March Madness: Three Dream Matchups You Don't Want to Miss
Every year, there are intriguing matchups that you'd kill to watch. This year is no different.
Teams like Wichita State, Murray State, South Dakota State, and Long Beach State have proven themselves all year long, and they received their reward on Selection Sunday.
Now, it's time to work for more rewards: Tournament wins. Cinderella's break out every year, and just last year, two Cinderella teams made the Final Four.
Which first round matchups are the most intriguing?
(3) Baylor vs. (14) South Dakota State
This may be a third seed against a 14th seed, but Baylor and South Dakota State have identical records. And, you should get a good game.
Perry Jones III led Baylor to a successful 2011-12 campaign, beating Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, West Virginia, BYU, St. Mary's, and San Diego State, all of which made the tournament.
The Bears dominated early and proved that they can hang with the best, but that doesn't mean they'll run all over South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are a very strong team, and they are led by Nate Wolters, who averages 21.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 6 APG.
If the junior controls the ball and is able to distribute the ball and knock down shots, watch out. The Jackrabbits have other weapons, and they are definitely capable of pulling the upset over Baylor. South Dakota State averages more points per game (than Baylor), and they are currently riding an eight-game winning streak.
Jones and fellow forward Quincy Acy will be pivotal for Baylor, as if they can shut down Griffin Callahan and Brayden Carlson, things will be in Baylor's favor. However, if SDSU shuts down Acy and Jones III, Baylor will be in trouble. The Bears can't shoot as well as the Jackrabbits, as SDSU has four phenomenal three-point shooters
South Dakota State has the edge up top with Wolters, and if he can pick apart the Bears' defense, which I think he will, the Bears will need a major offensive effort to fight off the Jackrabbits.
Prediction: South Dakota State 77, Baylor 75
(5) Wichita State vs. (12) Virginia Commonwealth
Last year, VCU received lots of criticism for making the NCAA Tournament. So, the Rams made the Final Four.
This year, Shaka Smart's squad locked up an automatic bid to the tournament by beating Drexel in the CAA title game, and now, the Rams will play Wichita State for a chance to play in the Round of 32.
Darius Theus headlines a strong, talented team, who went 28-6 this year. Bradford Burgess, who leads the team in scoring (13.3 PPG), also returns from last year's Final Four team. Burgess had the winning bucket in VCU's Sweet Sixteen win over Florida State.
They will play the 2011 N.I.T champions, Wichita State, in the first round. The Shockers cruised to a 27-5 record, with wins over Colorado, UNLV, Creighton, and Davidson, all of which made the tournament. Center Garrett Stutz leads the Shockers with 13.5 points and 8 rebounds per game.
Overall, this game will be about matchups. Wichita State averages just twelve turnovers per game, which will be key against VCU's full-court press. Wichita has the edge at center, but VCU has the edge at forward. Guard is pretty even, but I'd give the edge to Darius Theus and VCU.
This game will be very close, and it'll come down to who executes and plays better basketball. Wichita State averages 9.3 PPG more than VCU, and I think the Shockers will be able to burn the VCU D and eek out a victory.
Prediction: Wichita State 78, VCU 74
(5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach State
Over the course of the year, Long Beach State has beat Xavier and Pittsburgh, and they fell just short against Creighton, Montana, UNC, Kansas, and San Diego State. How's that for a 12th seed?
Long Beach State has a star in Casper Ware, who averages over 17 points per game. Ware scored 33 in LBSU's 77-64 win over UC Santa Barbara in the Big West title game, shooting 10-23 from the field.
Ware drained eight threes, and the 49ers made f14 of 33 triples in the game. If Long Beach State shoots like they did on Saturday, the Lobos should watch out. The 49ers can light up the scoreboard, and they are definitely capable of upsetting New Mexico.
The MWC champions are definitely not a team you can overlook, however. New Mexico beat UNLV and San Diego State twice, and they beat New Mexico State, Saint Louis, and Colorado State once. Drew Gordon, a transfer from UCLA, leads the Lobos in scoring with over 13 PPG.
New Mexico has looked very sharp during their five-game winning streak, but they've looked worse than bad at times. They scored just 44 points in a tight win over 6-26 USC, and they looked sloppy in close wins over lowly Arizona State and lowly Washington State.
This game will come down to the play of Ware. I think Ware can prove himself as an elite player with a solid game, and I think New Mexico, who has struggled to score at times, will struggle to score at time and fail to top 70.
A lot of people expect Long Beach State to win. With Casper Ware and a strong supporting cast (Larry Anderson averages 14 PPG and T.J Robinson averages over 10 RPG), I don't see how I can't be one of those people.
Prediction: Long Beach State 75, New Mexico 68