To quote Jon Rothstein, “This is March.” With the 2019 NCAA Men’s Divison I Tournament round of 64 set to begin Thursday, let’s take a lot at some of the best games to watch in the first round.
No. 5 Marquette vs No. 12 Murray State — Thursday 3:30 p.m. CT
The Marquette Golden Eagles (12-6 Big East, 24-9 overall) are set to face off with the Murray State Racers (16-2 Ohio Valley, 27-4 overall) in one of the most anticipated first round games featuring two of the most electric scorers in the NCAA.
Murray State sophomore guard Ja Morant is projected to be a top three pick in the upcoming NBA draft. This season has been one to remember for him as he’s averaged a double-double with 24.6 points per game and 10.0 assists per game. Meanwhile, Marquette’s junior guard Marcus Howard has dominated for the Golden Eagles, averaging 25 points per game and making 3.5 threes per game.
Murray State is one of the highest-scoring teams in the tournament, however they’ve also faced one of the easiest schedules. The Racers are also on a 11-game win streak, while the Golden Eagles have struggled recently, winning only one of their last six games. This game should come down to which star player is able to put their team on their back in clutch time.
No. 7 Wofford vs No. 10 Seton Hall — Thursday 8:40 p.m. CT
Both the Wofford Terriers (16-0 SoCon, 29-4 overall) and the Seton Hall Pirates (9-9 Big East, 20-13 overall) come into their first round contest riding red-hot streaks.
Wofford is currently on a 20-game win streak and have been lighting up the scoreboard recently. The Terriers have been relentless from the three-point line so far this year, ranking second nationally in three point shooting percentage (.420) while shooting nearly 11 per game. Under head coach Mike Young, Wofford has made the tournament five times since 2010, but this is the highest seed they’ve earned and are a hot pick to make some noise in the Big Dance.
On the other hand, Seton Hall has been playing great basketball lately. In the Big East tournament, they were three points away from beating Villanova in the final thanks to junior guard Myles Powell. Powell averaged 26 points per game in the tournament and helped the Pirates upset some really good teams during the season (Kentucky, Villanova, Maryland and Marquette). Seton Hall must have Powell playing at his best if they want to beat Wofford.
#8 Syracuse vs. #9 Baylor — Thursday 8:57 p.m. CT
Count the Syracuse Orange (10-8 ACC, 20-13 overall) out at your own peril. Jim Boeheim knows how to get his team ready for the dance.
Syracuse always seems to come into the Tournament on the bubble, then making a deep run. Last year, the Orange was able to win its play-in game, beat Michigan State, and ended up barely losing to Duke in the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 11 seed. With star guard Tyus Battle back for the Orange, he’ll need to be at his best in their first round matchup against the Baylor Bears (10-8 Big 12, 19-13 overall).
Baylor has had a mediocre year as well this season. The Bears have been struggling recently, losing their last four games. They also lost one of their star players, forward Tristan Clark, to a season-ending knee injury. One of the main areas of dominance for Baylor this season has been their ability to grab a lot of rebounds, especially on the offensive glass. Baylor will have to have success on the boards to come away with the win.