It’s that time of year again! It’s St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Break, somehow Lent and of course March Madness.
Yesterday, people across the country filled out a bracket based on little to no knowledge of the 68 tournament competitors. They paid their office pool and then probably forgot to watch the first games BUT that’s okay cause there are a million more to come.
Here are all the top games to look for in the first round according to various experts:
Basketball and Kansas are synonymous terms in the world of March Madness. There is nothing quite like watching the KU Jayhawks hit the hardwood. Plus, the legendary Jayhawks coach, Bill Self, was ill last season and missing from the sidelines. He’s back to good health and will be there with his team.
But victory isn’t certain for KU. Howard is one of those warm and fuzzy Cinderella stories that everyone looks for in the tournament. The Bisons haven’t made it to the top 68 since 1992 and they’re looking to steal the show.
It’s truly the best of the first round David and Goliath tales.
(1) Purdue vs. (16) Texas Southern/Fairleigh Dickinson: Friday @6:50 pm on TNT
Purdue is one of those sturdy midwestern schools (is Indiana the midwest?) that produces strong, historic basketball teams (and nice people from my experience). They’re number 1 seeded this year and they have a star player who is 7-foot-4 (average height of an NCAA player is about 6’5 and the average of the NBA is about 6’6). His name is Zach Edey and he’s going to be TOUGH to beat on the jump needless to say.
Never heard of Fairleigh Dickinson? You’re not alone. The tiny school is not only small in reputation, they’re literally the smallest team in the tournament. Fairleigh Dickinson’s roster average is 6’1. Two of their star players, Demetre Roberts and Grant Singleton, are 5’8 and 5’9 respectively. But height isn’t everything in basketball. Talent and skill goes a long way and it would be unwise to discount the little guy.
Will love to see if the short kings can take down the giant. Definitely one to watch.
The best March Madness games are the ones with a good story. Drake’s star player is Tucker DeVries who, while only a sophomore, is out scoring his more seasoned teammates. But maybe that’s because he’s playing for his father. The Bulldog’s coach is Darian DeVries making the tournament story all the sweeter.
Story or no story, the Miami Hurricanes are a formidable team. The betting lines are on their side and they were one of the more consistent teams in the last season.
It’ll be a fun one to watch the sidelines.
The FAU Owls have blown everyone away this year and are arriving in the tournament for the first time since 2002. They’re not quite the Cinderella story as that of Howard, but certainly they’re majorly underrepresented in the national fan base despite their record (31-3).
Memphis is full of upper-classmen and they aren’t looking to be on the butt end of a storyline. They’re great at the foul line and they will be doing everything the Tigers are going to do to unbalance the wide eyed Owls.
This will be a close game and a fun one to watch going into the weekend.
(5) Duke vs. (12) Oral Roberts: Thursday @7:10 pm on CBS
Duke is one of those schools of legend that has a really deep and loyal fanbase. They’re always strong in the tournament and any sports bar you pop into throughout March will be full of Blue Devil gear. There’s nothing wrong with being on-top.
But Oral Roberts is definitely a worthy opponent. The team has the longest winning streak of anyone in the tournament (17 straight games) and they have upset major teams in past tournaments.
Duke will not be able to rest easy on this one. This could be a rowdy one to watch out at a bar instead of from your couch.
This one is going to be theatrical. Not only are the two teams really evenly matched but both coaches are known for having hot heads. Auburn’s Bruce Pearl notoriously had to be pushed off the court by his own players after a call he didn’t like early this season. Check that out here. Fran McCaffery of Iowa got ejected just last month for screaming at the referees and charging the court despite his assistant coaching team’s best efforts. Check that out here.
So apply the pressure and these two will probably get even hotter under the collar. Should be the drama we all want in our lives.
There you have it! Time to dive into some games. Here is the full schedule and where to make your home bracket (or see below)