6 Matchups To Watch In The First Round Of The NCAA Tournament

Let the Madness begin. The two most exciting days of the college basketball season are upon us, and we here at Dime are just as pumped as you are to see what will play out in the coming weeks. To get you primed for the first round, we’ve picked out some of the most intriguing matchups to look for on Thursday and Friday.

Without further delay, because we know you have some basketball to watch, here are some of the best games in the Round of 64.

*** *** ***

(10) Cincinnati | (7) Creighton
2:45 p.m. 3/22, Philadelphia, PA (CBS)
Creighton is ditching mid-major status and joining the new Big East next season, just in time for star forward Doug McDermott‘s senior campaign. They know that a deep run will do wonders for their reputation, and McDermott could improve his draft stock enormously if he leads the Blue Jays past the round of 32. They’ll need to get through Cincinnati first who, despite sputtering to a 9-9 conference record and losing seven of their last 11, sprinkled in a few upset victories against ranked opponents (Marquette, Pittsburgh).

(6) UCLA | (11) Minnesota
9:57 p.m. 3/22, Austin, TX (TruTV)
Minnesota has knocked off giants, but has fallen to frauds. With impressive wins over Indiana, Michigan St., and Wisconsin, you’d think the Golden Gophers would have been seeded higher than 11, but they’re inconsistency against even the weakest of Big Ten foe has left them in a tough spot. Even so, Tubby Smith and crew have become a common upset pick among bracketeers who believe UCLA will be overmatched without second-leading scorer Jordan Adams. I see Bruins freshman Kyle Anderson as an x-factor here, whose unique skillset will open many eyes when these teams meet.

(12) Ole Miss | (5) Wisconsin
12:40 p.m. 3/22, Kansas City, MO (TruTV)
Marshall Henderson may have been the most polarizing player in college basketball this past season. Fans either ate up his outrageous on-court antics or tossed him aside as the biggest tool in the sport. Either way, you can’t deny his skill. Ole Miss is riding high after winning the SEC tournament but face a tough task in fifth-seeded Wisconsin. The Badgers defense has been stellar all season, and is sure to give Henderson and the Rebels trouble on the perimeter.

(4) Michigan | (13) South Dakota State University
7:45 p.m. 3/21, Auburn Hills, MI (CBS)
Michigan had their most successful season since the Fab Five took Ann Arbor by storm, but they’ll have their work cut out for them when they face off against SDSU in the round of 64. Jackrabbits senior Nate Wolters lit up the Summit League this past season, scoring nearly 23 points per game. While the Wolverines will certainly key in on the efficient guard, he’s always a threat to go off, even dropping 53 in one game earlier this year. Trey Burke and company will try to avoid the upset on Thursday.

(8) North Carolina | (9) Villanova
7:20 p.m. 3/22, Kansas City, MO (TNT)
Maybe the most intriguing 8/9 matchup we’ve seen in recent years, this game boasts two programs with a history of success coming off down seasons. The Tar Heels failed to capture any pivotal wins this season (unless you count a home victory over N.C. State), but made some noise in the final stretch of games, winning eight of their last 10. Villanova was similar to Minnesota, with convincing wins over teams like Louisville, Georgetown and Syracuse paired with ugly losses, like when Columbia spanked them at home. Tar Heel James Michael McAdoo and Wildcat JayVaughn Pinkston should have a great battle in this one.

(6) Memphis | (11) St. Mary’s
2:45 p.m. 3/21, Auburn Hill, MI (CBS)
The Saint Mary’s Gaels won their opening round game against Middle Tennessee to earn a right to play against Memphis. The Gaels haven’t lost to a team not named Gonzaga since December and the elder statesmen on the team are used to the pressure of March Madness, having made the tourney three of the last four years. Memphis is a squad extremely prone to turnovers, and could easily fall if they don’t take care of the ball against an experienced squad.

Which first round game are you most looking forward to?

Follow Brent on Twitter at @brent_sanchez.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.