have ended in disappointment. Last year of course Kentucky’s unbeaten run ended in the National Semifinal against a solid Wisconsin team that in turn lost the championship to Duke. All three of those teams are back and are not as strong this year as defending champion Duke limps into the tournament with a shorthanded roster. Despite their injuries one should not doubt the Blue Devils in a year where so many teams can get hot and cut down the nets in Houston. Rare has a tournament ever been this wide open, and that can only mean one thing a March Madness that will be off the charts with excitement and upsets. The next three weeks should be quite exciting indeed.

Once again the NCAA Tournament begins early for four teams, on the campus of the University of Dayton in Ohio. The First Four is what the NCAA would like you to call what is a play in for the full 64 team tournament. Two games on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday feature the weakest four teams and the last four at large teams. Winners of the 16 seed match ups get to at least say they won a tournament game before getting boat raced in the round of 64 by a top seed. It is those other games the 11 seed games that can bring out a live dog, as teams from this game have made it the Sweet 16 three times in five years, with Virginia Commonwealth reaching the Final Four in 2011.

On Tuesday Night Fairleigh Dickinson opposes Florida Gulf Coast for the right to be stomped by North Carolina in the East Region. A few years back little Florida Gulf Coast impressed some with a team of high flyers. This team is a little more ground but no less entertaining, while FDU brings a tough Jersey attitude and one of the best defenses in the country. Look for the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson to win the game by forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over. In the night cap Wichita State takes on Vanderbilt for the right to play Arizona in the South Region. If ever there was a team that could make a run it is Wichita State, who if not an injury Fred VanVleet could have been one of the higher seeds. The Shockers have stunned teams in recent years and made it to the Final Four. A run to Houston is unlikely but Wichita State could be the best team in Dayton and after dispatching the Commodores they could be a dangerous team that could sneak into the second weekend.

Wednesday Night brings us the worst of the worst as Holy Cross which after a 5-13 regular season in the Patriot League enter the tournament with the worst record at 14-19, following a miracle run in the conference tournament. The Crusaders run ends here as Southern out of the SWAC wins going away to reach the Western Regional against #1 Oregon. At night Michigan which needed a win over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament just to make Field of 68 takes on Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane must of had a fan on the selection committee as their inclusion in the tournament over teams like Monmouth and St, Mary’s is a mystery. Michigan may have the crowd edge with fans making the short trip from Ann Arbor and have the talent edge with Duncan Robinson’s long distance shooting.