By Bob Whitney | @WhitneyBob
The March Madness field is set after the conclusion of last nights ‘first four’ contests.
In case you missed it Farleigh Dickinson, Belmont, Arizona State, and North Dakota State punched tickets to the big dance.
The tournament will start today with Louisville and Minnesota tipping-off in Des Moines, Iowa at 12:15 p.m.
Looking around New England there are three teams with high hopes to be one of the Cinderella teams. Here’s a close up look at the three teams and the first round matchups.
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Yale: Yale picked up the Ivy League’s automatic bid with a decisive 97-85 win over arch rival Harvard in the conference championship final last weekend.
The Bulldogs are the real deal and could cause problems for LSU with a veteran lineup and an explosive offense led by Ivy League Player of Year Miye Oni, who enters today’s contest averaging 17.6 points per game. Oni is projected by many to be a second-round NBA draft pick and if the dynamic point guard is allowed to control tempo this game could result in a win for the Blue and White.
LSU is one of the country’s most athletic and talented squads and most deserving of the third seed, as well. However, there are questions and controversy surrounding the Tigers because they had a first-round flameout in the SEC tournament and their head coach Will Wade is embroiled in an FBI recruiting investigation.
LSU and Yale will meet in Jacksonville, Florida this afternoon where the Bulldogs will attempt to improve to 2-0 in the Sunshine State after rallying to beat Miami last December at the Hoophall Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena.
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 Vermont: Gotta love the Catamounts who play in basketball-crazy Burlington, Vermont.
UVM is led by junior Anthony Lamb, who averages 21.4 points per game – expect Lamb to be a factor in his team’s early afternoon clash, as well as the team’s lockdown defense which may give the ‘Noles trouble in the opening minutes.
Florida State is playing excellent basketball having defeated Virginia is the ACC tournament before losing to Duke in the title game.
Many feel Leonard Hamilton’s squad has the length, athleticism, and skill to go all the way but will patience or lack thereof cause them to stumble under tournament pressure? Either way, I like the ‘Noles to win this contest but it won’t be easy.
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Northeastern: Bill Cohen‘s Huskies punched their ticket to the big dance with a solid 82-74 takedown over Hofstra in the CAA title game last week.
Northeastern’s explosive point guard Vasa Pusica led the way with 21 points on seven three-pointers. The Huskies are one of the country’s top three-point shooting teams and if they can adjust to the change in elevation in Salt Lake City then it may cause the Jayhawks some trouble.
This past season hasn’t been one of Bill Self’s better teams which saw its record of 14 Big 12 Conference regular-season titles come to an end. Injuries have plagued Kansas and as a result, Self has been forced to play a bunch of first-year players.
The Huskies with Pusica at the controls will make life difficult for one of college basketball’s elite programs but in the end, I like Kansas.
Stay connected with our Noontime Sports New England basketball coverage on Twitter @Noontime_Hoops