Division I basketball kicked off their season all the way back in November and after a quick blink of the eye, it is now March. The month of March not only wraps up the regular season and conference tournaments, but also launches into one of the most eventful sporting events of the year. The Division I Basketball Tournament: The first round opens up Thursday, March 21 and the madness continues through April 8. March Madness is set to take over your office, campus, and everywhere in between.
The Selection Company has whittled down all of Division I programs to the best 64 teams. Each team has a great opportunity to make a name for themselves because of uncertainty that comes with playing in the Big Dance. While there are 64 teams in the tourney, some you should look out for more than the others. Here are some teams and early matchups to look out for this weekend.
#7 Louisville vs. #10 Minnesota
Minnesota joins seven other Big Ten teams in the tournament this year. For Louisville, they are making their first tourney appearance in the post-Pitino era. This game is interesting for non-meaningful reasons. The coach of Minnesota is former Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s son, Richard Pitino. Some are calling it the “Pitino Revenge Game” since elder Pitino had to leave the program after violating a handful of NCAA rules.
#5 Marquette vs. #12 Murray State
This matchup is one of the better early round must-see games of the tournament. Marquette’s Markus Howard led the Big East in scoring this season, putting up 53 points in one game. On the other side of this match-up is Ja Morant of Murray State. This season, Morant led his team to an Ohio Valley Conference tournament title for the second straight season. Despite being at a mid-major, Morant took the country by storm with his high-flying dunks and his dominant play. He averaged 24.6 points on 50.3 shooting, 5.5 rebounds, and 10 assists. He does it all.
The defending champions deserve some recognition for their continued success after losing Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Donte DiVincenzo. In a very balanced Big East, they still managed to be conference tournament champs. They sailed through the season with few downs and with the experience of what is left on the Wildcat roster, they will make some noise.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (also known as the ACC) reigns supreme. Three of the four number one tournament seeds went to the ACC (Duke, UNC, and Virginia). A total of seven ACC squad are in the tournament with a #7 or better ranking. The bracket is set-up to potentially get a storied Duke/UNC matchup in the final game. Fans should want this as both have been playing really well. UNC has the 2-1 edge but Duke was playing hurt both games.
Duke has to have their own part of this piece. Duke has been so dominant and looks to be peaking at the right time. Duke is going to win it all. Coach Mike Krzyzewski continued success will end sharing glory with the freshman core and surrounding Blue Devil while confetti is being rained on them. After that, Coach K will say his goodbyes and send Williamson, Barrett, and Reddish to the NBA.