The Madness bracket was released tonight and I truly believe the committee did an excellent job with their selections. They have a very tough task making the field, and all things considered, they got this field right. As I look at the Field of 68 tonight I want to share my thoughts on my favorite first round matchups in each region. These aren’t necessarily the best games or the games I think will be closest. Instead, these are just my choices for games that I find most intriguing for a variety of reasons for which I will explain. Let’s all just be thankful the Dance is here!
Here are my favorites:
Creighton vs Cincinnati–This is the 7/10 matchup. The main reason I find this matchup so interesting is that if Creighton is for real, I’m ready to see it. No more excuses Doug McDermott and company. Last year I picked Creighton in a close one vs Alabama, and they rewarded me with a one point win. However, they couldn’t pull the upset over the #1 seed in the second round (or third round, whatever it is these days). With an even more experienced group and all-american McDermott, can last year’s tournament experience translate into a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 or beyond this year? Could Creighton take down Duke in the Round of 32?? To do that, they must first tackle Big East foe Cincinnati. I’m ready to see just how prepared and focused Creighton is this time around. What I’m really intrigued to see is if Creighton can leave no doubt about their chances of upsetting Duke with a resounding, message-sending win over Cincinnati.
Marquette vs Davidson–How about this for a 3/14 game? Davidson, under Bob McKillop’s guidance, is fast-becoming a tournament regular and mid-major darling. And a team that no high-major like Marquette really wants to draw. Davidson challenged themselves in the non-conference with the following games: @ New Mexico, vs Vanderbilt, vs West Virginia, vs Gonzaga and vs Duke. How’s that for cojones? They even beat Vanderbilt and West Virginia. Davidson lost a conference game in mid-January and haven’t lost since–they are on a 17 game winning streak, which included a win over fellow tourney team Montana. Marquette clearly has superior athleticism across the board, but without a bona-fide star to lean on, they may find themselves in a close one with a battle-tested and well-coached Davidson squad. I’m just as intrigued to see how good Marquette really is. The sum of their parts seems greater than the individual components, a testament to great team play and great coaching. Can’t wait to see this one play out!
South Dakota State vs Michigan–This time I go with the 4/13 matchup. This is all about guards. Nate Wolters of SDSU vs Trey Burke and Michigan. SDSU picked up valuable experience in last year’s Dance, so I am very curious to see how this Jackrabbits team responds with another chance to make some noise. Michigan cooled off the latter half of the year and can absolutely be upset by this Jackrabbits squad. SDSU nearly toppled highly seeded Baylor in the first round last year! Look out folks. Expect some great scoring and hopefully a thrilling opening round game!
Boise State vs La Salle–Yes, I just picked a play-in game. I have kind of adopted Boise State as my favorite mid-major this year. I was impressed with their resume and campaigned for their inclusion in the tournament. And it appears they got into the Dance by the skin of their teeth. According to a committee member when Ole Miss secured the automatic bid from the SEC, it opened up a spot for the Broncos. That’s the thin line between dancing and finding your way into the NIT. Now that Boise is in, I’m still cheerleading for them. They have a chance to do something their football team has been doing for years. Make America proud. And represent a wonderful basketball conference known as the Mountain West. La Salle has my Cinderella approval too. I’m not trying to hate on them at all! I think the winner of this matchup can give Kansas State a scare. I love some of K-State’s players–especially Rodney McGruder–but I’ve never been a big believer in head coach Bruce Weber. I guess he doesn’t reach an intensity level that I would like to see. So anyway, the opportunity to upset #4 seed Kansas State has me intrigued.