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.
5. Indiana (25-7, 15-3/Big Ten)– The Hoosiers shook off a mediocre non-conference run and dominated their Big Ten schedule, going 15-3. Sure, they had a relatively easy draw, playing Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois twice, but the Hoosiers also swept Iowa, beat Wisconsin and own a win over in-state rival Notre Dame. Head coach Tom Crean has done a wonderful job with this group, which captured its first regular season Big Ten title since 2013.
Yogi Ferrell (17.1 ppg, 5.5 apg) is one of the best point guards in the nation, and we all know the importance of good guards in the NCAA Tournament. He’s flanked by a trio of capable scorers in 6-4 sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. (15.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg), 6-7 forward Troy Williams (13 ppg, 6 rpg), and Thomas Bryant (13 ppg, 6 rpg).
This team has the offensive wherewithal to make a deep tournament run, but it needs to step up on defense.
82.7 points per game (11th)
68.9 points allowed (99th)
16.1 assists per game (32nd)
12. Chattanooga (29-5, 15-3/SoCon)–Matt McCall for National Coach of the Year! The Mocs head coach weathered the loss of preseason Player of the Year Casey Jones (who helped lead the team to upsets of Georgia and Illinois), yet somehow still guided Chattanooga to a school-record 29 wins and a sweep of the SoCon regular season and tournament titles. And he did it all in his first year on the job,
McCall, a former assistant under Billy Donovan, has a loaded group, with 6-5 junior Tre’ McLean (12.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg), and diesel 6-10 forward Justin Tuoyo (11 ppg, 5 rpg). He’s also got near-power-conference size and a ton of depth, as eight guys chip in with at least 7 ppg.
How resillient is this group? Just one day after they lost Jones, they went out and beat Dayton, 61-59, in Dayton. Can the Mocs beat Indiana? They’ve got the defense to slow the high-scoring Hoosiers down, as they’ve held opponents to 66.6 points per game, which ranks 56th in the country.
66.6 points allowed (T-53rd)
75.8 points per game (116th)
PREDICTION: This is a fascinating contrast of styles, as the Mocs win with defense and the Hoosiers get it done on the offensive end of the floor. Chattanooga is a real threat to win this game, as the Mocs have power-conference size, resillency and terrific team chemistry. Indiana has more talent, and one of the best point guards in the country in Ferrell. They also went 15-3 in the Big Ten, but were disrespected because people believed their schedule was . This one should be close, but we think the Hoosiers will score just enough to move past the Mocs. Indiana wins, 81-73, then falls to arch-rival Kentucky in Round 2.