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2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket Breakdown: Sunday’s Second Round Game Previews and Predictions

ABSOLUTE CHAOS. That’s the phrase that can describe the first round of the NCAA tournament, which all in all was nothing short of thrilling. Texas A&M used a late stretch run to prevail over Providence in a solid victory. Purdue dominated Cal State Fullerton like they were expected to but is going to lose big man Isaac Haas to a fractured elbow for the rest of the tournament. Jon Elmore led Marshall to a massive upset over Wichita State in an 81-75 shocker. Cincinnati and Georgia State played it close early but eventually the second seeded Bearcats pulled away for the victory. Similarly with the Cincinnati game, North Carolina struggled early with Lipscomb but eventually their experience proved too much to handle in an 84-66 second half drubbing. Butler used a hot 21-2 opening run to take the momentum all game long in a clean 79-62 upset win over Arkansas. West Virginia pushed away any upset complications by handling their business against Murray State in an 85-68 victory. Texas and Nevada played the most thrilling game on the afternoon slate but Caleb Martin took over the game late and led Nevada to an 87-83 overtime win.

Kansas State kicked off the evening slate with a forty minute dominant performance of Creighton. Michigan State was able to build a big lead early and held off a late rally from Bucknell to grab an 82-78 win. Auburn fended off an upset hungry Charleston program in a nail biting 62-58 victory. Top seeded Xavier dominated sixteenth seeded Texas Southern from start to finish in a 102-83 win. In a historic upset that shocked the entire world, sixteenth seeded UMBC knocked off the top overall seeded Virginia Cavaliers in a dominant 74-54 rout. Syracuse pulled off a rather expected 11-6 upset when it held off TCU late in a gritty and grinding 57-52 win. Clemson avoided an upset versus popular pick New Mexico State with hot shooting and balanced offense in a 79-68 victory. Florida State capped off the first round with a 67-54 dominant win over Missouri by forcing Michael Porter Jr. into a struggling performance all game long.

So there’s the quick rundown of all the games from yesterday. We’ve got much more basketball to come today and I previewed and predicted each of today’s games in a Bracket Preview released yesterday. I’ll leave the link to that below and you should be sure to check it out before today’s action tips off. But I’m here to give full previews and predictions for each second round game on Sunday. Let’s get the ball rolling!

#2 Purdue vs. #10 Butler

(12:10 p.m. EST, CBS, Detroit, MI)

Preview: Purdue was one of the top teams heading into the second round. That was until their massive big man Isaac Haas went down with a fractured elbow and was announced as out for the remainder of the NCAA tournament. Purdue looked great in their first round game against Cal State Fullerton but how will they play without Haas playing in the middle? Carson Edwards and Vincent Edwards will become the primary scoring options for the Boilermakers and while it’s not the worst outcome, this team would’ve been my pick if Haas was on the floor. Butler historically has successful runs in the postseason and they began the campaign successfully with a solid upset victory over seventh seeded Arkansas yesterday. Butler’s hopes will ride or die on the play of its star Kelan Martin, but I honestly don’t see this Purdue team stopping Martin or playing well without Haas on the court. Give me a major upset here with the Bulldogs.

Pick: #10 Butler 73, #2 Purdue 62.

#3 Michigan State vs. #11 Syracuse

(2:40 p.m. EST, CBS, Detroit, MI)

Preview: Syracuse has won two games in a span of three days so far and looks poised to make a tournament run. But that train stops where the Spartans come into play. Michigan State is just too darn talented and I see either (maybe both) Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges going off in this one. Frank Howard and Tyus Battle are the Orange’s experienced guys but I just don’t see them helping their team upset a top team in the country like Michigan State has been. I think Miles Bridges will have one hell of a game and lead the Spartans to a huge win over Syracuse that advances them to the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick: #3 Michigan State 78, #11 Syracuse 63.

#2 North Carolina vs. #7 Texas A&M

(5:15 p.m. EST, CBS, Charlotte, NC)

Preview: Lipscomb played step by step with the Heels early but they ultimately were overpowered by Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams. Texas A&M used its NBA caliber frontcourt of Robert Williams and Tyler Davis to pull away from Providence late and advance to the second round. This will be one of the most exciting matchups in the second round and I honestly expect the Aggies to play really well. Williams and Davis have the size advantage over UNC and Luke Maye will have all he can handle down low. But I think that UNC’s coaching and experience, along with some great plays down the stretch by Joel Berry II and Kenny Williams, leads the Tar Heels to a close victory and sends them to the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick: #2 North Carolina 83, #7 Texas A&M 73.

