UCLA and USC won’t be making the trip to Houston, but the Final Four won’t be short on intrigue. Can the hometown Cougars cut down the nets for the first time in school history? Can Alabama and the murder investigation hovering over this year’s tournament be removed from the spotlight? Will two Big East squads spoil the No. 1 seeds’ party before that fateful Monday night?
Check out national college writer J. Brady McCollough‘s NCAA Tournament picks.
All games can been seen on March Madness Live or on the March Madness Live app. All times are Pacific.
No. 16 Southeast Missouri State vs. No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Tuesday, 3:40 p.m.
Line: Texas A&M-CC by 4.
Pick: Southeast Missouri State has a great story, making its first appearance since 2000. But Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was in this exact game last year. That experience will deliver.
— Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 64, Southeast Missouri State 57
(Note: Tuesday's result was Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 75, Southeast Missouri State 71)
No. 11 Pittsburgh vs. No. 11 Mississippi State
Tuesday, 6:10 p.m.
Line: Mississippi State by 2.5.
Pick: The Panthers play great offense, while the Bulldogs play great defense. The metrics like Mississippi State more as a whole.
— Mississippi State 67, Pitt 62
(Note: Tuesday's result was Pitt 60, Mississippi State 59)
No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
Wednesday, 3:40 p.m.
Line: Texas Southern by 2.
Pick: Fairleigh Dickinson only made this tournament because Merrimack isn’t allowed in because it’s transitioning to Division I. Texas Southern is one of the most consistent low-major programs around.
— Texas Southern 59, Fairleigh Dickinson 55
No. 11 Nevada vs. No. 11 Arizona State
Wednesday, 6:10 p.m.
Line: Arizona State by 2.
Pick: Former UCLA coach Steve Alford is coaching Nevada against Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley in a matchup of former NCAA Tournament stars. The Sun Devils seem charmed this season.
— Arizona State 70, Nevada 69
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Howard
Thursday, 11 a.m.
Line: Kansas by 21
Pick: The Jayhawks won’t be fazed by the pressure of defending their national championship.
— Kansas 88, Howard 61
No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Illinois
Thursday, 1:30 p.m.
Line: Arkansas by 2.5.
Pick: This is an intriguing matchup of teams that could give Kansas a nervous Saturday. Arkansas is the pick because of its talent at guard, where Illinois is lacking.
— Arkansas 75, Illinois 71
No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth
Friday, 11 a.m.
Line: Saint Mary’s by 4.
Pick: VCU will try to speed up the Gaels with its trademark pressure defense, but Saint Mary’s has seen it all and is tournament tested.
— Saint Mary’s 63, VCU 56
No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 13 Iona
Friday, 1:30 p.m.
Line: UConn by 9.
Pick: Rick Pitino against a Hurley brother in March? That’s delicious. Iona is certainly capable beyond the Pitino pedigree, but Dan Hurley’s Huskies just have too much quality depth.
— Connecticut 68, Iona 62
No. 6 Texas Christian vs. No. 11 Arizona State
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Pick: TCU nearly knocked off Arizona in the second round last season and returns all the key pieces from that team. The Horned Frogs won’t back down from Arizona State.
— TCU 78, Arizona State 65
No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 14 Grand Canyon
Friday, 4:35 p.m.
Line: Gonzaga by 15.5.
Pick: The Bulldogs may not have a No. 1 seed this year, but they still have the No. 1 offense in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings.
— Gonzaga 89, Grand Canyon 68
No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Boise State
Thursday, 4:35 p.m.
Line: Northwestern by 1.5.
Pick: The Wildcats and Broncos are similar teams, defined by their defensive guile. This one will be a grind to the wire.
— Boise State 62, Northwestern 60
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 15 UNC-Asheville
Thursday, 7:05 p.m.
Line: UCLA by 18.
Pick: KenPom’s efficiency metrics view UNC-Asheville as the luckiest team in the country this year. The luck will run out against the experienced Bruins.
— UCLA 76, UNC-Asheville 61
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Arkansas
Pick: We can only hope this one is as good as when these schools met in the Liberty Bowl, a 55-53 Arkansas win. Expect a similar track meet here, but a different winner.
— Kansas 77, Arkansas 73
No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 5 Saint Mary’s
Pick: In a battle of two KenPom darlings — both teams have offense and defense in the nation’s top 40 — Connecticut will simply have too much firepower.
— Connecticut 65, Saint Mary’s 60
No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 TCU
Pick: The Zags have had such a massive target on their backs in recent years, which has made it tough on them in March. They can play with a freer mind this year, and Drew Timme will lead them to the Sweet 16.
