Top 10 Matchups In The First Round Of The NCAA Tournament

Words. Lucas Shaprio & Sean Sweeney

Every year, the real first two days of the NCAA tournament bring a bushel of crazy scenarios, upsets and just outright great games. This year will be no different. You know one of the five-seeds will lose. You know you almost assuredly will see a buzzer-beater. And you know some team everyone had as a Final Four sleeper will be sent home. The Dime crew decided to break it down for you, picking our nine favorite matchups from this year’s first round.

Kansas State vs. Utah State
Everyone knows the first rule when filling out your bracket: keep a close eye on those 5/12 matchups. And here you have the perfect recipe for an upset: a Kansas State team that is going in the wrong direction and a Utah State team that has a great coach in Stew Morrill and a veteran star in senior Tai Wesley. -SS

Washington vs. Georgia
In terms of pure athletes, this game might be the best of the tournament. On one hand, you have Washington who is led by the 5-8 dynamo Isaiah Thomas. Surrounded by Thomas is Jrue Holiday‘s older brother, Justin Holiday, the long 7-0 Aziz N’Diaye and freshman Terrence Ross. On the other hand, Georgia features one of college basketball’s finest dunkers in Travis Leslie and the versatile Trey Thompkins. While both teams are enigmas in the tournament, one thing is for sure: the matchup between the two won’t be lacking in the excitement department. -LS

UCLA vs. Michigan State
It’s always fun to see a couple of traditional powerhouses face-off in the opening games. UCLA has the perimeter player (Malcolm Lee) and the interior player (Reeves Nelson) to make some noise. The Spartans have been America’s favorite team to bash all year, and yet you know Tom Izzo will get everything he possibly can out of them. -SS

Arizona vs. Memphis
These are two programs who were on the mend last year. Now that Sean Miller has the type of versatile forward that he loves in Derrick Williams, and Josh Pastner‘s team has developed great chemistry, this could be a battle. Is Williams good enough to push Arizona past Memphis’ great teamwork? We’ll see. -LS

George Mason vs. Villanova
You will rarely see an 8/9 matchup with as much pure talent as this one. Yes, ‘Nova has been terrible lately, but they have a number of characteristics that will make this one of the best games in the first round. And George Mason may not roll all the way to the Final Four again, but Cam Long and Ryan Pearson can both play. -SS

Texas vs. Oakland
While Texas is definitely the heavy favorite for this one, it will be interesting to see how they react to Oakland’s 7-0 center Keith Benson. Tristan Thompson, Texas’ starting center, stands at a mere 6-8 next to Benson. It might be a better idea for them to put Gary Johnson on him. After being destroyed by Kansas’ Morris twins in their last game, maybe Texas drew the worst possible 13-seed in the tournament. -LS

Kentucky vs. Princeton
There are always great games that on paper look like total mismatches. Kentucky and Princeton? The first thing that jumps out at you is that traditionally, these programs couldn’t be more different. John Calipari‘s classes of freshmen have normally handled the spotlight of the tournament well. I’m interested to see what happens with them this year. -SS

BYU vs. Wofford
Sure, Jimmer Fredette can score the ball. We all know that. But he should be very worried to see that BYU has drawn Wofford in their first round game. With Brandon Davies gone, the Cougars will need to find a way to guard the efficient Noah Dahlman, a killer in the paint. Wofford in eighth in the entire NCAA in field goal percentage, so if Jimmer has a bad shooting game, you can blame the BYU honor code for the upset. -LS

North Carolina vs. Long Island
Do you like up-and-down games? Then you need to watch this one. Long Island is a lot better than you think. But their biggest strength – they are fourth in the country in scoring – is also UNC’s greatest strength. The Tar Heels have been struggling, but expect some fireworks in this one. -SS

You vs. Your Life
Let us know Saturday morning who won…

What’s your favorite matchup from this year’s first round?

Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucashapiro.

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