It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
9:15 p.m. tip, Friday, Tulsa, OK
8. Miami (FL) (21-11, 10-8/ACC)–The Hurricanes were probably a little bit under-seeded at 8, having played in the ridiculously-tough ACC. Miami emerged with wins over North Carolina and Duke, and finished just one game behind the 2-seeded Blue Devils in the standings.
6-6 guard Davon Reed leads the team in scoring at 15 ppg. Junior Ja’Quan Newton (13.4 ppg) is another capable scorer, and Bruce Brown (11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) was one of the ACC’s top freshmen.
Never underestimate head coach Jim Larranaga, who has helped this team compete in the nation’s best conference year in and year out. He’s the same guy that led George Mason to the Final Four, and one of these days, he’s due for another deep run with this Miami squad.
9. Michigan State (19-14, 10-8/Big Ten)–This isn’t a vintage Michigan State squad, but sometimes the teams that come into the NCAA’s with a lower seed and less pressure seem to fare better for Tom Izzo. These Spartans scheduled everybody but the Warriors and the Cavs in the non-conference, playing Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor, Wichita State, and Duke, and making trips to Hawaii, the Bahamas, and Madison Square Garden.
It’s likely that schedule that earned Michigan State a 9-seed in this tournament, because otherwise, the Spartans’ resume isn’t very flattering. They stumbled down the stretch, losing to Illinois, Maryland and Minnesota, and also lost games to Northeastern, Ohio State and Penn State.
This team is led by Flint native and freshman forward Miles Bridges, who averages 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Another freshman, Nick Ward, ranks second on the team in scoring.
PREDICTION: Both teams are known for their tough approach to defense, and both of these coaches know what it takes to win in the NCAA Tournament. Miami has a little bit more experience on its side, and maybe a little more talent, as well. We like the Hurricanes to advance past Round 1 and give top-seeded Kansas a game in Round 2 before packing it in.