Round of 32
No. 7 Creighton-No. 2 Duke (Midwest)
Doug McDermott has been one of the most dominant players in the country this season and will now be able to play on a national stage against a universally recognizable program in the NCAA tournament if the Bluejays and Blue Devils meet in the Round of 32. McDermott would likely go head-t0-head with Duke’s Ryan Kelly. Both Kelly and McDermott have proven themselves to be the quintessential stretch-power forward, able to pull the defense away from the basket and hit shots out to the three-point line.
But McDermott-Kelly isn’t the only matchup to watch. We would also see Gregory Echenique and Mason Plumlee down on the block, as well as Grant Gibbs vs. Quinn Cook in a matchup of high-level offensive facilitators.
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No. 4 Michigan- No. 5 VCU (South)
Michigan-VCU would pit one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the country against one of the most agile and frenetic defenses. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Glenn Robinson III against coach Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense would be one of the best pairings in the Round of 32. Michigan has won all season in part because it is able to control pace and speed teams up. VCU has the ability to speed teams up past even where the Wolverines would be comfortable. There could be a mid-major/high-major upset brewing.
No. 1 Kansas-No. 8 UNC (South)
North Carolina has been a different basketball team since switching to a smaller lineup and freeing up space for James Michael McAdoo down low. A Kansas-North Carolina pairing in the Round of 32 would make for a good test of how the Tar Heels’ new approach holds up. McAdoo would have one of his toughest tasks on the block against Kansas’ Jeff Withey, while North Carolina would have to contain Ben McLemore and the point guard duo of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 2 Georgetown (South)
This matchup would feature two of the country’s best defenses going head-to-head. Perhaps it’s not going to be the offensive beauty many would like to see in the NCAA tournament, but it would be a good one. Otto Porter has proven himself to be a National Player of the Year candidate and against the stifling Florida defense, he would be Georgetown’s biggest scoring weapon. The biggest concern for Florida, though, is if they can make it to this point or beat Georgetown (if it came to it) considering the Gators’ difficulties closing out games late.
No. 11 Bucknell vs. No. 2 Miami (East)
In an NCAA tournament that is all about matchups dictating who will advance, this would be the perfect example. Earlier in the season, Miami proved that it could play at different paces and still win games. Bucknell wants to slow teams down and work the ball inside to All-Conference center Mike Muscala. At the same time, Bucknell could be run out of the gym in this hypothetical matchup, depending on how aggressive Miami is in setting the pace in the opening minutes. Bucknell does not have an easy road to get to the Hurricanes, though, if it were to happen. The Bison would have to beat Butler and the winner of Marquette/Davidson.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (West)
This is likely the most far-fetched because of the road Ole Miss has to go through, but it’s worth rooting for. Marshall Henderson against the region’s No. 1 seed for a chance to go to the Elite Eight? Sign me up. Henderson had some choice words for a number of critics after the Rebels won the SEC tournament title. Do you think those rebuttals would stop if Ole Miss kept advancing in the NCAA tournament?