March Madness: First Four and more

NCAA Tournament: Just because BYU and Dayton were saddled with the extra games doesn’t mean they can’t give themselves an extended stay in the brackets.

By Greg DePalma, PSN Executive Producer

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The first round of the NCAA Tournament gets underway later tonight in Dayton, Ohio, with a 16-17 Hampton team taking on the MAAC Champs from Manhattan. The second game of the doubleheader, though, is the one to watch with a BYU team that heads my list of potential Cinderellas taking on Ole Miss.

The Cougars are led by one of the most underrated backcourts in the country with guards Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth. The Cougars have lost nine games this season – eight decided by seven points or less, including overtime losses to tournament teams San Diego State and Purdue. Their only blowout loss was in the West Coast Conference title game against a vengeful Gonzaga team looking for payback after the Cougars ended their 22-game winning streak and 41 straight home wins two weeks earlier in Spokane.

On Wednesday night, North Florida battles Robert Morris while Boise State takes on Dayton on the Flyers’ home court in one of the toughest games to handicap thus far.

The Broncos are looking for their first ever NCAA Tournament win (0-6), and have won 15 of their last 17 following an overtime loss in the Mountain West semifinals against eventual champ Wyoming. The Broncos would be an even tougher out had they not lost senior Anthony Drmic after seven games. Drmic was on his way to becoming the school’s all-time scoring leader.

While the Flyers catch a break getting the game in their home gym, they were going to be tough for Boise to beat anywhere. Dayton was my most successful Cinderella last season, marching their way to the Elite 8 until losing to top-ranked Florida. That experience should give the Flyers the confidence they can make another run led by former Ohio State transfer, senior guard Jordan Sibert.

Don’t let the fact that BYU and Dayton have to play in the first round prevent you from getting behind either team for a long bracket run. Tennessee made it all the way to the Sweet 16 last season and LaSalle did it the year before.

1st Round Picks
  • Manhattan -9 over Hampton
  • BYU -3 over Ole Miss
  • North Florida -2 over Robert Morris
  • Dayton -3 over Boise State

Look for PSN’s full bracket coverage including region-by-region analysis, best early-round upsets, Final Four picks and updated tournament odds. Also tune in Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET for our tournament preview podcast.