I actually had a pretty successful college football season, winning 54 percent of my games and finishing with a winning bowl record. Despite that, some readers still demanded better results. A man named Don from New York emailed State of the U recently and said the following:
"You have a guy there at your website, he happens to be named Pickens. Let me tell you, this guy is a zero. So many bad picks. If I had his job I'd make so many good picks. I'm in favor of you guys picking games, but I want to make sure there are only good picks and no bad picks. Your website never wins anymore. You are losing to everyone. Other websites are taking advantage of you. I'll put up ad blockers and make Tomahawk Nation pay for it. Pickens is all talk and no action. I'm the solution to your problem and I'll do it with better picks. I'll make this site great again."
Fortunately for me, the person who emailed doesn't run State of the U, at least not yet. After some lobbying by my unaffiliated Super PAC, our editors decided to allow me to go forward and make some March Madness selections this week.
Miami is a 14-point favorite over Buffalo on Thursday night. Since all I care about is watching the Canes survive and advance, I'll stay away from predicting a blowout. That being said, Miami fans should feel confident.
Last season, Buffalo lost by six to West Virginia in the first round. This year, Buffalo struggled down the stretch in conference play, before winning three straight in the MAC Tournament to qualify for the Big Dance. Buffalo averages 77.6 points per game, but is near the bottom in the nation in scoring defense. In regular season losses to Ohio, the Bulls lost 94-75 and 103-96 in OT. Miami is led by Sheldon McClellan who had one of the most efficient seasons in Canes' history - 50% FG, 39% 3PT, 85% FT, while averaging 15.8 ppg. I expect the good version of Angel Rodriguez to show up on Thursday night. The return of Ja'Quan Newton made a huge difference in the ACC Tournament, even though the Canes fell short against Virginia. Miami has more talent and more experience and should be able to take care of business.
Tuesday Night at 640pm
(16) FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON +6 vs (16) Florida Gulf Coast
Don't fall for all of the Dunk City hype. This version of FGCU isn't nearly as good as the 2013 team that captivated the country. After finishing 8-21 in 2014-2015, FDU coach Greg Herenda led an impressive turnaround to get the Knights in the tournament. FDU has played very well as an underdog this season. I expect this game to go down to the wire.
Tuesday Night at 910pm
(11) WICHITA STATE -3.5 vs (11) Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt has two NBA players in Damian Jones and Wade Baldwin IV, but the Commodores have been a disappointment all season. Playing away from home has been a struggle for Vandy and Wichita State's experience gives the Shockers an edge. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet have at least one more impressive tournament performance left in them.
Wednesday Night at 910pm
(11) MICHIGAN -4 vs (11) Tulsa
Tulsa is undersized and led by FRANK HAITH. Tulsa's players didn't expect to make the tournament after a blowout loss to Memphis. Michigan has some talented scorers in Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, and Duncan Robinson. The Wolverines win by 10 and vindicate Joe Lunardi in the process.
Thursday at 430pm
(12) ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK +9 vs (5) Purdue
UALR had an incredible year, dominating the Sun Belt and finishing 29-4. The Trojans are deep and balanced and will keep this game close throughout. Purdue likely wins in the final minutes, relying on the size and strength of A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan inside, but it won't be easy.
Thursday night at 940pm
(4) KENTUCKY -14.5 vs (13) Stony Brook
Congrats to the Seawolves on finally making the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, they drew a brutal first round matchup against a Kentucky team that just won the SEC Tournament. Stony Brook's star big man Jameel Warney was unstoppable in the America East Conference, but Kentucky's athleticism and length inside will keep him in check. Calipari's team has arguably the best backcourt in the nation. Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis will each score 20 in a blowout.
Thursday night at 957pm
(6) SETON HALL +1.5 vs (11) Gonzaga
Seton Hall is one of the hottest teams in the nation, led by star PG Isaiah Whitehead. Khadeen Carrington is shooting the ball better than he has all year and provides scoring balance. Despite winning the Big East Tournament, the Pirates still aren't getting the respect they deserve, currently an underdog against higher-seeded Gonzaga. The Zags are soft inside and Seton Hall's swarming defense will frustrate Kyle Wiltjer. Seton Hall will lead by double digits in the second half and hang on to win in the closing minutes.
Thursday at 2pm
(4) IOWA STATE -8 vs (13) Iona
Don't tune into this game expecting much defense. Both teams have explosive offenses and channel James Harden on the other end. Iona's A.J. English averaged 22ppg this season, but Iowa State's Georges Niang will be the best player on the floor. Iowa State was upset in the opening round last season and is desperate for a better showing this time around. PG Monte Morris will control the pace as the Cyclones pull away in the second half.
Friday at 130pm
(10) VCU -4.5 vs (7) Oregon State
Oregon State is one of the worst 7 seeds I can remember. Beavers' HC Wayne Tinkle will likely be without his son Tres, who averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds this season before getting hurt. VCU's aggressive defense will make things difficult for Gary Payton II. Melvin Johnson will lead the Rams to an opening round win and set up a fun matchup against Oklahoma.
Friday at 310pm
(10) TEMPLE +7.5 vs (7) Iowa
This is likely a trap. I'm going to fall into it anyway. Temple didn't play well against Uconn on Saturday, but the Owls won nine of their last ten in AAC regular season play. Quenton DeCosey is a talented senior leader for Temple. Iowa enters the NCAA Tournament having lost six of their last eight games. I concede that Iowa has more talent. I just can't imagine how anyone can be confident in which version of the Hawkeyes will show up on Friday afternoon. This game will be close and decided on the final few possessions.
Friday night at 650pm
(10) PITTSBURGH +1 vs (7) Wisconsin
Pitt should be able to control the paint, led by Michael Young and Jamel Artis. G James Robinson will win his matchup with Bronson Koenig. Wisconsin surprised me during the second half of the season, but I think the Badgers have already overachieved given their talent level. The Panthers win a close one and help boost the credibility of the ACC.