The 2015 NCAA tournament will tip off Tuesday night with the two First Four games in Dayton, Ohio. The Manhattan Jaspers and Hampton Pirates will get things started in a matchup between 16 seeds in the Midwest region. They will be playing for the unenviable right to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in the second round of the Big Dance.
That game will be followed up by a highly anticipated matchup between the BYU Cougars and the Ole Miss Rebels, who are 11 seeds in the West region and playing for the right to take on sixth-seeded Xavier in the round of 64 on Thursday. Here are our predictions on the outcomes of these two NCAA tournament play-in games.
Hampton Pirates (16) vs. Manhattan Jaspers (16)
- Date: March 17
- Time: 6:40 p.m. Eastern
- Point spread: Manhattan favored by 8.5 points
- Over/under: 140
Hampton (16-17) became just the 24th team in NCAA history to earn a place in the Big Dance with a losing record when the Pirates won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament title on Saturday. Likewise, Manhattan (19-13) is another team that struggled at times this season but got hot at the right time and won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championship to earn its second straight NCAA tournament bid.
Neither team has a résumé that will strike fear into its opponents, but Manhattan does have the major benefit of having a roster full of players with NCAA tournament experience. Hampton will likely be playing without guard Dwight Meikle, its best player, after the junior injured his right ankle in the MEAC tournament. Without Meikle, the Pirates are likely the worst team in the field of 68. Expect to see Steve Masiello lead the Manhattan Jaspers to a win in this game and a matchup with his alma mater, the Kentucky Wildcats, in the round of 64.
Prediction: Manhattan 74, Hampton 63
BYU Cougars (11) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (11)
- Date: March 17
- Time: 9:10 p.m. Eastern
- Point spread: BYU favored by 3.5 points
- Over/Under: 157
This matchup has the potential to start off the NCAA tournament with a bang. When BYU (25-9 overall) is playing well, the Cougars are good enough to compete with nearly every team in the country. Despite several bad losses, Ole Miss (20-12 overall) has proven that it can play with anyone — Kentucky included — when the team is clicking.
The Cougars are one of the most talented offensive teams in the country and play a run-and-gun style that can run opposing teams into the ground. Their duo of Kyle Collinsworth, one of the best all-around players in the country, and sharpshooter Tyler Haws (21.3 points per game) gives BYU one of the best backcourts in the country. Ole Miss is led by guards Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers, and is athletic enough to keep up with BYU, but the Rebels will ultimately come up short in this highly anticipated First Four game. Expect the Cougars to move on to face Xavier in the Round of 64.
Prediction: BYU 80, Ole Miss 74