The first full day of the men’s NCAA Tournament is in the books. Now comes the second day of the first round. It will have a different and feel from previous years as the first Saturday of the tournament was previously reserved for second-round games.
Instead, the changes of the schedule due to COVID-19 concerns means the weekend will kick off with 16 matchups in and around Indianapolis.
Friday saw multiple overtime games, buzzer-beaters and major upsets. If the script holds, there’s sure to be surprises and drama throughout Saturday, too.
Here’s a ranking of the matchups from best to worst.
No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Georgetown
TIme/TV: 12:15 p.m., CBS
One of the best stories from the conference tournaments was the run by the Hoyas to win the Big East championship after going 9-12 in the regular season. It wasn’t a fluke, however, as Patrick Ewing’s team has won eight of its last 10. The Buffaloes, who reached the Pac-12 championship game, are also playing some of their best basketball, giving this game the potential of being one of the best in the first round.
Prediction: Georgetown 63-61.
No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth
Time/TV: 9:57 p.m., TNT
This has the makings of one of the more entertaining games of the first round. Both teams are athletic and will play fast. Nah’Shon Hyland, VCU’s leading scorer, returned for the Atlantic 10 tournament and scored 63 points in three games. He’ll have to be on his game against the Pac-12 regular-season champions, who do it more with balance. All five of the Ducks starters average double figures.
Prediction: Oregon 82-77.
NCAA Tournament central
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure
Time/TV: 1:45 p.m., TNT
Matchups of contrasting styles and institutions are what makes the tournament special. The Tigers want to push the tempo with guard Cameron Thomas, the nation’s second-leading scorer, providing punch to the offense. The Bonnies want to slow things down and rely on their elite defense that frustrates opponents. Whichever team is successful in establishing its identity should prevail.
Prediction: St. Bonaventure 67-65.
No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Ohio
Time/TV: 7:15 p.m., truTV
Figuring out what we will see from the Cavaliers will be difficult as they only arrived Friday in Indianapolis after last week seeing their run in the ACC tournament stopped by a positive COVID-19 test. Tony Bennett’s team also hasn’t had much opportunity to practice, which may be a concern when preparing for Bobcats do-everything guard Jason Preston. Don’t be surprised if another big seed falls here.
Prediction: Virginia 62-61.
No. 8 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Missouri
Time/TV: 7:25 p.m., TNT
Two former Big 12 rivals renew acquaintances with the Sooners being short-handed after guard De’Vion Harmon, their second-leading scorer, tested positive for COVID-19. Neither team is playing its best basketball. The Tigers have lost six of nine. The Sooners have lost six of seven. Someone’s bad streak will end.
Prediction: Missouri 59-56.
No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, truTV
Another of the 5-12 matchups to watch for an upset. One already occurred Friday, but remember there were three in the last tournament in 2019. The Gauchos enter at 22-4 and have guard JaQuori McLaughlin, an underrated guard that should be difficult to contain. The Bluejays better be on their game and shoot the ball well or this could be a nail-biter
Prediction: Creighton 68-64.
No. 6 BYU vs. No.11 UCLA
Time/TV: 9:40 p.m., CBS
The big question for the Bruins after their win against Michigan State is the status of guard Johnny Juzang. He went down with an ankle injury in overtime, putting his availability in question. UCLA needs his scoring as the Cougars are a prolific offense that is going to test its stingy defense.
Prediction: BYU 75-63.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell (10) controls the ball against Michigan State during the second half of their First Four game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Mackey Arena.
No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 Maryland
Time/TV: 7:10 p.m., CBS
The Huskies are getting some love as a potential lower seed to make run into the second week. That optimism starts with guard James Bouknight, one of the top players in the Big East. The Terrapins will look to Big Ten defensive player of the year Darryl Morsell to slow him down.
Prediction: Connecticut 72-66.
No. 6 Southern California vs. No. 11 Drake
Time/TV: 4:30 p.m., TNT
Tough turnaround for the Bulldogs after their tight, grinding victory against Wichita State in the First Four. Now they have to contend with star Trojans forward Evan Mobley, one of the top players in the tournament. Drake might fall behind, but they’ll fight to the end and this should be close late.
Prediction: Southern California 66-63.
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian
Time/TV: 9:50 p.m., truTV
Some little brother-big brother vibes should make this more interesting than a typical perceived mismatch. The other thing to note is that the Wildcats have two elements needed to pull an upset: defense and three-point shooting. The Longhorns get a scare, but their veteran three-guard lineup proves too tough.
Prediction: Texas 70-65.
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Iona
Time/TV: 4 p.m. TBS
The return to the NCAA Tournament for Rick Pitino is going to drive more interest in this game than the typical No. 2 vs. No. 15 game. The challenge for Pitino and the Gaels, who probably would have been seeded higher without their COVID-19 issues, is to keep up with the perimeter shooting of Crimson Tide.
Prediction: Alabama 81-70.
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro
Time/TV: 12:45 p.m., truTV
The Seminoles will be looking to erase the disappointment of losing in the ACC tournament final by getting off to a good start in the East Regional that is wide open. The Spartans are going to have to find a solution for the size and athleticism of their opponent. Not an easy task.
Prediction: Florida State 77-64.
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Eastern Washington
Time/TV: 1:15 p.m., TBS
The Jayhawks will be down two players, including starter Jalen Wilson, due to COVID-19 concerns when it faces off with the Eagles. The good news for Kansas is it gets back David McCormack, an important interior presence. Tough to see the Eagles hanging around long enough to make this interesting.
Prediction: Kansas 82-68.
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon
Time/TV: 6:25 p.m., TBS
It’s the first time in the tournament for the Antelopes. They’ll have to figure out how to handle Iowa’s All-America center Luke Garza, who is a dominant force inside. The Hawkeyes surround Garza with shooters that made defending them difficult. It will take a big effort from Grand Canyon to close the chasm between the schools.
Prediction: Iowa 84-72.
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
Time/TV: 3 p.m. ET, CBS
We’ve seen an unlikely upset of a No. 1 seed once before. Probably won’t happen here, but the Tigers do have enough size to match up with the Wolverines and make this interesting.
Prediction: Michigan 72- 60.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Norfolk State
Time/TV: 9:20 p.m., TBS
It’s disappointing the Spartans didn’t get much opportunity to celebrate their First Four victory with a turnaround against the No. 1 overall seed just 48 hours away. This becomes an appetizer for the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Gonzaga 90-70.
Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: March Madness 2021: Ranking, picks for NCAA Tournament slate Saturday
Published: 2021-03-20 12:06:11
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