Teams like Colorado, Wisconsin, San Diego State and Oregon descend upon Indianapolis for the NCAA Tournament. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, pictured above is one of six host sites. (Graphic by Nate Albin, pictures used with courtesy of Ticketmaster and Wikimedia Commons.)
Teams like Colorado, Wisconsin, San Diego State and Oregon descend upon Indianapolis for the NCAA Tournament. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, pictured above is one of six host sites.

Graphic by Nate Albin, pictures used with courtesy of Ticketmaster and Wikimedia Commons.

Indy NCAAs kick off with stellar First Round slate

March 19, 2021

After a year without the NCAA Tournament, it is back and it is all in Indianapolis. Kicking off at 12:15 pm EST on Friday with 10 Virginia Tech and 7 Florida facing off, there will be two days of non-stop First Round action. Here are four games that are good to set a reminder for.

FRIDAY

9 Wisconsin vs 8 North Carolina

Wisconsin versus North Carolina gives fans a matchup of two teams that have been solid for the past decade. The Badgers and Tar Heels will square off on Friday at approximately 7:10 p.m. EST at Mackey Arena. Despite being good in recent years, both teams struggled to find their rhythm throughout the entire season as the Tar Heels finished 18-10, while the Badgers finished 17-12. Despite their records, this will be a heavyweight fight. North Carolina boasts a strong offense that averages 75.7 points per game, while the Badgers are one of the top defensive teams in the nation, only allowing 64.3 points per game. It is important to note that these teams have met in the NCAA tournament before, with the most recent being in 2015 with Wisconsin emerging victorious 79-72, but overall, North Carolina owns a 3-1 overall series lead.

The Tar Heels like to play down low and work the ball inside, and Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks, two of the premier forwards in the ACC, allow them to do that. The Badgers need to find their inside presence and limit easy buckets from Bacot and Brooks. The Badgers need to find a way to turn their defense into offense. The Badgers like to play slow and take as much of the shot clock as possible. Brad Davison has emerged as a strong, offensive threat for the Badgers, and they will need him, along with the rest of the starting lineup to show up for this game, because little momentum shifts will be vital in this game.

11 Syracuse vs 6 San Diego State

For those hoping for a late night treat, this is the game. At 9:40 p.m. EST in Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Syracuse Oranges take on the Aztecs of San Diego State. There is no doubt who the better team was all year long. San Diego State from the Mountain West Conference was ranked in the AP Top 25 in the final months of the regular season while the ACC’s Syracuse was a bubble team that made a frantic push to get in the tournament. On paper, the Aztecs have been the better team, are the better team and should win this game. Despite this, most bracket experts talk about this game having some serious upset potential.

Most of this comes from Syracuse’s recent tournament reputation. Jim Boeheim, the longtime coach of the Orange, runs a rigid 2-3 zone defense that can be hard to penetrate in March, even when they are a low seed. When they were a 10 seed in 2016, they went to the Final Four. The lesson: do not count out Syracuse. On the other hand, San Diego State is legit. Last season, the could have been a one seed, and this year they flew under the radar to be the number 20 team in KenPom Adjusted Efficiency. Like Syracuse, they play some of the best defense in the nation. This game will be low-scoring grinder and a wonderful night cap to a great day of basketball.  

SATURDAY

12 Georgetown vs 5 Colorado

The NCAA tournament almost always has a 12 versus 5 upset, and this could be the game that provides it. Georgetown and Colorado will open the college basketball day, when they tip off at approximately 12:15 p.m. EST on Saturday. Both Colorado and Georgetown did very well in their conference tournaments, with Georgetown winning the Big East, and Colorado being the Pac-12 runner up. Georgetown, who probably would not have made the NCAA tournament without winning their conference tournament, enter this matchup with 13-12 record, while Colorado enters with a record of 22-8. Despite their records being vastly different, Georgetown is no pushover. Georgetown cruised through the Big East tournament, and they put an exclamation point on their run by steamrolling Creighton in the championship game.

Colorado is a very slow paced, defense-oriented basketball team that likes to turn their defense into offense. This will give Georgetown troubles, as they turn the ball over about 15.4 times per game. The edge that Georgetown has over Colorado is experience and success against strong teams. The Big East contains teams such as Villanova, Creighton, and Connecticut, all of which are in the NCAA tournament. In the Big East tournament alone, Georgetown beat Villanova and Creighton, the top two seeds in their conference tournament. The Pac-12 has a few solid teams, but they were not the same caliber as the Big East this year. This game will be a hard-nosed battle from start to finish, and the little scoring runs throughout the game will make the difference for the victor.

10 VCU vs 7 Oregon

This game is a classic strength-vs-strength showdown. The final game of the NCAA Tournament First Round will go down at 9:57 p.m. on TNT at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Oregon Ducks of the Pac-12 are a superb offensive team while the A-10’s VCU Rams pride themselves on defense. Oregon was injured throughout the season, but they were able to get healthy late in the regular season, which made their Pac-12 Tournament loss to Oregon State surprising. VCU were strong all season long. In the A-10 tournament, they lost to St. Bonaventure in the title game.

According to KenPom, the Rams have the twelfth-best defense while Oregon features the number 16 offense. Oregon is led by Chris Duarte, the third team AP All-American selection. Dana Altmann, the coach of the Ducks, has March experience, as he has taken them to at least the Sweet Sixteen in their past three tournament appearances. Mike Rhoades, head coach of the Rams, will look to take them deep in the NCAAs with their defense and Nah’shon Hyland. Hyland averages nearly 20 points a game and can lead them offensively. The winner of this game is likely to get high-powered Iowa.

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Indy NCAAs kick off with stellar First Round slate