PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- What I’m looking forward to seeing Thursday in Providence:
Can I hope for upsets and last-possession games?
In years' past I’ve had insane jealousy as I’ve missed out on some of the best first and second-round games in other regionals. I’ve had the vanilla brackets, save my never-forget moment in Worcester in 2005 when Vermont’s T.J. Sorrentine beat Syracuse with a deep 3-pointer. I can’t recall ever seeing an arena erupt in unison the way the DCU Center did that day. I still remember Tom Brennan raising his arms in unison. It remains one of my greatest memories covering this tournament in 20 years. So please give me something like that.
Villanova is a No. 2 seed, which is probably one or two seed lines higher than they should be after losing five of seven games. But the Wildcats get Taylor King back and a good draw in round one. How the Wildcats respond to their new lease on life should be interesting to watch.
Georgetown comes in quite hot after losing to West Virginia in the Big East tournament title game. There is a buzz with this crew that can’t be denied. But what has gotten lost amid all the hype is that Greg Monroe is playing in his first NCAA tournament. The Hoyas flopped last season and Monroe didn’t get a chance to be on the sport’s top stage. How he responds with the lights on in March should be a telling tale.
The best game of the day should be Richmond-Saint Mary’s. I was disappointed that the two were matched together in round one. Of course that means at least one of them will make it to the second round. I’m big on the Spiders. I love the backcourt of Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez and Chris Mooney has done a tremendous job planning for this event. He scheduled for it, knew his team was mature enough to handle the situation and they delivered. Saint Mary’s finally got in by winning the WCC tournament, but will that be enough? The Gaels are a better team this season, even though they don’t have two pro-level players in Patty Mills and Daimon Simpson. How the Gaels handle the cross-country trek will be critical to their success. How the Spiders defend Omar Samhan will be critical to their success. We'll also find out whether or not Matthew Dellavedova can keep his mouthpiece in his mouth. That mouthpiece is dangling too far out of his mouth.
My upset pick is San Diego State over Tennessee. I’m doing that for a few reasons. I think Tennessee has had a tremendous season. The Vols to knocked off two No. 1 teams at home (Kansas and Kentucky), and will be the lasting memory for this squad. But the hammering they took from Kentucky at the SEC tournament concerns me. The Vols have more experience than San Diego State and the proximity to Providence helps. The Aztecs are playing well on the road after beating New Mexico and UNLV in Las Vegas to win the MWC tournament. The matchup with Kawhi Leonard and Wayne Chism may be the best of the day.
Ohio’s Armon Bassett averaged 29 points in the MAC tournament. He’ll have to probably do more than that to beat Georgetown.
Robert Morris is playing in its second straight NCAA tournament. That’s a nice stat. But I can’t see RMU beating Villanova. Not here. Not now.