#2 Cincinnati vs. #7 Nevada

(6:10 p.m. EST, TNT, Nashville, TN)

Preview: Cincinnati struggled throughout its first round matchup with Georgia State but eventually fended off any potential for a massive upset. Star forward Jacob Evans struggled in the opening game and only scored 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting. But the Bearcats were willed down the stretch by Jarron Cumberland and his game high 27 Points. Nevada went back and forth with Texas in a nail biting overtime victory. Caleb Martin and Kendall Stephens both put up tremendous numbers to eliminate the Longhorns, who were a trendy pick over the Wolfpack in many brackets. On Sunday against one of the premier squads in the nation, Martin and Stephens will have to be almost as productive as they were against Texas. Cincinnati would certainly benefit from a strong showing by Jacob Evans and another star performance from Cumberland. Cincinnati is deeper and more experienced than Nevada. Give me the Bearcats in a close one.

Pick: #2 Cincinnati 71, #7 Nevada 66.

#4 Auburn vs. #5 Clemson

(7:10 p.m. EST, TBS, San Diego, CA)

Preview: Hats off to both Auburn and Clemson, who avoided first round upsets. Auburn is led by guard Bryce Brown and expect him to be their ride or die in this tight 4-5 matchup. Clemson has multiple number one scoring options in Shelton Mitchell, Gabe DeVoe, and Marcquise Reed. I think the key for Clemson would be shooting the basketball very well as I believe both teams have stellar offenses. Brown will have to use his knack for scoring to his advantage to put Auburn on his back in this one. Clemson shot really well last night against New Mexico State but I don’t see them shooting as well against an Auburn team that I believe Bruce Pearl will have roaring to play. Give me Auburn in a close one.

Pick: #4 Auburn 69, #5 Clemson 67.

#9 Kansas State vs. #16 UMBC

(7:45 p.m. EST, TruTV, Charlotte, NC)

Preview: OH MY GOD. The number one overall seeded Virginia Cavaliers did what was not expected in last night’s blowout loss to sixteenth seeded UMBC. Now, the Retrievers get a second round matchup with a Kansas State squad that’s looked solid as of late but does not have their stars Dean Wade or Barry Brown at 100% health. The 16 over 1 upset never happened until last night. Now, I don’t know much about UMBC and I only have watched one full game (last night). I do know that they rely on Jairus Lyles speed to score points. They just handled the number one overall seed and I see the Retrievers miraculous run continuing past an unhealthy Kansas State squad. Jairus Lyles and company will lead UMBC to a victory and a Sweet Sixteen appearance, which is the first ever for a Sixteenth Seed.

Pick: #16 UMBC 61, #9 Kansas State 59.

#1 Xavier vs. #9 Florida State

(8:40 p.m. EST, TNT, Nashville, TN)

Preview: The top seeded Xavier Musketeers avoided a Virginia-like collapse and defeated Texas Southern handily in their first round game. Florida State denied the haters and beat a Nissouri team that was led by a struggling Michael Porter Jr., which probably doesn’t bode well for his NBA Draft stock straight out of college. Florida State was a program that roamed the top 25 at times this season but has been as inconsistent as they come. Xavier was one of the top teams in the country all season long. Terrence Mann will have to score more than two points in order for the Seminoles to stay within reach of the Musketeers. But in the end, Trevon Bluiett is an absolute stud and he will help Xavier prevail and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick: #1 Xavier 82, #9 Florida State 70.

#5 West Virginia vs. #13 Marshall

(9:40 p.m. EST, TBS, San Diego, CA)

Preview: The Marshall Thundering Herd knocked off fourth seeded Wichita State in a rather wild upset yesterday. The Herd were paced by star scorer Jon Elmore, who had 27 points and couldn’t be stopped by a usually very challenging Shockers defense. West Virginia handled its business extremely well yesterday by defeating Murray State, 85-68. The Mountaineers are home to one of the most suffocating defensive styles in the nation and are almost certain to give any opponent fits with their press defense. Jevon Carter is the glue guy for West Virginia, a veteran point guard who is their primary scorer, passer, and defensive star. Carter has and will be the key to a long postseason run for West Virginia. Marshall has a high powered offense and Elmore combines with C.J. Burks to create one of the most prolific scoring backcourt in college basketball. The world has fallen for Marshall and the big question is whether the Herd can score often against the tough Mountaineers defense. And let me tell you, I believe they can.

Pick: #13 Marshall 65, #5 West Virginia 62.

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