NCAA Bracket 2012: 6 First-Round Games That Will Show How Hoops Should Be Played
Regardless of what style of basketball you enjoy, we are getting ready over the next few weeks to experience a captivating collection of collegiate hoops action.
In every round, some games will set the gold-standard for how basketball should be played.
However, some of the best basketball right off the bat doesn't involve the highest-ranked teams in the tournament.
Here's a lightning-fast look at six first-round games that will be worth tracking if you are a college hoops purist.
VCU vs. Wichita State
Last year, tons of people didn't think that Virginia Commonwealth even belonged in the tournament.
By the time they made their unlikely 2011 March Madness run, the Rams had made believers of most of their critics.
The Rams beat Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas last year, becoming just the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four.
Wichita State is considered to be one of the top mid-major entries in this year's edition of March Madness.
WSU won the Missouri Valley regular-season race and is ready to take the court in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.
This will be a classic good D vs. good O matchup.
The Rams rely on defensive pressure to hold their opponents to a stingy 59.8 PPG.
The Shockers are ranked No. 15 in points scored (77.7).
Notre Dame vs. Xavier
If you like watching two teams that just "get after it" for 40 minutes, Notre Dame vs. Xavier is a game for you.
Mike Brey has done a masterful job of coaching a team that was expected to flounder after their best player, Tim Abromaitis, went down to a season-ending injury after playing only two games in the 2011-12 season.
The Fighting Irish come at opponents with a balanced attack, featuring three players (Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins) who each average double figures.
Xavier has plenty of firepower on the perimeter, with three guards (Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dezmine Wells) leading the way for the Musketeers.
How Holloway plays may be the key to this whole game.
The senior guard has the ability to take over games with his scoring and playmaking.
Louisville vs. Davidson
When Louisville and Davidson go at it, this will be another classic matchup featuring two teams with contrasting styles.
Louisville limited their opponents this season to an average of 38-percent shooting from the floor and an average of just over 61 points per game.
Davidson loves to get up and down the court, pushing the ball at every opportunity, and puts a lot of points on the board (78.4 PPG, No. 12 in the nation).
Keep an eye on Cardinals PG Peyton Siva (pictured), who is coming off of an excellent Big East tournament where he was named the MOP while averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.7 steals.
Marquette vs. Brigham Young
One year ago, BYU was riding the "Jimmer Train," and the ride was good.
The Cougars made it to the Sweet 16 before going down in defeat to Florida.
This year's team is a picture of balance, featuring the frontcourt forces of Noah Hartsock (16.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG) and Brandon Davies (15.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG) and the backcourt duo of Matt Carlino (12.4 PPG, 4.6 APG) and Charles Abouo (11.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG).
Marquette is a tough team that has multiple weapons.
Jae Crowder (pictured; 17.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG), the Big East Player of the Year, can hurt you in so many ways.
The Golden Eagles, like the Cougars, are great at finding the open man and getting the ball to him to get a good look.
Even if you aren't a follower of either team, this will be a great game to watch.
Vanderbilt vs. Harvard
I'm not sure that the NCAA tournament has ever featured a matchup like this one: two schools who are much more known for their academic accomplishments than their hoops traditions.
Vanderbilt is known as "The Harvard of the South." Harvard is...Harvard.
Both teams arrived in this year's tournament by doing it the old-fashioned way...they earned it.
Vanderbilt is a senior-laden team that pulled it all together in time to run through and win the SEC tournament, beating No. 1 Kentucky to cut down the nets in Atlanta.
Harvard is dancing for the first time since 1946, but they have an impressive 26-4 record on their way to winning this year's Ivy League title.
Both teams are balanced, but Vandy rolls out the SEC's top two scorers in John Jenkins (19.9 PPG) and Jeffery Taylor (16.4 PPG).
Georgetown vs. Belmont
If you are looking for high-quality basketball, find some way to watch the Georgetown vs. Belmont game.
The Belmont Bruins are the fourth-highest scoring (81.5 PPG) and No. 5 assists (17.4 APG) team in the country.
The Hoyas may be the only team in the country whose center (6'10", 240 lbs, Henry Sims, pictured) leads the team in assists (3.5 APG).
If head coach Rick Byrd and the Bruins win this one, it would be the biggest victory by far in school history.
David, meet Goliath.