We are now just days away from one of the best days of the year, the start of March Madness. While I have yet to finish my bracket yet I have looked at it quite a bit so far and have a few games in mind that I will be sure to watch. While my hopes are to catch at least a few minutes of all 32 first round games these five in particular are the ones I am really going to be tuning into.
Mississippi State vs Liberty
I think this is a popular upset pick from what I have seen so far. Mississippi State got off to a great start to the season but hasn't been overly impressive of late. On the other hand, Liberty comes in at 28-6 and they are a very good team. Liberty is battle tested making it out of a very good Atlantic Sun conference which in all honestly should have had two seeds in the tournament. The flames are also battle tested this year highlighted by a big time win at UCLA earlier in the year. Liberty is one of the deeper mid major teams this year with 9 guys averaging at least 10 minutes per game they rotate well and aren't a team that Mississippi State is going to be able to run out of the gym.
On the Mississippi State side they are led by one of the most electrifying players in the SEC, Quinndary Weatherspoon who is averaging over 18 points per game this year. While the Bulldogs may be on upset alert they still have some phenomenal players that will try to keep them from falling to a Cinderella this year. I think ultimately this will be a game that Liberty comes out on top of. The Flames are hot right now and have all of the makings of a bracket buster.
Murray State vs Marquette
This is the one that caught my attention as soon as I saw it come up on the Selection Show. Markus Howard vs Ja Morant. Two of the most exciting players in the country this season will face off in the first round and I am all in for it. Morant is an expected NBA Lottery pick this upcoming year averaging 24 points and 10 assists a game while on the other side Marquette has Markus Howard who is averaging 25 points per game and has gone over the 50 mark a few times this year.
This should be a fast high scoring game and all I can hope for is Morant and Howard going for 35+ each and a shoot out down the stretch. Murray State is a team a lot of people are liking as a bracket buster and I think they have a favorable match up here against a struggling Marquette team. The Golden Eagles rose to the top ten at one point but a 1-4 record this month makes you question how ready they are for this game. It makes me nervous how many people like Murray State in this but I do too for that reason and because after watching Murray State in their conference tournament I realize that they are a deeper team than just Ja Morant.
Auburn vs New Mexico State
If you like fast paced, high scoring games you'll love this one. Auburn is one of the hottest teams in the nation right now and if they can keep up what they have shown for the past two weeks they will make a deep run. However, despite winning the SEC a few days ago the Tigers have a very tough draw here with a talented and experienced New Mexico State team. The Aggies come in at 30-4 with two of their losses coming to tournament teams. In my opinion, New Mexico State should have been somewhere in the 8-10 seeding rather than 12.
If Auburn can continue to shoot the way they did in the SEC tournament this could easily get into the 80's or 90's as New Mexico State also has some good shooters on their team. This is one of the tougher picks for me because I like New Mexico State a lot but Auburn is playing as well as anyone right now. I think the Tigers will continue their momentum and pull out a close but exciting game over New Mexico State.
LSU vs Yale
This could be a game to watch for a big time upset early. LSU has been spiraling on and off the court the past few weeks and who knows where their head will be for this. Hopefully for their sake the loss to Florida in the SEC tournament was a wake up call but they have a tough game first round. Maybe it's because they are smarter than us all but it seems like the Ivy league representative always finds a way to win or at least make the first round game close. This Yale team is a very good squad as well and with 4 players averaging double digits led by Miye Oni (17.6ppg) the LSU Tigers better not sleep on this one.
I really like Yale in this one but I don't know if I like them enough to knock off the Tigers. I think Yale gives them a real scare and its a close game down to the wire but LSU is still arguably one of the ten most talented teams in the country and I think they have a lot to prove but this is one you need to watch!
Wofford vs Seton Hall
If you haven't watched Wofford this year you need to. The Terriers are one of the best and most exciting mid majors in the country. Led by Fletcher Magee who is averaging over 20 points per game, Wofford rolled through the regular season at 29-4. Wofford is also one of the most battle tested mid majors in the country with all 4 of thier losses coming to teams in the tournament including UNC, Kansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi State.
On the other side you have Seton Hall who kind of quietly sneaks into this 10 spot but are a team that always seems to play well in March. Seton Hall may not win this or make a deep run but they are sure to give Wofford a fight and I think this will be one of the best first round games of the weekend. I know wofford would potentially have a tough 2nd round match up against Kentucky but this is a team you need to be ready to see make some noise.