There may be no other sporting event that offers the amount of excitement that the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament does. We all love the upsets, the buzzer beaters and the nail-biters that come from a major Division I team going against a smaller mid-major team that refuses to be intimidated and gives the favorite fits.
The theme this year has been parity throughout college basketball, so it stands to reason that this year should provide a record amount of that excitement. I tend to agree with that train of thought, so let’s take a look at three of the games that could result in big upsets, or at least cause some big name teams and their fans to chomp down to their cuticles.
(14) Davidson vs. (3) Marquette
The Wildcats are no strangers to the NCAA Tournament. Heck, Coach Bob McKillop went to a Regional Final on the back of Stephen Curry in 2008. Davidson was 20-1 in the Southern Conference this season and has rolled off 17 straight victories coming into this one.
Marquette had another hard-fought, solid season under Coach Buzz Williams. However, they are not the type of team that will run away and hide. The Golden Eagles squeaked by St. John’s and lost to Notre Dame in their last two outings. Expect this game to be too close for comfort for Buzz & company.
(11) Belmont vs. (6) Arizona
Belmont is another mid-major team that will not be intimidated by the big stage. They were here last year (losing in the second round) and their seed suggests that they would have been an at-large selection even had they not won the Ohio Valley title. The Bruins won at Stanford early in the season and have beaten tournament teams Middle Tennessee and South Dakota State. They come into this game having won six straight.
Arizona has been an enigma all season. They started off hot, but have been inconsistent since January. Which Arizona team will show up? That is anyone’s guess, but they will need to be at their best to beat a hungry Belmont squad.
(12) Akron vs. (5) VCU
The dreaded 5/12 match-up brings us another intriguing game. A year or so ago, VCU was considered the Cinderella no one wanted to face. Now, they play the role of the hunted and will need to be on their A game to stave off a talented Akron squad.
The Zips rolled through the MAC conference before losing their point guard due to an off-court issue. However, they were able to regroup and win the conference tournament and get an impressive 12 seed from the committee. Akron’s 25-6 record and 42 RPI rating reflect the caliber of this team.
– Jamal Murhpy