(8) Colorado vs. (9) Connecticut
Connecticut comes in red hot and it makes us all think back to the insane run they had in 2011. I doubt they will have that kind of success in 2016, but this a team finding its own. UConn is one of the better defensive teams in the tournament and Daniel Hamilton is a do-it-all guard. In addition, Rodney Purvis is the team's best outside shooter, helping spread the floor. For Colorado, they will lean heavily on Josh Scott and George King. Things to keep an eye on for the Buffs are their three-point shooting (tops in Pac-12), rebounding (+9), and turnovers (13+). For the Huskies, they are the nation's top free throw shooting team, so if it is close down the stretch, advantage swings towards UConn.
(4) California vs. (13) Hawaii
This is a common upset pick, with how Cal plays away from home and Hawaii, I guess does things well. As you can see, I'm not high on this idea. The Bears have NBA-ready players on their team and an offense and defense much more skilled than the Rainbow Warriors. I don't see this upset coming to fruition.
(6) Arizona vs. (11) Wichita State/Vanderbilt
Welp, here we are. The season began five months ago with the Red-Blue game and 25 wins later, we still really don't know how good Arizona is.
We've seen them blow out ASU by 38, get swept at the Los Angeles schools where they trailed the entire game only to make it close or force overtime (or four). They then got swept in the mountains where they again trailed throughout and then rallied, and last but not least, nearly saw Oregon blow them out in the Pac-12 Tournament before storming back, nearly winning, and then losing in another overtime.
As you can see, this team has a fighter's chance when they feel their back is up against the wall, so maybe, just maybe, they will feel that pressure for an entire 40 minutes in each NCAA game they play this season. Ryan broke down the Wichita State/Vanderbilt game on Sunday if you're keen on knowing what's happening between those teams.
Many would probably rather play Vanderbilt - less experience, more average on both defense and offense - as opposed to Wichita State - experience galore with Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet, and one of the top defenses in the tournament.
I'm going with Arizona - both my heart and head tell me they are the more talented team (against either WSU or Vandy) and Sean Miller will get the team ready to go.
Tip-off for the play-in game is Tuesday at approximately 6:10 PM MST and it will be televised on truTV.
(1) Oregon vs. (16) Holy Cross/ Southern
Did you all see what Oregon did to Utah and U of A during the tournament? This will be an absolute route. Only question is how far Oregon goes in the West region.
(7) Oregon State vs. (10) VCU
This should be a good game if Tres Tinkle is healthy, but regardless, the offense and defense runs through Gary Payton II. However, the team doesn't blow anyone away, winning six of their 19 games by five or less points. They also aren't a good rebounding team. They just get the job done. VCU on the flip side rebounds much better, still employs the 'havoc' style that forces the 4th-most steals in college basketball, and offers a well-rounded offensive approach. If they can force Oregon State into a frenetic pace, the game will strongly favor VCU. I'm going with the Rams.
(8) USC vs. (9) Providence
'Zona fans know all too well how good Providence and future lottery pick Kris Dunn (16ppg) are. Neither of these teams are coming into the tourney on fire (USC is 5-7 in their last 12 and the Friars are 6-6), but both match up surprisingly well on KenPom's offensive and defensive ratings. USC likes to get out and go under Andy Enfield's run-and-gun style. While Providence doesn't shoot the ball well, they take advantage of a pressure defense which capitalize on turnovers - giving them easy shots at the basket in transition. The Trojans don't have any seniors and while experience might be overrated, I feel Providence's leadership and talent will win out. I'm going with the Friars.
(3) Utah vs. (14) Fresno State
Also a common upset pick, but I again am not a fan. Utah has the Pac-12's Player of the Year and 1st Team All-American in Jakob Poeltl. Their offense is efficient (8th-best two-point percentage), but turnover prone. The defense is solid - though they don't block or rebound particularly well so it won't make many highlight reals. Marvelle Harris (20 points per game) leads a Fresno State team that ranks as one of the better teams in preventing turnovers and does a good job forcing them, which could make this a hard fight for the Utes. I think that Utah, seasoned through the strenuous Pac-12, will have more than enough to beat the Bulldogs. Utah to the next round.