After a moderately entertaining and surprising first couple days of March Madness, here are the top four matchups heading into the weekend to keep a close eye on.
Kentucky vs Wofford
When Mike Young’s Wofford Terriers were revealed as a possible second-round opponent for Calipari’s Wildcats, anyone who knew anything about Wofford was looking forward to this matchup (except John Calipari). Wofford ranks 6th in the nation in 3pt percentage (41.6%) and 2nd in three-pointers made (11 baskets per game), and yeah…they have the next Steph Curry. Just a 90 minute drive from Curry’s Davidson, Wofford’s own Fletcher Mcgee is just four triples away from Curry’s single season three point record. To be simple, they can shoot.
Kentucky – the team with new players each and every season – will likely be without “veteran” (he’s a sophomore) leading scorer P.J Washington for the second consecutive tournament game. Freshman guards Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro will have to cool down the Terriers backcourt and manage the game like true 5-star recruits. Herro might need to stop being starstruck by Mcgee first, saying “I’ve never seen anything like it…He squares up in the air and shoots it…it’s very unusual.”
Buffalo vs Texas Tech
Hailed straight out of the gate as a potential dynamite second-round matchup, Buffalo and Texas Tech do in fact meet on Sunday for a spot in the sweet sixteen. Buffalo, 32-3 on the season and winners of 13 straight, saw its first entry into the top 25 in school history this year. Sitting just second in the entire NCAA in points, Buffalo has an all-around team with plenty of depth. Leading scorer C.J Massinburg and the rest of the Buffs will be in for a rough matchup, as Texas Tech looks like one of the most promising teams in the tournament.
Texas Tech saw the elite eight last season but also the departure of its top scorers from that team. Coming off the first non-Kansas Big 12 regular season title in 14 years, Texas Tech filled in the holes and look like a prominent pick to make a deep run. Tech is number four in the nation for defense, allowing just 59.3 points per game. Despite losing early in the Big 12 tournament, this once expected two seed powerhouse should have the physical advantage over Buffalo in their second-round matchup.
Florida State vs Murray State
If you neither know Ja Morant nor have watched him play before…please do. The likely second overall pick in the coming NBA draft seemed like a maestro for the Racers in their first round upset over Marquette. No big deal; he only had the first triple-double (17pts-16asts-11rebs) in the NCAA tournament since Draymond Green in 2012. 16 assists in any basketball game is a big deal, especially if you saw some of the passes Morant was completing. Despite a promising future in the NBA full of potential stardom, Ja Morant’s biggest challenge might be an underrated and fiery Seminoles program.
Holy state am I excited for this matchup. Florida State coming in off an ACC final appearance and an impressive 13-5 conference record. Without Duke and UNC in the same conference, this Florida State team would be recognized as one of the country’s elite squads. While most of their defensive focus will no doubt be concentrated towards the aforementioned Morant, look for the Seminoles to attempt to exploit their size advantage and consistently seek Mfiondu Kabengele in the paint. Kabengele was a force against the Catamounts of UVM down low with 21 pts and 10 rebs.
Duke vs UCF
I wonder what people who died 100-200 years ago would think about a Zion Williamson vs Tacko Fall matchup in the NCAA tournament. They simply don’t look human. In the NBA right now, Zion would be the second heaviest player (with one of th- best verticals…) and Tacko Fall would be the tallest player. For that reason alone this matchup is worth keeping an eye on.
The UCF Knights will look to knock off the top seed in the tournament after a 73-58 win over VCU in their opening round matchup. B.J Taylor and Tacko Fall led the Knights with 15 points and 18 rebounds respectively. As a team, UCF is averaging 72.1 points per game on 46.3% shooting from the field, 35.4% from behind the arc, and 64.5% from the foul line this season. Simply a solid all-around team that will need a mammoth effort to overtake a flying Duke squad.
Honestly, there isn’t much to say about Duke other than they are talented. They aren’t deep, or fundamental, or crazy good shooters, but they do have three of the top 10 picks in the upcoming draft and the most talented team in the nation. Zion will have to be ZION to take this team deep in the tournament, but not necessarily in this second round matchup against a decent UCF squad.