We do not get to watch the Gophers in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but that does not negate the fact (FACT) that these next four days are the best four days of the year for sports fans.
Day 1 is full of some great games. Here are my picks for what to watch and who is going to win.
The day starts out with a lot of lopsided matchups. 3-Arkansas, 1-Illinois, 2-Ohio State and 1-Baylor all play before 3:00. That’s 4 of the first 6 games of the day that could all be un-exciting. Of course, one of those may end up being a classing upset, but I don’t see it happening in those games.
It should be noted for Gopher fans that there are 3 potential Gopher coaches playing today. Craig Smith at Utah State, Dennis Gates for Cleveland State and a longshot with Eric Musselman at Arkansas.
Best Games of the Day
- 11-Utah State Aggies vs. 6-Texas Tech Red Raiders - For starters, here is your ideal opportunity to watch a strong candidate for the next Gopher head coach. Craig Smith leads Utah State and is thought to be one of the early front-runners to land the Gopher job. Watch his Aggies run an offense that has a lot of off-ball movement and highlights a very good post player.
- 10-Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. 7-Clemson Tigers - Not only is this going to be an upset, but it might be the best game of the day.
- 12-Winthrop Eagles vs 5-Villanova Wildcats - Is it too obvious to go with a 12/5 matchup as an upset alert? This one screams upset. Winthrop is a good defensive team with balance on offense. Their four leading scorers are all averaging in the 10-12 ppg range. Villanova is without their best player and struggled to finish out the season.
- 13-North Texas Mean Green vs. 4-Purdue Boilermakers - I’m mostly just not sold on Purdue this year, especially with all of their youth. Expect them to be slow to start the game and if North Texas starts hitting some threes (they rank 33rd in the country in 3pt%), look out.
Players I’m Excited to Watch
- Moses Moody - Arkansas - Moody is a top 10 draft pick in this upcoming draft with a chance to really move up with a spectacular tournament.
- Cade Cunningham - Oklahoma State - Likely the top overall pick this summer, potentially a future Timberwolf. Excited to watch Cunningham in the tourney.
- Max Abrmas - Oral Roberts - A team with nothing to lose and a guard who scores 24.2 ppg while shooting threes at a 43.3% rate. Abrmas should be a lot of fun to watch against Ohio State. Also, pairs with forward Kevin Abanor who scores 18.2 ppg to go with his 9.5 rebounds.
- Jared Butler & Davion Mitchell - Baylor - I haven’t seen much of Baylor this season and I’m excited to watch these guys. I’m sure I’ll turn the channel to a better game, but will see these guys more closely in subsequent rounds.
Here is the schedule, laid out beautifully from this Twitter account.