Best Five Matchups In First-Round Of The NCAA Basketball Tournament

Best Five Matchups In First-Round Of The NCAA Basketball Tournament

The 2018 NCAA Tournament officially begins on Tuesday with the First Four, but it doesn’t start in full until Thursday and Friday when all the teams play.

With so many games on the schedule this week, you might want to save some time and get the best five games in the first round.

#7 Rhode Island Rams vs #10 Oklahoma Sooners

  • When: Thursday, March 15
  • Game Time: 12:15 ET
  • Venue: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Network: CBS
  • Line: Rhode Island -2

This is a very interesting matchup because it features Oklahoma freshman sensation Trae Young going up against a lot of good guards.

Both teams struggled at the end of the season, and some people were upset the Sooners got in over a 28-5 St. Mary’s team, so expect to see Young and the Sooners try to prove they belong.

The reason why you should take the Sooners is that they’re fourth in the nation in scoring and take the most threes of any team in the Big 12 which will count in this game.

The caveat is their defense, which frankly sucks when the game becomes a shootout. And, if Young happens to have an off-night everything goes south for Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, expect Young to rise to the occasion. Even if the Sooners as a team have been horrid at times, Young will carry the team to victory.

Pick: Oklahoma

#6 Miami Hurricanes vs #11 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

  • Date: Thursday, March 15
  • Game Time: 3:10 ET
  • Venue: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
  • Network: truTV
  • Line: Miami -2

On paper, this looks like a mismatch because the Hurricanes, who play in the ACC have more talent on their roster and faced much better competition during the regular season, while Loyola is making its NCAA tournament debut.

However, it wouldn’t be wise to overlook the Ramblers, who play very good defense and have a win over Florida this season.

One of the exciting things about this team is that they won both the Missouri Valley regular season and conference tournaments, finishing up with a resounding ten-game winning streak.

The Ramblers have a balanced attack with five players averaging double-digits and do a great job of moving the ball around for the right shot.

The Canes got past their late-season struggles to beat North Carolina on the road but lost to the Tar Heels in the tournament.

While Miami is not a high-powered scoring team, they should be able to overcome the lack of punch with a great defense and a deep bench.

Pick: Miami

#5 Kentucky vs #12 Davidson

  • Date: Thursday, March 15
  • Game Time: 7:10 ET
  • Venue: Taco Bell Arena, Boise, ID
  • Network: CBS
  • Line: Kentucky -5.5

This is another game that looks like a mismatch on paper but will be much closer than expected. The Wildcats had an up and down regular season and were in danger of missing the tournament, but they were able to clinch the SEC tournament to get here.

Davidson also needed to win the Atlantic 10 tournament to get into the Big Dance, but they went through some tough teams to get here and won’t be intimidated by Kentucky. In fact, I think they have a very good chance to pull off the upset.

The Wildcats won eight of their last nine games on the way to beating Rhode Island for the A-10 tournament title; Peyton Aldridge leads the way in scoring, averaging almost 22 points and eight boards per game, but Kellan Grady is a big-time scorer, too.

This isn’t a team full of firepower though and is No. 1 in the nation in assist-turnover ratio but strangely enough, doesn’t come up with any steals it just never, ever seems to screw up. Steph Curry’s alma mater is, of course, one of the best in the country from three, and it makes just about everything on the line – it just doesn’t take a lot of free throws.

Pick: Davidson

#7 Arkansas Razorbacks vs #10 Butler Bulldogs

  • Date: Friday, March 16
  • Game Time: 3:10 ET
  • Venue: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
  • Network: truTV
  • Line: Butler -1.5

Arkansas had a good run this season, finishing fifth in the SEC with a few upsets along the way. They like to run the ball because of their athleticism and length, which is a contrast to Butler’s slow grinding pace, which should make this an interesting matchup.

The Razorbacks aren’t the deepest scoring team, but it rotates in ten players, keeping everyone fresh around big-time scorers Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. Forget how they got blown out by Tennessee in the SEC Tournament – they’re going to be a dangerous team to beat with their offensive attack.

The Bulldogs started the season strong but faltered down the stretch. But they do have a win over top-ranked Villanova this season so they are capable of beating anyone when they are at their best. I expect them to come close to pulling an upset here, but I don’t think they will be able to complete it.

The Bulldogs had problems late in the season losing six of their last nine games – and were knocked out of the Big East Tournament by Villanova – helped by a good defense and the 1-2 scoring punch of Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin.

The Backs are too good from the field, and they’re very good at hitting from the outside when they have to. Butler doesn’t guard well enough from the arc, and that will matter in the last few minutes of what will be a shootout game.

Pick: Arkansas

#8 Virginia Tech Hokies vs #9 Alabama

  • Date: Thursday, March 15
  • Game Time: 9:20 ET
  • Venue: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Network: TNT
  • Line: Virginia Tech -2

The eight vs nine seed is always an interesting matchup because both teams are usually very close in terms of talent. This time around, the Crimson Tide, who were a big surprise this year, have a chance to make a statement that their season wasn’t a fluke and that the SEC is just as tough if not tougher than the ACC.

The Tide’s end of the season was tough – losing six in a row – but was saved by two wins in the SEC Tournament, starting with a last-second win over Texas A&M and a blowout win over Auburn to get to the semis when they lost to Kentucky. Future NBA starter Collin Sexton is the star, averaging 19 points per game, but it’s a deep team 11 players seeing meaningful time.

The Hokies started off strong but faltered down the stretch against Notre Dame in the ACC tournament, and will have to figure out how to get over the loss very quickly if they don’t want to be eliminated in the first round of the tournament once again.

Regardless, this has been a solid team for most of the year with five players averaging in double-digits and with good scoring capabilities. It’s not a deep team, though, with seven players carrying the team on their backs. There’s not a big interior presence – there aren’t any blocked shots – and the rebounding isn’t quite there. But it’s a great-shooting team helped by making the right extra pass – few teams in the ACC move the ball around better.

Pick: Alabama.

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