Last March, no one expected Duke's first-round NCAA tournament game against UNC Wilmington to be entertaining. No one expected the Seahawks to lead by three at half, hold the Blue Devils to 4-for-15 from three, or commit just nine turnovers. Duke ultimately prevailed, avoiding another brutal first-round upset to the chagrin of most college basketball fans, but it was still an enjoyable, attention-keeping game.
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Though first-round upsets are impossible to predict, thus making our wish for an upset-friendly bracket meaningless, we can still root for entertaining matchups. Here are four first-round NCAA Tournament matchups we're begging the committee to gift us with.
Wisconsin ranks ninth nationally in scoring defense at 61.2 points per game but that number is deceptive. Yes, they limit offensive rebounds, foul shots and open looks, but their perimeter struggles are concerning. They rarely pressure effectively outside, contributing to just just 13 turnovers per game and allow 36.3 percent shooting from deep, both in the bottom third of the country.
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What would happen if the Badgers were to face Akron in the first round? The Zips hit 10.6 three-pointers per game, shoot 39 percent from deep, move the ball well outside and commit a respectable 12.6 turnovers per game.
No one wants to face pressure-obsessed West Virginia. The Mountaineers rank first nationally with 12 steals per game and their plus-11.5 turnover margin is nearly double the next closest team.
But could a team like UNC Asheville handle it?
The Bulldogs don't rebound well but are feisty defensively — 9.5 steals and plus-5.5 turnover margin — and can hit from anywhere on the court. They shoot 41 percent from deep, assist on nearly 60 percent of their field goals and, like West Virginia, aren't restricted to size-limited lineups.
First, we need a lot for a Virginia-Iowa State first-round matchup to happen. The Cavaliers must stumble considerably to a No. 6 or 7 seed and the Cyclones have to slip to a No. 10 or 11.
If we do get it, enjoy a good, clean game. Both teams rank in the top 15 nationally in turnovers per game (fewest), turnover margin, assist-to-turnover ratio and fouls (fewest). You can skip the mid-March jazz concert and make a date with these two teams instead.
Like Virginia-Iowa State, this would be good, clean fun for the whole family.
Possibly an 8-9 or 7-10 first-round game, SMU and Saint Mary's will not frustrate viewers with sloppy play or constant whistles. They combine for fewer than 29 fouls per game and 22 turnovers and both rarely shoot below 47 percent from the field.
With similar efficient styles, this could be a very entertaining matchup.