The start of this year’s NCAA Division 1 Basketball Tournament brought few surprises for the viewers. After the first round of games, 14 of the 16 teams are ranked in the top four of their region. The two with a higher ranking are #5 Auburn and #12 Oregon. There has been a handful of blowouts in what should have been competitive games. Games like the Duke/UCF nail-bitter and the near-Iowa comeback against Tennessee were just what the fans were wanting to witness. Here are some teams and upcoming match-ups to look out for this weekend.
#2 Tennessee vs. #3 Purdue
Defending champions Villanova turned out to be no-match for the Boilermakers. Carson Edwards put on a clinic as he had a career night. He scored 42 points which included nine three-pointers and a perfect showing from the free-throw line (9-9). Matt Harmes provided as a great sidekick with his near double-double. Purdue will need to continue playing strong basketball as they face Tennessee on Thursday.
Tennessee has been at the top of the college basketball standings all season long. At one point, they were even ranked number one overall. A late season slide prevented them from remaining in that position. Last weekend, the Volunteers started strong against Iowa. They even kept the Hawkeyes scoreless for five and half minutes while the jumped to a 20 point lead. Iowa fought back in the second half to erase the lead and force overtime. At the end of the day, Tennessee came up on top. Top Volunteer Admiral Schofield barely played in the second half and did not touch the court in overtime. Tennessee will need a full game out of Schofield to move on in the tournament.
Illinois Basketball Influence
This year’s tournament consisted of 54 Illinois based athletes across the 68 different teams. They range from star starters, to six men, and to walk-ons. Their impact has been felt early and despite only 16 teams left, many still remain. A few of the starters left are Michigan’s Charles Matthews, Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr., Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, and Oregon’s Paul White. If a team wants a good chance of winning the tournament, they need someone from Illinois. Eight of the last ten national champions had a player from the state of Illinois.
Once again, Duke receives their own portion because they are a strong team in college basketball and are may possibly win their sixth National Title. They took care of North Dakota State with ease. R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson combined for 51 of Duke’s 85 points. The next game turned out to be a physical and intense battle between Williamson and UCF’s Tacko Fall. Can’t fault
Duke for giving fans a enjoyable game for the viewers’ eyes. Next up is Virginia Tech. VT beat the Blue Devils in a game without Zion on February 26. Throw out the regular season, it’s March! Duke is gelling right now so they will reign supreme when it’s all said and done. Since Zion’s return, he is averaging 27.6 points and 8.8 rebounds while Barrett averages 19.4 points and 9 rebounds. This tag-team cannot be stopped and they don’t plan to anytime soon.