— Gonzaga 70, TCU 62
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 10 Boise State
Pick: With one more game under their belts to figure out how to play without Jaylen Clark, the Bruins will hit their stride in this one. Amari Bailey will give UCLA a big boost.
— UCLA 66, Boise State 53
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Connecticut
Thursday, March 23, Las Vegas
Pick: The Jayhawks had expected all season to be playing the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in Kansas City. Vegas won’t be nearly as kind, thanks to a Connecticut team that has just as many weapons as the defending champs.
— Connecticut 64, Kansas 62
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 Gonzaga
Thursday, March 23, Las Vegas
Pick: The Bruins absolutely need a healthy Adem Bona to have a chance of slowing down Drew Timme inside. UCLA will get its revenge for its 2021 Final Four heartbreak at the hands of the Zags.
— UCLA 63, Gonzaga 60
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 4 Connecticut
Saturday, March 25, Las Vegas
Pick: The Bruins will feel the loss of Jaylen Clark the most against Connecticut’s backcourt trio of Tristen Newton, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. It’s too much on the shoulders of Tyger Campbell this time.
— Connecticut 71, UCLA 67
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 16 Northern Kentucky
Thursday, 6:20 p.m.
Line: Houston by 19.5
Pick: The Cougars have a chance to play for a national championship in their city, and their defense is too good to squander it this early.
— Houston 74, Northern Kentucky 55
No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Auburn
Thursday, 3:50 p.m.
Line: Auburn by 1.
Pick: Both of these teams have been uneven down the stretch, so it’s anybody’s guess which one shows up. Auburn will have the best guard on the floor in Wendell Green Jr., plus the game’s in Birmingham.
— Auburn 74, Iowa 69
No. 5 Miami vs. No. 12 Drake
Friday, 4:25 p.m.
Line: Miami by 2.5
Pick: The Hurricanes will be tested if they don’t have big man Norchad Omier because of an ankle injury. The uncertainty makes Drake the pick in a classic 12-over-5 upset.
— Drake 66, Miami 63
No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 Kent State
Friday, 6:55 p.m.
Line: Indiana by 4.
Pick: In one of the last games of the first round, the Golden Flashes will pull one of the biggest upsets of the weekend. But it shouldn’t be. The Hoosiers are a flawed four seed.
— Kent State 69, Indiana 66
No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Mississippi State
Friday, 12:10 p.m.
Pick: Two of the top defensive squads in the country will make this one borderline unwatchable at times. The Cyclones have an extra level of toughness.
— Iowa State 58, Mississippi State 52
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Kennesaw State
Friday, 9:40 a.m.
Line: Xavier by 11.5.
Pick: Kennesaw State went 1-28 during the 2019-20 season and now has a shot to be a Cinderella. The Owls’ magical run will end, though, against a fast-paced Xavier team.
— Xavier 80, Kennesaw State 64
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Penn State
Thursday, 6:55 p.m.
Line: Texas A&M by 3.5.
Pick: The Nittany Lions shoot lots of 3s and make just enough of them most nights. They also have the best player on the floor in do-everything guard Jalen Pickett.
— Penn State 64, Texas A&M 63
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 15 Colgate
Thursday, 4:25 p.m.
Line: Texas by 13.5.
Pick: The Longhorns proved with two recent wins over Kansas that they are a real Final Four threat under interim head coach Rodney Terry.
— Texas 75, Colgate 58
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 9 Auburn
Pick: Houston could have a home-court advantage in the Final Four, but the Cougars will have to win in a road environment to make the Sweet 16 with this one in Birmingham. They’ll rise to that challenge — barely.
— Houston 67, Auburn 63
No. 12 Drake vs. No. 13 Kent State
Pick: This is fun. At least one Cinderella will make the second weekend. Drake sharp-shooter Tucker DeVries will send the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16.
— Drake 70, Kent State 66
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 6 Iowa State
Pick: Classic tempo battle here. Xavier wants to be the hare, Iowa State wants to be the tortoise. The Musketeers have just a little bit too much scoring depth to be held down.
— Xavier 64, Iowa State 61
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Penn State
Pick: This sounds more like a Cotton Bowl than a battle for a Sweet 16 spot, but these hoopers are legit. Marcus Carr against Jalen Pickett will be a blast. The Horns’ defense will be able to get the stops they need throughout.
— Texas 71, Penn State 60
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 12 Drake
Friday, March 24, Kansas City
Pick: By this time, Marcus Sasser’s groin will be all healed up, and he’ll help the Cougars run right past the Missouri Valley champs.
