I was a very spoiled freshman last year. I had four televisions in my dorm room, and I stayed in that room for close to 96 hours to watch every game of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. If you are not that lucky, or if you enjoy seeing sunlight and talking to people, you likely are not able to watch every game of the first weekend. With that, here are the five games you should watch over the first two days, and the five match-ups you should hope for during the first weekend.
Games to Watch
#4 Iowa State vs. #13 Iona (Thursday, 1:00 PM CT on TBS)
Iowa State came into last year’s tournament as a #3 seed with high expectations as a 25-9 team that ranked 18th overall in KenPom’s rankings. This year’s Iowa State team comes into the tournament as a #4 seed with a 21-11 record and a #18 ranking in KenPom’s rankings. Last year’s team lost to a #14 seed. Watch this game to see if anything has changed. Iowa State ranks 15th in the nation with 81.8 ppg and Iona ranks 31st with 79.6 ppg. Expect this to be a high scoring game as Iona and senior guard A.J. English (22.4 ppg) try to upset Iowa State and senior forward Georges Niang (19.8 ppg).
#5 Baylor vs. #12 Yale (Thursday, 1:45 PM CT on CBS)
Yale is in the tournament for the first time since 1962, while Baylor is in the tournament for the first time since last year, when they lost in the first round to R.J. Hunter and Georgia State. Baylor is a solid team that finished the season ranking in the AP top 25. Of their four highest scorers, three of them are over 6’7” and Yale’s tallest rotation player is only 6’8”. Still, Yale has the 15th ranked defensive efficiency in the country and plays at a pace slower than 275 other teams per kenpom.com. If they keep the game low scoring and defend well, Yale could make it interesting. Watch this game to see Yale in their first tournament game in over 50 years and there’s always the potential for an upset.
#4 Kentucky vs. #13 Stony Brook (Thursday, 8:40 PM CT on CBS)
The reason to watch this game is not for the upset. It’s possible that this game could even be a blowout since Kentucky’s BPI of 10 should make them closer to a #2 seed than a #4 seed. Even if this game is not close, it will still be worth the watch to see three-time America East Conference Player of the Year Jameel Warney. The senior forward averaged a double-double this year (19.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and is coming off of a 43 point game in which he shot almost 82 percent from the field. Warney is good and it will be worth watching him try to lead Stony Brook to a huge upset, or even to keep the game competitive.
#6 Seton Hall vs. #11 Gonzaga (Thursday, 8:57 PM CT on truTV)
Seton Hall is riding high after defeating Big East powers Xavier and Villanova on their way to their first conference title since 1993. Their #6 seed is the program’s best since they were a #2 seed back in 1993. Gonzaga was riding the bubble all year, but made the tournament after winning their conference. Both teams have talent with guard Isaiah Whitehead for Seton Hall and the Zags’ big men Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis.
#3 West Virginia vs. #14 Stephen F. Austin (Friday, 6:10 PM CT on CBS)
This game should be fast and fun. West Virginia is second in the country with 18.2 turnovers forced per game. Not to be outdone, the Lumberjacks are first in the country with 18.6 turnovers forced per game. This game also promises to have a lot of whistles, as the two teams combine for 45 personal fouls a game. Also, please watch this game and ignore the fact that West Virginia beat Baylor twice and SFA lost by 42 to them. Just watch a basketball game that will look more like a football game and promises to be fast and frenetic as Press Virginia goes up against Stephen Press Austin.
Matchups to Hope For
Maryland vs. California
From a talent perspective, this could be one of the most stacked games of the tournaments. NBAdraft.net has five players from this game projected to go in the top 32 picks of the NBA draft. While talent does not always equate to success in the tournament, seeing all the future pros in this game should have scouts and fans excited. This game will certainly be a case when it’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmys and Joes. The young guys like Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb for Cal and Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone for Maryland bring excitement and next level talent to the court. The older players like Tyrone Wallace for Cal and Robert Carter and Rasheed Sulaimon for Maryland provide experience for both their teams. This should be a great matchup if it happens. Or, the teams’ inconsistencies come out at the worst time and they both lose in the first round. In that case, enjoy the Hawaii-South Dakota State game.
Villanova vs. Temple
The committee must have had geography in mind when putting together this part of the bracket. The potential of this second round battle for Philadelphia should have viewers very excited. This is the biggest matchup in Philadelphia since the one between Pat’s and Gino’s. Villanova should get past their first round matchup with 15 seed UNC-Asheville but Temple will have their hands full with Iowa. Fivethirtyeight.com projections only give Temple a 28 percent chance of beating Iowa, but if they do, get ready for the Battle for the Bell (Liberty Bell that is) between Villanova and Temple.
Texas vs. Texas A&M
More geographic considerations from the committee lends itself to another potential instate matchup. Texas would dominate A&M when they were both in the Big 12, but the Aggies have fought back in recent years. A&M won the late November matchup against the Longhorns, and since then have had a very successful season as regular season co-champions in the SEC. Shaka Smart has also had success in his first year in Austin and a second round matchup of these Texas schools could be just as big as the state.
Indiana vs. Kentucky
Be sure not to fall asleep for this entire first weekend. You do not want to miss this game if these two teams meet. Kentucky and Indiana have 12 combined national championships and 3,984 wins. Unfortunately, they have not played each other since 2012. This game has three of the best guards in the nation in Indiana’s senior Yogi Ferrell, and Kentucky’s sophomore Tyler Ulis and freshman Jamal Murray. It will also feature Indiana’s standout freshman big-man Thomas Bryant as he matches up against the talented but inconsistent Kentucky front line. Many people are arguing that these teams are under-seeded, and that a matchup this good should happen later in the tournament. For those who have waited since 2012, a matchup between these two teams cannot come soon enough.
Arizona vs Miami
Successful programs that spend time ranked in the top 25? Check. A solid mix of young players with key experienced transfers? Check. A respected and well paid coach? Check. Warm weather and pretty people? Check and check. This potential game has everything as a pair of 25 win teams match up in the second round. A second round matchup between Miami and Arizona seems early for a game between teams ranked 10 and 17 respectively in the AP poll, but this potential matchup gives the first weekend plenty of juice.