Print out your brackets and get ready for non-stop excitement. March Matchups has arrived!
As the college basketball tournament tips off, we’re breaking down three of the most intriguing first-round games – including one that has major upset potential.
Find out which lower-seeded team should be on your radar along with other important storylines. And best of luck with your tourney bets this weekend!
No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels
Friday, March 19 | TV: CBS
Wisconsin’s performance over the last month hasn’t been too inspiring. In fact, the Badgers have lost 7 of their last 10 games, so you could say they’re limping into the tourney. The Tar Heels, on the other hand, seemed to be hitting their stride before a narrow loss to Florida State in the ACC Tournament. They’ve also emerged as the best offensive rebounding team in the nation, thanks to the towering frontcourt duo of Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks.
So why does this look like it could be a closer contest than some think? For one, the Badgers are 2nd best in the nation in turnover rate, and they also had a much tougher schedule, with 11 matchups against ranked opponents during the regular season. If Wisconsin wants to pull off the upset, it’ll require improved three-point shooting from seniors D'Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison and Micah Potter. If they start out cold, the Tar Heels will clean the glass swiftly and make the Badgers pay.
No. 13 Ohio Bobcats vs. No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers
Saturday, March 20 | TV: TruTV
If you haven’t watched a second of Bobcats basketball this season, you're excused. The MAC champions are making a surprise appearance in the Big Dance, yet don’t write them off because of their mid-major status. Ohio has serious Cinderella potential against a Virginia program that lost three of its last six. The Cavaliers also had their ACC Tournament run ended prematurely due to positive COVID-19 tests, and they’ll have limited practice time together before their first-round clash with Ohio.
The Bobcats, who nearly beat No. 1 seed Illinois early this season, are 9-1 in their last 10 games. They have the 29th-best offense in the country, led by their electric point guard Jason Preston, who averaged 16.6 points, 7.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds this season. Oh, and he’s shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc. He’s not alone, though, as Ohio regularly gets double-digit scoring from the rest of its starting lineup, too.
To shock the world, Ohio will need to execute on its pick-and-rolls, maintain a fast tempo, and try to limit Virginia’s elite shooter Sam Hauser. It’s still a mighty tough task for the Bobcats, but at the least, they should put up an exciting fight.
No. 12 Georgetown Hoyas vs. No. 5 Colorado Buffaloes
Saturday, March 20 | TV: CBS
Patrick Ewing has accomplished something truly special as head coach of his alma mater. The Hoyas stormed through the Big East Tournament and now have a chance to keep the feel-good story going against a Colorado squad that nearly won the Pac-12 Tournament. Colorado allowed just 63 points per game in the Pac-12 – the fewest in the conference.
The Buffs have a high-powered offense led by McKinley Wright IV, Jeriah Horne and D'Shawn Schwartz, and they’ll need every bit of it against a Georgetown team that has won six of their last seven contests. Wright has really come through lately in the clutch for Colorado, and that trend should continue in the senior guard's big tourney spotlight. This one is shaping up to be a tightly-defended battle, especially with Qudus Wahab and Jamorko Pickett manning the paint for G-Town, but one that Colorado should be able to survive to advance to the next round.