Every year there are some instant classics that take place on Thursday or Friday of the tournament. Last year was RJ Hunter and 14th seeded Georgia State knocking off Baylor at the buzzer and the 8/9 battle between NC State vs. LSU. Whether that is a mid-major beating a power house team or a dogfight between evenly matched teams, there are always those must see games. Here are just a few games (believe me, there are so many to choose from…) that will be worth while to keep an eye on.
#5 Baylor vs #12 Yale: This is one of the hardest parts about this years field in particular. Over the years, its been well documented about the 5/12 matchups and the upsets that stem from them. This again could be one of those upsets. Yale is a very strong team and have won 16 of the past 17 games. They are a slow paced team who can hit the three. Contrast this with a fast paced, athletic Baylor team who will run and jump and defend with the best. This makes for a tough game to call. If Baylor wins, they could find themselves with the opportunity to make it to the Elite 8, but if they don’t play their best basketball on Thursday, they may not be able to out Yale.
#5 Indiana vs. #12 Chattanooga: Much like the Baylor/Yale game, this is another 5/12 matchup to keep an eye on. Chattanooga has won 29 games including wins against Dayton and Georgia. They shoot the three and can defend very well. Indiana is coming off a tough loss to U of M in their first game of the Big Ten tournament. Yogi Ferrell is one of the best players in the country and is exciting to watch. A match up verses Kentucky might await the Hoosiers but only if they can get past the feisty Mocs.
#4 Iowa State vs. #13 Iona: The Cyclones have underperformed in their past couple tournament appearances and this could be another one of those instances. Iona is a great team who has been hot the last 22 games losing only 4 of them. They have all the make up of a Cinderella team. They shoot the three well, make free throws, rebound well and have a player in AJ English who can score at will. Iowa State is going to have some trouble containing him. However, the Cyclones have Niang and Morris who can both fill up the stat sheet as well and are hungry for a deep run in the tourney. I believe this is will be a great game to watch these players will battle it out but ultimately the team play of Iona and big shots by English give them the edge
#7 Wisconsin vs #10 Pittsburgh: This game features two schools familiar with playing in March. The Badgers and Panthers will battle it out in a 7/10 game. Wisconsin coming off last years title game loss has experience and talent but is not the same offensively as it was last year. Pitt will play physical and is deep which can keep Wisconsin on its toes. All in all, I think Wisconsin should squeak out a close one due to its talent in Hayes and Happ.
#7 Iowa vs #10 Temple: This game is an intriguing match up in Brooklyn. Iowa was once thought of as a potential one-seed and has All-American caliber players like Uthoff and Jok. Temple won the regular season AAC title and owns wins over the 5 wins over the 3 best teams in their conference. With Nova likely waiting for them, we could see an Iowa team give them all they can handle or we could see a Philly rematch from earlier in the season. Either way, expect this Iowa/Temple game to be a dog fight.