It's officially March, as the NCAA Tournament bracket is out and America's workplaces are now in line to lose their annual millions of dollars in productivity to distracted employees. 

 

However, it's the distractions facing these first-round favorites that may result in a seriously abbreviated Big Dance.


No. 12 Liberty (28-6) over No. 5 Mississippi State (23-10)

The Flames of Liberty University continued their rapid ascension in NCAA Division I athletics throughout the 2018-19 season, winning both the regular season and tournament titles in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Liberty enters the contest with three scorers averaging double-figures each game in Scottie James, Caleb Homesley, and Lovell Cabill Jr. 


Meanwhile, the Bulldogs come off losses in three of their last five games, albeit to the Southeastern Conference's two tournament finalists in Auburn and Tennessee. Looking ahead to what many MSU players may believe is an anticipated matchup in the second-round with Virginia Tech, the Bulldogs must first get by the Flames. They won't.


No. 14 Yale (22-7) over No. 3 LSU (26-6)

​LSU is facing off-court distractions right now, with head coach Will Wade and player Christian Dawkins sidelined indefinitely due to their involvement in a recruiting scandal. That, along with a second upset loss to the Florida Gators, have dampened a season otherwise known for an SEC regular season championship. 


Meanwhile, Yale enters the game flying high after an Ivy League championship over rival Harvard. LSU won't have a moment's peace in this one.


No. 12 New Mexico State (30-4) over No. 5 Auburn (26-9)

The Aggies of New Mexico State haven't lost since January 3 and ran away with both the regular season and tournament title in the Western Athletic Conference. They will get a good atmosphere in their neighboring state of Utah. 


Auburn won the SEC Tournament under head coach Bruce Pearl, but with just one NCAA Tournament win since 2003, they will need some momentum early to re-establish postseason experience in the program. There's something about those 12 vs. 5 games, and this one won't go well for Auburn.

  

No. 12 Oregon (23-12) over No. 5 Wisconsin (23-10) 

The Ducks are peaking at the right time, currently riding an eight-game winning streak all the way through the Pac-12 Conference Tournament title. It may be fair to say that Oregon is a bit under-seeded. 

The Badgers will need to shake off their loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals in order to continue their postseason another game. Unfortunately, this game is in California, and will be swarming with Ducks fans.

 

No. 16 Gardner-Webb (23-11) over No. 1 Virginia (29-3)

This is not a game to parlay if you are a betting man. Only once has a No. 1 seed lost its opening game in the men's tournament, and the Cavaliers will desperately try and  avoid the fate they suffered at the hands of the UMBC Retrievers a year ago 


However, the Runnin' Bulldogs feature non-conference wins over two of UVA's Atlantic Coast Conference rivals in Wake Forest and Georgia Tech back in December. 

With Gardner-Webb's experience defeating major conference teams, it may be interesting to see how Virginia responds to any significant challenge provided a year removed from their upset loss a season ago. Could a close game make the Cavaliers overly tight?


With the spread at a one-sided 23.5 in favor of the boys from Charlottesville, it might be wise to take the points-- at a minimum.