The round of 64 is usually filled with upsets, buzzer-beaters and memorable games. With the matchups this year, competitive games and great finishes are guaranteed.
Here are three matchups that are can’t miss.
Butler (6) vs. Bucknell (11)
Butler and Bucknell both enter the NCAA tournament as fashionable “dark-horse” picks, but only one can advance.
The Bulldogs finished the season with a 26-8 overall record and an 11-5 record in conference, which was good enough for a tie for third place in their first year in the Atlantic 10. They are in the tournament via an at-large bid.
Roosevelt Jones is a solid all-around player and is one of the Bulldogs' best defenders. He averages 10.1 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists. If Jones can produce offensively and force the Bison to be one-dimensional by shutting down the Bison guards, Butler will win.
Bucknell won the Patriot league regular-season title with a 12-2 record and earned the conference’s automatic bid with a 64-56 win over Lafayette in the Patriot League championship game.
Bucknell features one of the best players you have never heard of in Mike Muscala. The senior center averaged 19 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this season to lead the Bison to a 28-5 record.
This is matchup of two of the premier mid-major programs in the country. They are very evenly matched, although Butler did not go to the tournament in 2012, the difference will be experience.
Butler coach Brad Stevens simply wins in the tournament and his team has won numerous close games this year. This game will be close until the final minutes, but look for Butler to execute down the stretch and pull out a close victory.
Notre Dame (7) vs. Iowa St. (10)
This game features two of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, but both programs have struggled in the tournament. Notre Dame has not been past the round of 32 since 2003 and Iowa St. has not been to the Sweet 16 since 2000.
To win this game, the Irish are going to need production from their big men. Notre Dame has the advantage in the post, so Jack Cooley and Garrick Sherman need to be effective.
Look for the Irish to run an inside-out offense and their perimeter opportunities will come from a collapsing Iowa St. defense.
As mentioned, both teams can shoot the ball well, but if this game becomes a track meet, the Cyclones will win easily.
The Cyclones are No. 4 in the country in offense with 79.6 points per game and when they are firing on all cylinders, they can beat anybody in the country.
Iowa St. does not have the defense to make up for a cold shooting night. They have lost to the likes of Texas Tech (who finished No. 9 in the Big 12) and Iowa.
As with most evenly matched games in the tournament, this game will come down to the wire. The winner will be the team who executes down the stretch and look for the Irish strength in the frontcourt to be the difference in a Notre Dame victory.
Wisconsin (5) vs. Ole Miss (12)
Ole Miss features one of the biggest characters in the tournament with Marshall Henderson. He can be a dynamic scorer, but, with his questionable shot selection and immature antics, he can also be a headache for his own team.
The Rebels were on the bubble for most of the season, but they earned their way into the tournament by beating Florida in the SEC Championship Game.
The Rebel offense runs through Henderson and if he is playing well, he is one of the best scorers in the country. If he is not on his game, however, he is easily frustrated and can be a detriment to his own team.
The Badgers feature a typical Bo Ryan team. They play stingy defense and run an efficient offense.
After battling through a brutal Big 10 schedule, the Badgers are tournament ready and many people have them a sleeper to get to the Final Four.
The Badgers win ugly, but they win nonetheless. Wisconsin is unselfish and wins the old fashioned way with dominant rebounding, team offense and dogged defense.
Every year a No. 12 seed beats a No.5 seed, but it will not happen in this matchup. Look for Wisconsin’s stifling defense to shut down the Rebels, frustrate Henderson and lead the Badgers to the round of 32.