Ladies and gentlemen, it is March, which means we’ve entered the most wonderful time of the year. College basketball tournament season is only made sweeter when your team receives an invitation to the dance. On Sunday, the committee made their selection and we have our 68 teams, and our first round of matchups. While we love the tournament and the games, not all games are created equal when it comes to the matchups. Some games are going to be blowouts (yawn), some will just move at a glacial speed (napping while Virgina fans cheer for a team that places great defense and doesn’t score more than 50 points in a game), and some will just be bad basketball (statistically speaking, this is bound to happen). Of course, there’s no telling which game will be which, but with some educated guesses, you can navigate the more fun games of round one!
Before you get all offended about someone pointing out the fact that some games are going to be worth watching and others will be a snooze fest, tell me how fun you think watching Michigan State air out Bradley is going to be. Or how about the riveting game of basketball the Montana Michigan matchup will provide. I hope I’m wrong and all the round one games are fun to watch (really, I hope all the games of the tournament are fun to watch). However, I still want to cover my bases and prepare fans to budget their time wisely. Because people have jobs (or whatever it is that occupies their time) and not every moment can be dedicated to college basketball, we’re here to help.
Louisville v. Minnesota (March 21, 11:15am CDT)
Looking at the East region, not many games stand out as the most exciting games. We can collectively agree, Duke will win the region. Their biggest challenge will probably be Michigan State (Izzo’s boys are hot). It’s not that the other teams in this bracket aren’t exciting, it’s that the matchups aren’t exciting, especially looking at the first round. As teams are knocked out of the region, the games will more exciting. All for Duke to win the region. Sorry, not sorry.
Marquette v. Murray State (March 21, 3:30pm CDT)
Syracuse v. Baylor (March 21, 8:57pm CDT)
Nevada v. Florida (March 21, 5:50pm CDT)
These three games, should be fairly competitive and fun to watch. None of these games should be blowouts, but they should be relatively high scoring. The Marquette Murray State matchup might be the closest game of these three, both teams performed fairly well in their respective conferences. Baylor has been somewhat inconsistent in their play, but the same can be said about Syracuse. Nevada dominated the Mountain West for most of conference play, Florida was so-so in conference play, but the style of Nevada should escalate the excitement of this game.
Kansas State v. UC Irvine (March 22, 1:00pm CDT)
Villanova v. St. Mary’s (March 21, 6:20pm CDT)
Cincinnati v. Iowa (March 22, 11:16am CDT)
You’re probably thinking to yourself why is St. Mary’s included in this? Because the WCC tournament champions are going to be feeling good when they take on the defending champions of Villanova. This may be the only blowout worth watching in round one, but that’s only because St. Mary’s is going to play over confident and Nova is going play mediocre but steady to win this matchup. K-State and UC Irvine, as well as Cincinnati and Iowa will just be fun, decent teams to watch. K-State and Iowa both come from good basketball conferences. UC Irvine is on a 16 game winning streak and just came off a 30-6 season. Similarly, Cincinnati just wrapped up a 28-6 season. Both teams on paper sound solid and should give their P5 counterparts a good fight. None of these teams were extraordinary, but the matchups here should make for some quality college basketball.
Wofford v. Seton Hall (March 21, 8:40pm CDT)
Utah State v. Washington (March 22, 5:50pm CDT)
Iowa State v Ohio State (March 22, 8:50pm CDT)
Last, but certainly not least, the Midwest region should be the most fun region to watch. Of the matchups in round one, these three games fit the ticket for being fun. Wofford taking on Seton Hall should have good back and forth, likely won’t be a blowout, and the fans for both teams will think their team will make it to Minneapolis (they won’t). Likewise, Utah State and Washington will be a mountain west rumble. Say what you will about West Coast basketball, these teams should provide a strong case for why we should care more about West Coast basketball (and then one will fall to UNC, and we’ll be done with West Coast basketball).
Ultimately, if you only have time to watch a round one game, watch the Ohio State Iowa State game. These teams have met in the tournament before, with an end result of some bad blood (thanks, Aaron Craft). Watch this game if you only watch one round one game. Iowa State is good and fun. Ohio State is a team in a decent basketball conference. This is the game of round one.