— Houston 74, Drake 58
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Xavier
Friday, March 24, Kansas City
Pick: The Longhorns are playing with an edge that only comes with trying to get your interim head coach the full-time job. They play much better defense than Xavier and will make their first Elite Eight in 15 years.
— Texas 72, Xavier 67
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 2 Texas
Sunday, March 26, Kansas City
Pick: The winner gets a home-court advantage in the Final Four. Houston’s program has been knocking on the door and feels like it’s been building toward this moment. That it comes against Bevo makes it even richer.
— Houston 59, Texas 54
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Thursday, 11:45 a.m.
Pick: Alabama has been blowing out overmatched teams all year. The Crimson Tide will show no mercy.
— Alabama 104, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 59
No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 West Virginia
Thursday, 9:15 a.m.
Line: West Virginia by 2.
Pick: The Big 12 got so much respect as a league that seven-win West Virginia got into the tournament. The Mountaineers will prove that the committee’s read was right.
— West Virginia 66, Maryland 61
No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 Charleston
Thursday, 12:10 p.m.
Line: San Diego State by 5.
Pick: The Aztecs’ reward for having a great year and winning the Mountain West? A trip across the country to Orlando to play a potential Cinderella with a 31-3 record. San Diego State’s defense will help it survive.
— San Diego State 62, Charleston 58
No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Furman
Thursday, 9:40 a.m.
Line: Virginia by 5.5.
Pick: The Cavaliers, even after winning the 2019 national title, will never escape their distinction as the only No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. They’ll be a popular upset pick this week, but Tony Bennett’s team will find a way.
— Virginia 66, Furman 59
No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 N.C. State
Friday, 1 p.m.
Line: Creighton by 5.5.
Pick: The Bluejays have a deep, experienced roster that plays well together. N.C. State is too dependent on one-on-one basketball to prevail.
— Creighton 73, N.C. State 60
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 UC Santa Barbara
Friday, 10:30 a.m.
Line: Baylor by 10.5.
Pick: There’s a window for the Gauchos to pull an upset if Baylor’s guards are cold from the field. But after losing in the second round last year, the Bears will be dialed in.
— Baylor 72, UC Santa Barbara 63
No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Utah State
Thursday, 10:40 a.m.
Line: Utah State by 1.5.
Pick: The Aggies and Tigers rank in KenPom’s top 15 for offensive efficiency, so this should be a fun one to watch. Utah State is less of an eye sore on defense.
— Utah State 76, Missouri 75
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 Princeton
Thursday, 1:10 p.m.
Line: Arizona by 14.5.
Pick: Princeton will try to muddy this one up and may succeed early, but Arizona is too explosive to stay grounded for long.
— Arizona 88, Princeton 65
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 9 West Virginia
Pick: The Mountaineers will try to punch Alabama in the mouth. They’re the type of team that could scare the No. 1 overall seed, but with this game in Birmingham, the Crimson Tide will roll to the Sweet 16.
— Alabama 77, West Virginia 66
No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 5 San Diego State
Pick: Brian Dutcher has kept Steve Fisher’s San Diego State program playing at a high level. Finally, the Aztecs will break through in the tournament, making their first Sweet 16 since 2014.
— San Diego State 58, Virginia 56
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Creighton
Pick: This should be one of the best games of the second round, pitting Baylor guards Adam Flagler and Keyonte George against Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard and Trey Alexander. The Bluejays have the better bigs.
— Creighton 72, Baylor 69
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 10 Utah State
Pick: The Wildcats will be too much to handle on the inside with the dynamic duo of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo.
— Arizona 73, Utah State 56
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 San Diego State
Friday, March 24, Louisville
Pick: This one is going to be ugly. There just isn’t much San Diego State can do better than Alabama for 40 minutes.
— Alabama 83, San Diego State 57
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 6 Creighton
Friday, March 24, Louisville
Pick: The Wildcats have lived with the sting of losing in the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed for a year. Despite their motivation, Creighton will keep Arizona out of the Elite Eight yet again.
— Creighton 68, Arizona 67
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 6 Creighton
Sunday, March 26, Louisville
Pick: The Bluejays will have the nation rooting them on against the Crimson Tide, who will be feeling the pressure more than at any point in the tournament. But Alabama’s swarming athleticism will help numb the nerves and punch its ticket to the school’s first Final Four.
— Alabama 72, Creighton 67
No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
Friday, 3:50 p.m.
Pick: The Boilermakers won’t be the second 16-over-1 victim because there’s just no way to stop 7-foot-4 monster Zach Edey on the inside.
— Purdue 83, Texas Southern 60
No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic
Friday, 6:20 p.m.
Line: Memphis by 2.
