2016 March Madness: Second Round Preview and Picks For Day Two

By Paul Wilson
Published on March 20, 2016
Flaming Basketball

The first two rounds of the 2016 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament are almost over, as Sunday’s 8 games bring the action to a halt. The excitement doesn’t end until we have a full Sweet 16 lineup, however, and judging by some amazing contests in round one and on Saturday, we should be bracing for some more killer finishes.

Just yesterday alone we saw Kentucky fall and Duke outlast Yale, but Sunday offers up potential Cinderellas in Northern Iowa, S.F. Austin, Hawaii and Middle Tennessee. Which ones can upset their opponents and move on to round three? Let’s find out:

Round of 32 – Day Two (Sunday, March 20th)

East Region

S.F. Austin (14) vs. Notre Dame (6)

S.F. Austin was one of the main shockers from round one, but we knew they were capable of an upset due to an explosive offense and blistering defense. The latter is a huge reason why they’re a real threat to march on the the Sweet 16, while the Fighting Irish simply aren’t as potent as they were a year ago.

As amazing as S.F. Austin’s defense can be, the guy everyone will be waiting to see explode is elite scorer, Thomas Walkup. Notre Dame is probably in trouble with this matchup regardless, but if Walkup comes in hot, it could be over early.

Pick: S.F. Austin 80, Notre Dame 74

Wisconsin (7) vs. Xavier (2)

The Badgers did not bring their offense to the first round of March Madness, but thanks to their system, grit and defense, they still found a way to outlast Pittsburgh. Holding the Panthers to a tournament-low 43 points is the big reason why, but as impressive as that defensive performances was, there is no way the Badgers can rely on that again when they take on a superior Xavier club on Sunday.

Xavier is far more talented than Pittsburgh on both ends and is going to be a much bigger problem, both literally and figuratively. Wisconsin’s system certainly gives them a chance to compete and we can expect a close game because of it, but the loss of star players Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker could be a little more evident in round two.

Pick: Xavier 68, Wisconsin 62

West Region

VCU (10) vs. Oklahoma (2)

Buddy Hield and the Sooners get a fairly stiff test in round two on Sunday, where they’ll battle a tourney-tested VCU squad. VCU got through an underrated Oregon State team to advance to take on Oklahoma, while the Sooners were brought to the brink by a surprisingly strong Cal State Bakersfield club.

Oklahoma’s brush with tourney death should have been a wakeup call for a team that has brought Kansas to the finish line, while VCU simply doesn’t have the size or star power to hang with a focused Oklahoma team. Look for Buddy Hield to put the team on his back and get the Sooners to the Sweet 16.

Pick: Oklahoma 79, VCU 67

Northern Iowa (11) vs. Texas A&M (3)

Northern Iowa is probably the miracle team of the tourney so far, as they were staring an overtime date with Texas in the face before banking a lucky buzzer beater. Lucky or not, they’re now in round two and going up against another Texas bred team, and the competition only gets tougher.

There’s no doubt the better team on the year has been the Aggies, who have run through the brutal SEC and have plenty of top notch wins on their resume. They can also run offensively or put the clamps down defensively, giving them multiple outs against the Panthers. While Texas A&M should come out on top here, we need to point to a history of upsets from NI, who recently took down a top-seeded Kansas squad not too long ago. They also do not rely on one star, using several quality guards to stretch the floor and keep their opponent guessing.

Still, Texas A&M can really bring it offensively and odds are they’ll be a little too strong for Northern Iowa to keep up with.

Pick: Texas A&M 78, Northern Iowa 72

St. Joseph’s (8) vs. Oregon (1)

Fans can expect to see a ton of offense when St. Joe’s and Oregon clash on Sunday, as one of the weaker #1 seeds tries to stave off elimination and force their way into the Sweet 16. The Ducks are definitely a very good offense when everything is clicking, but they’ll be challenged by a good St. Joe’s offense and should be on high upset alert going into this matchup.

It was quite encouraging to see St. Joe’s drop 78 points on a very good Cincinnati defense, but seeing them do that again versus a sound Ducks defense is a bit questionable. Keeping up with a balanced and athletic Oregon offense is the other trick, and that in the end should be a deadly combination St. Joe’s can’t overcome.

Pick: Oregon 79, St. Joe’s 74

Midwest Region

Middle Tennessee (15) vs. Syracuse (10)

The upset of the tournament without a doubt belongs to Middle Tennessee, who in hindsight was a total mismatch for Michigan State due to their balance and athleticism. The key word for round one and this round two matchup with Syracuse is “attack”, as Middle Tennessee rode insanely hot shooting but will really need to keep up their aggressive play to take down the Orange.

Syracuse proved right away in round one that despite a fairly up and down and overall lethargic regular season, a Jim Boeheim team can never be counted out. Syracuse can be shaky offensively, but they’re athletic, have size and best of all, can really kill teams with their deadly 2-3 zone on defense.

Ultimately, Syracuse just has been too shaky on the year to trust, and it seems like Middle Tennessee has something going here. Reggie Upshaw busted out in a big way in round one and he and the rest of Middle Tennessee need to simply bring the same energy they had in round one. The key will be keeping that energy high and attacking even when all of their shots aren’t going in. If they can maintain that, Middle Tennessee could live the dream and advance to the Sweet 16.

Pick: Middle Tennessee 78, Syracuse 72

South Region

Hawaii (13) vs. Maryland (5)

Another huge surprise from round one, Hawaii marches on and will take on a very solid Terrapins team on Sunday. Maryland has been tested all year long out of the Big 10, but they’ll be tested again by the Rainbow Warriors, who lost just five games all year and boast a very efficient defense. On top of that Hawaii is also very prolific down low offensively, and could give Maryland fits in the paint.

The Terrapins didn’t get here by accident, though, and they surely aren’t about to lie down and let Hawaii walk all over them under the basket. To prevent that, the Terps should pack the paint and make Hawaii beat them from the outside, where they struggle (just 28% from deep as a team). If Maryland just takes care of the basketball and plays their offensive game from there, they should survive their second pesky test to move on to round three.

Pick: Maryland 76, Hawaii 71

Iowa (7) vs. Villanova (2)

Iowa nearly pulled a Purdue and choked away a sure-win late on Friday, but ultimately they pulled through behind a balanced offense. For their efforts they’ve been granted a date with a very good Villanova team in a matchup that doesn’t seem to favor them in any way.

Jay Wright’s Wildcats are enamored with the three ball, and on Sunday they face a team in Iowa that likes playing on the outside just as much. The big difference? Iowa’s main studs – Jared Uthoff and Peter Jok – were awful from deep in round one. The Hawkeyes simply aren’t good enough to withstand that again versus such a deadly Villanova team.

The bigger problem, of course, is Iowa’s propensity to blow big leads. They put that awful attribute on full display against Temple on Friday and it could come back to bite them again on Sunday. That, or Villanova connects on their three’s a lot earlier than they did in round one and this one isn’t even close. Either way, it feels like it’s time for Villanova to reach the Sweet 16 again, which would be for the first time since 2009.

Pick: Villanova 80, Iowa 75

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