March Madness is here. No, literally, it’s here. In town. At the KFC Yum! Center. The overall top-seed Kentucky Wildcats and the surprise team of the season, Murray State, will both open NCAA play in Louisville. Meanwhile, the Yum (do I really have to put an apostrophe every time I type it? That’s getting old) Center’s in-season residents, who won the Big East Championship, are rewarded with a trip to Portland. UofL head coach Rick Pitino laughed when he heard his team might have been better off losing to Cincinnati in the Big East title game. The Bearcats get to play in Nashville. You don’t have to use Mapquest to know that’s closer than Portland.
So here’s your non-scientific, ill-informed breakdown of the first round games for your Bluegrass teams:
(13) Davidson vs. (4) Louisville – Thursday 1:40pm in Portland
Why UofL will win: If you’d never seen the Cardinals play until the Big East Tournament, you would be asking yourself, “How in the world did this team lose 9 games? And why isn’t anyone talking about Big East Tournament MVP Peyton Siva?” Well, most likely, you did see the games Louisville played prior to that and saw that they were a shooter away from winning games they ended up losing. That said, the Cardinals are playing the best basketball they’ve played all season and there’s really no better time to get hot than in March. Look at VCU and Butler last year.
Why UofL will lose: Davidson went to Kansas in December and knocked off the Jayhawks. Even more surprising, the Wildcats lost 3-of-4 during that stretch. Their sole win was in Allen Fieldhouse. Davidson boasts TWO Players of the Year. Yes, two. The coaches in the Southern Conference voted junior forward Jake Cohen as the POY while the coaches voted for sophomore De’Mon Brooks as the POY. Plus, Davidson can run with the Cards. The Wildcats average 78.4 points per game (12th in the nation). And, sorry Cards fans, we know UofL’s record in the first round the last two NCAA tournaments: 0-2.
(11) Colorado State vs. (6) Murray St. – Thursday 12:15pm in Louisville
Why Murray St. will win: Only one team was able to beat Murray State this year. Tennessee State ruined the Racers perfect season. Murray State recovered, beating TSU in the regular season and again in the OVC Championship. The Racers finished the season ranked 11th, yet received a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament. So, with the chip on shoulder firmly in place, coach Steve Prohm’s team comes into Louisville armed with attitude and one of the nation’s best guards, Isaiah Canaan.
Why Murray St will lose: Murray State’s had some quality wins, beating a then-ranked Memphis team in December and 21st-ranked St. Mary’s last month. However, the vast majority of Murray State’s wins came in the OVC. If there really were a team called Little Sisters of the Poor, they’d play in the OVC. And probably win games. Colorado State comes into the tournament with victories over ranked teams in its own conference (SDSU, New Mexico and UNLV), so despite Murray State’s record, the Rams will not be intimidated.
(16) Miss. Valley St./Western Kentucky vs. (1) Kentucky – Thursday 6:50pm in Louisville
Why Kentucky will win: No 16 seed has ever beaten a number one seed in the history of the NCAA tournament. At least the NCAA had the decency to give the overall top-seed a decent storyline no matter who wins the play-in…er…”first round” game. If it’s WKU, then you’ve got an in-state battle in Louisville featuring Cal’s Cats and the dramatic WKU Hilltoppers, who changed coaches after a disastrous start and won the Sun Belt title despite a losing record. If it’s MVSU, you have a team coached by former Wildcat Sean Woods, who played on the 1992 team that lost to Duke but won the hearts of every UK fan.
Why Kentucky will lose: I picked them to win it all.