Pick: The Owls have had a great season, but Memphis appears to be peaking at the right time behind the play of transfer guard Kendric Davis.
— Memphis 78, Florida Atlantic 71
No. 5 Duke vs. No. 12 Oral Roberts
Thursday, 4:10 p.m.
Line: Duke by 6.5.
Pick: We all remember the magic of Oral Roberts in 2021, so it’s enticing to think that Duke could be the next victim. But the Blue Devils seem to have it rolling now.
— Duke 77, Oral Roberts 72
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Louisiana
Thursday, 6:40 p.m.
Line: Tennessee by 10.5.
Pick: Louisiana may have the best player on the floor in Jordan Brown, who averages 19 points and nine rebounds per game. The Volunteers will narrowly avoid another Rick Barnes special.
— Tennessee 66, Louisiana 64
No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence
Friday, 4:10 p.m.
Line: Kentucky by 4.
Pick: The Wildcats have had to chew on their first-round loss to Saint Peter’s for a whole year. They haven’t been good lately, but Providence has been worse down the stretch.
— Kentucky 72, Providence 61
No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 14 Montana State
Friday, 6:40 p.m.
Line: Kansas State by 8.5.
Pick: Jerome Tang has done a remarkable job in his first season at Kansas State. But the fun ends quickly against a Montana State team that has just as much NCAA Tournament experience from last season.
— Montana State 63, Kansas State 61
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 USC
Friday, 9:15 a.m.
Line: Michigan State by 2.
Pick: The Trojans should feel good about their chances in this one. But Michigan State is playing for their whole campus community after the tragic February shooting.
— Michigan State 65, USC 62
No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 15 Vermont
Friday, 11:45 a.m.
Line: Marquette by 11.
Pick: The Catamounts could keep this one tight, but eventually Marquette’s unselfish brilliance will put the game away.
— Marquette 74, Vermont 59
No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 8 Memphis
Pick: We can’t forget that Memphis’ big win over Houston came without the Cougars’ best player, Marcus Sasser. Purdue will have enough answers to survive the scary Tigers.
— Purdue 68, Memphis 63
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 5 Duke
Pick: The Volunteers’ defense will muck up Duke’s flow and frustrate the Blue Devils’ freshman ensemble. But Tennessee will miss injured guard Zakai Zeigler.
— Duke 60, Tennessee 56
No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Montana State
Pick: The Bobcats’ Cinderella story ends here with a Kentucky team that needed a little bracket luck to bend its way.
— Kentucky 78, Montana State 66
No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Michigan State
Pick: The Golden Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the country and can get scoring from anywhere in the lineup. Michigan State isn’t spectacular in any facet of the game.
— Marquette 78, Michigan State 69
No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 5 Duke
Thursday, March 23, New York City
Pick: Purdue has Zach Edey, but Duke has the veteran guard in Jeremy Roach, who won’t be overwhelmed by the big stage of Madison Square Garden. Purdue’s freshman guards will look like freshmen in crunch time.
— Duke 72, Purdue 68
No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 6 Kentucky
Thursday, March 23, New York City
Pick: The Golden Eagles just swept through the Garden on the way to the Big East tournament crown. They’ll take care of Kentucky, which doesn’t have its defensive chops this year.
— Marquette 75, Kentucky 68
No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 5 Duke
Saturday, March 25, New York City
Pick: The Garden will be covered in blue. Is this Shaka Smart’s crowning achievement, 12 years after he took VCU to the Final Four, or is it Jon Scheyer’s coming-out party in his first year taking over for Coach K? Something about Marquette just feels special this year.
— Marquette 74, Duke 71
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 4 Connecticut
Saturday, April 1, Houston
Pick: The Cougars have been on an upward trajectory since Kelvin Sampson took over, and nothing — not even a hot Connecticut team that has all the pieces — will keep them from hosting Monday night’s final.
— Houston 65, Connecticut 60
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Marquette
Saturday, April 1, Houston
Pick: The feel-good story for Marquette ends here, elevating a story making anybody outside of Alabama Nation feel confusion and conflict. The Crimson Tide athletes will overwhelm the Golden Eagles on the sport’s biggest stage.
— Alabama 78, Marquette 68
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 1 Houston
Monday, April 3, Houston
Pick: Back in December when Alabama was just a good basketball team nobody knew much about, the Crimson Tide overcame a 15-point deficit to beat No. 1 Houston in its home arena. In the rematch, the hometown Cougars will have the whole country behind them. Yet, so far, Alabama has thrived in the role of villain, and the Crimson Tide will be happy to go down as one of the most loathsome champions in college basketball history.
— Alabama 69, Houston 63
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