The NCAA tournament kicks off tonight, as we get a pair of interesting First Four matchups.
Here is a look at the games to be played in Dayton.
No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s vs. No. 16 New Orleans, 6:40 p.m. (truTV): New Orleans is one of the best stories heading into the NCAA tournament. The program was more or less left for dead after Hurricane Katrina, and now the Privateers have a very realistic shot at getting a win in the NCAA tournament. They are led by big man Erik Thomas, who averaged 19.0 points and 7.8 boards per game.
But they are going to get a game from The Mount, who have a pretty cool story of their own. Head coach Jamion Christian took the job at 29 years old, and is one of five current Division I head coaches — two of whom are in the NCAA tournament — to get their start at Emory & Henry. The Mount is led by a pair of talented guards, one of whom, Junior Robinson, is a 5-foot-5 dynamo that averaged 20 points in the NEC tournament.
No. 11 Wake Forest vs. No. 11 Kansas State, 9:10 p.m. (truTV): Bruce Weber may have saved his job by getting to the NCAA tournament, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to be able to get to the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats square off with John Collins and Wake Forest, and it should be a terrific matchups and an opportunity for the world to get a glimpse at a potential first round pick.
Collins has been one of the most productive big men in the country this season. He’s averaging 19 points and 10 boards on the season, and had one stretch during the year where he scored at least 20 points in 12 straight games. He’s awesome, and I’m not sure that Kansas State will have an answer for him. The problem with Wake is that they hate playing defense. They rank 160th nationally is defensive efficiency, and Kansas State should be able to find a way to exploit that. The Wildcats have really good guard play and some size of their own up front.
No. 16 NC-Central vs. No. 16 UC Davis, 6:40 p.m. (truTV): LeVelle Moton is headed back to the NCAA tournament. The NC Central head coach has spent the last half-decade lording over the MEAC, and it’s about time that he had a chance to win a game in the dance. UC Davis is the Big West’s tournament representative, and it marks the glorious return of Jim Les to the NCAA tournament. The Aggies want to grind it out defensively, meaning it will be an interesting contrast of styles Wednesday night.
No. 11 Providence vs. No. 11 USC, 9:10 p.m. (truTV): The last First Four game is a rematch of a game that was played in the ffirst round of the 2016 NCAA tournament. That game ended with Providence knocking off the Trojans on a buzzer-beater, and you better believe that Andy Enfield is looking for some revenge.
These are not the same Friars as last season. They lost Kris Dunn an Ben Bentil to the NBA, but there will be some familiar faces on USC. Jordan McLaughlin is back, as is Elijah Stewart and Chimezie Metu. USC hasn’t landed many quality wins this season, but they have some real talent on that roster. It should be a fun one in Dayton.