It’s finally here!!! Last year, college basketball fans saw the biggest upset of tournament history happen when 16 seed UMBC shocked 1 seed Virginia by 20. While I don’t believe anything as crazy as that will occur in this year’s tournament, let’s take a look at some must watch games on day one of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Games that are “Must Watch Television”
#5 Marquette vs #12 Murray State
This is the clear cut favorite to be the best game of the first day of the tournament. The star match-up of Marquette’s Markus Howard (25.0 PPG) and Murray State’s Ja Morant (24.6 PPG) is one that will produce offensive fireworks. With Howard still recovering from a wrist injury that he sustained in the Big East Tournament, I’d give the edge to the uber athletic Ja Morant.
Neither team has been great defensively this year, so that won’t be the difference. However, it is worth mentioning that Marquette is quite turnover prone, ranking outside the Top 200 in turnovers per game. This could be very detrimental to a team that might have to lean on others if their star Markus Howard isn’t 100%. Also, Marquette enters this game having lost 4 out of their last 5 games, while Murray State boasts an 11 game win streak. Give me the Racers all day!
Pick: Murray State
#7 Nevada versus #10 Florida
This game pits two teams with contrasting styles. For Florida, they have built a defensive identity led by their dynamic backcourt duo of Andrew Nembhard and KeVaughan Allen. Thanks to the fantastic play of these two, Florida is coming off a huge win in the SEC tournament over 3 seed LSU and will be looking to ride the momentum.
Nevada on the other hand had expectations to possibly get to the Final 4 at the start of the season. While Nevada’s season has been great, posting 29 wins, this team still feels underwhelming because of the amount of talent on this roster. Nevada’s one two punch of Caleb Martin (19.2 PPG) and Jordan Caroline (17.3 PPG & 9.6 REB) will be a tough match up for Florida as both can step out and knock down the long ball with consistency. This game should come down to the wire and I like the Wolfpack to get it done late.
Additional Upset Picks: Day 1 Edition
#14 Yale over #3 LSU
It’s not all about coaching but I really like this Yale team. They can score at will and have a legitimate NBA prospect on their roster in Miye Oni. He’s a guard that can absolutely fill it up. While I love LSU’s Tremont Waters and Naz Reid, they do not have any experience winning in the NCAA’s and without a head coach to help them through it, I’m afraid it remains that way.
#13 Northeastern over #4 Kansas
If you don’t believe me, watch some highlights of this Northeastern team because they can shoot as well as any other team in the nation. This bodes problems for the Kansas Jayhawks because they have had two starters go out of their lineup for various reasons. Now they rely on junior Dedric Lawson (19.1 PPG & 10.3 REB) to carry the load. What if he has an off day? Who will step up? I just don’t think this Kansas team is a very good one and I am going with the experienced Huskies to pull off a stunning victory.
#11 Saint Mary’s over #6 Villanova
Nothing against Villanova, as Jay Wright is one of my favorite coaches in college basketball. However, this team has been very streaky throughout the year. They have struggled on the defensive end against guards that can score off the dribble. By the way, this Saint Mary’s team just beat Gonzaga, who they lost to earlier in the year by 30+ points. Ride the momentum and give me the Gaels.