We know you’re busy, and that it’s going to be challenging to either physically or mentally duck out of work to catch as much opening round action as you’d like. So, to help out the fan, we’ve already selected ten first round games you probably shouldn’t miss. Not listed here is Tuesday’s First Four, and games where both teams either play at a slow pace or are offensively challenged – because that’s boring. I’m looking at you, Temple – Penn State, and Texas A&M – Florida State.
Here you are. You can either thank or criticize me later:
1) No. 13 Belmont vs. No. 4 Wisconsin
A no-brainier if you’re a college basketball junkie, the nation needs to respect these Bruins. It’s a smart, upstart mid-major that plays 11 guys more than 10 minutes a game, are efficient on both ends of the court, and has more wins than anyone in the country, against a methodical, and tactful Big Ten squad. The Badgers have won their last three first round tournament games, but this game reeks of an upset, and should be the featured game of the traditional day one.
2) No. 12 Memphis vs. No. 5 Arizona
Josh Pastner gets to meet up against his alma mater and team who gave him his start in coaching. Memphis, who has underachieved this season, may not be disciplined enough to hang with Sean Miller’s group of kids. They have guards, but no real Derrick Williams stopper. Then again, who really does?
3) No. 10 Georgia vs. No. 7 Washington
Was hoping for more out of Georgia this season, but they certainly match the athleticism of the Huskies, who are unquestionably the most talented seven seed in this tournament. I want to see Travis Leslie dunk, and Isaiah Thomas slash. Both teams play games with number of possessions totaling in the high sixties, so I suspect we will get a few opportunities to see these individual backcourt players showcase their talents.
4) No. 13 Oakland vs. No. 4 Texas
We all want Oakland to be a Cinderella, but they have their work cut out for them against one of the more complete teams in the field. At the very least, we have an excellent frontcourt match-up to follow. Its senior, and future pro, Keith Benson, versus freshman, and future pro, Tristan Thompson. Cue up the Bart Scott audio drop.
5) No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 7 UCLA
As dismal as the Spartans season has been, they’re still in position to advance to the second weekend of the tournament, and it will start with a match-up against the equally as mediocre Bruins. Two esteemed programs means that at least the game should be well attended.
6) No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt
Cognizant that the Commodores have been upset in the last two NCAA Tournaments, I tweeted that Richmond had already won this game. It was an impulsive statement, as John Jenkins the type of guy who can single-handedly win you an early round game, but the Spiders have a great opportunity here. Vandy is highly susceptible to another slip up.
7) No. 13 Princeton vs. No. 4 Kentucky
And not because these two programs are socially, economically and philosophically worlds apart. Kentucky has to be peeved at being seeded where they are after winning eight of their last nine, including the SEC Tournament. They could come out a blazing, but must respect the Tigers 56 true shooting percentage.
8 No. 13 Morehead State vs. No. 4 Louisville
The game’s all-time leading rebounder can’t control pace, but Kenneth Faried can give his Morehead State team second and third opportunities against the Cardinals. Louisville could run away with this one, but the chance to watch Faried play against a physical Big East club will is enough for me, and will be a good indicator at how he may project at the next level.
9) No. 9 Villanova vs. No. 8 George Mason
Not really because we’re expecting quality play, but if the Wildcats get ousted here, they will have capped off a second straight befuddling finish to the season. Jay Wright’s team is teetering on implosion once again, and just like a violent car crash, you can’t not watch it play out.
10) No. 14 Bucknell vs. No. 3 UConn
Not really considering the Bison to threaten the Huskies here, but anytime you can watch Kemba Walker, who is soooo in right now, you just can’t miss.