NCAA Tournament First Round provides multiple intriguing matchups


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Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, which also hosted the 2012 Final Four, will play host to the 2022 Final Four.

Nicholas Rasmusson is a senior and sports editor for the Fishers Tiger Times. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

     As we continue through the month of March, we reach one of the best times of the year, March Madness. The selection committee chose who made the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament on March 14, signifying the start of the madness. In doing so, the committee put together some very intriguing first round matchups that give fans a lot to be excited for.

West Region

4 Arkansas Razorbacks vs 13 Vermont Catamounts – March 17 – Buffalo, NY – 9:20 PM ET – TNT

     At a glance, this might not look like the greatest matchup. Arkansas finished fourth in the SEC, a league that sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament, while Vermont dominated the America East, a small conference in the Northeast portion of the United States. The key word here is: dominated. Vermont is 22-1 in their last 23 games, and they won each of their conference tournament games by over 30 points. Vermont knows how to win basketball games in convincing fashion. Now, I am not saying that Vermont is a lock to win this game, they are actually quite far from that. Arkansas is a very good team, and they know how to win big games. Led by unanimous first team All-SEC guard JD Notae, the Razorbacks can score fast, and they can score in bunches. Not only that, Arkansas averages 76.9 points per game against some of the best squads in the nation. The SEC features high caliber teams such as Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee, all of which are seeded third or higher in their respective regions. Keep your eyes peeled for this matchup because it could be one of the most entertaining matchups of the first round.

7 Michigan State Spartans vs 10 Davidson Wildcats – March 18 – Greenville, SC – 9:40 PM ET – CBS

     This matchup is about as good as it gets in the 7-10 seed game. On paper, these teams look even, which adds to the suspense and excitement that was already present by the matchup. Michigan State has a plethora of good wins, including one against Purdue, two against Wisconsin and one against UCONN. In addition to this, they have one of the greatest coaches ever at the helm, Tom Izzo. Coach Izzo knows how to win in the month of March, compiling eight Final Four appearances and one national championship. On the other half of this matchup, we have the Davidson Wildcats, who are mainly known for NBA All-Star and March Madness legend, Stephen Curry. What many do not know about Davidson is that they are a dangerous team. The Wildcats compiled a 27-6 record, including a win against Alabama and a runner-up finish against a red-hot Richmond team. Led by Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year Luka Brajkovic, Davidson boasts three all conference players, all of which are capable of leading them to a win in crunch time. Keep a close eye on this matchup because the eye test says that this is a coin toss.

South Region

6 Colorado State Rams vs 11 Michigan Wolverines – March 17 – Indianapolis, IN – 12:15 PM ET – CBS

     A lot of fans are upset that the Michigan Wolverines were chosen to play in the NCAA tournament without having to play in the First Four, but all of that goes out the window at this point. Michigan will get a chance to prove that they belong when they play Colorado State. Led by sophomore big-man Hunter Dickinson, the Wolverines will look to utilize big game experience to beat the Rams, a team who has not faced an AP Top 25 team this season. Despite not having big game experience, Colorado State is a scary opponent. Led by David Roddy, the Rams present a very efficient offense that can cause opposing defenses lots of trouble. Colorado State lost a close semifinal matchup in their conference tournament against a highly defensive San Diego State team, but their matchup against Michigan should be a completely different game. San Diego State is a much more defensive team than Michigan, which will pose as a much better matchup with the potential for a high-scoring affair. Make sure to keep yourself updated on this matchup at Gainbridge Fieldhouse because this could be one of the best matchups in the first round.

Midwest Region

4 Providence Friars vs 13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits – March 17 – Buffalo, NY – 12:40 PM ET – TruTV

     When this matchup popped up on the bracket on Selection Sunday, to say that I was excited is an understatement. South Dakota State is one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the country, shooting 52.5% from the field, including 44.9% from beyond the arc. Averaging 86.7 points per game, the Jackrabbits score fast, and they score in bunches. The Providence Friars sit on the other end of this matchup, and they are pure winners. While they did suffer a beatdown in their conference tournament, the Friars won the Big East Conference regular season title, and they are not afraid to win in an ugly manner. Providence is the number one team under the Luck category in the KenPom rankings which is the calculated difference between a team’s actual record against their projected record. The Friars have won many more games than the metrics suggest. Despite that, Providence has a great chance to win this game. The Friars have multiple quality wins, including wins against Texas Tech, UCONN and Wisconsin, all of whom are top five seeds in the selection committee’s eyes. Be prepared for this game because we are definitely in for some fireworks.

East Region

7 Murray State Racers vs 10 San Francisco Dons – March 17 – Indianapolis, IN – 9:40 PM ET – CBS

     This clash between two mid-major teams is sure to draw attention as it is one of the more unique matchups. San Francisco was a team that many people thought highly of at the beginning of the season, and they did not necessarily live up to their high expectations, but they were definitely still a solid basketball team. They finished fourth in a strong West Coast Conference (WCC) that sent three teams to the NCAA tournament this season, and more importantly, they played Gonzaga close in the WCC Tournament. Murray State, on the other hand, had a near-flawless season. Winners of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), the Racers won 30 games and only lost two. Those two losses came from an early slip-up against East Tennessee State and a 13-point downing by top 10-ranked Auburn. Needless to say, this team does not falter often, and if they do, it is against worthy competition. The Racers have three players averaging double-figures in points per game which makes their offense very potent. Both teams are top 40 scoring offenses, so it is a good bet that this game will be loaded with offense and an entertaining game to watch.

     Needless to say, the first round slate of games will be exciting to watch. Be on the lookout for the Cinderella team this season and be prepared for brackets to be busted. We are in for a thrilling tournament.