Sure, it’s wildly satisfying if your team cuts the nets down and it’s gratifying if you take home money in your work pool. But the reason this tourney has become so adored among sports fans and casual viewers alike is for those moments. You know the ones…the replays and the audio of the call play inside your head when you hear the names: Bryce Drew, Christian Laettner, Lorenzo Charles, Simon Says Championship, Hakim Warrick, Farokhmanesh, Edney. They’re moments in time that live on forever, created by college kids fulfilling a pipe dream. It’s a beautiful thing.
As for this weekend, it’s impossible to predict if there will be the next Drew Nicholas shot or Thomas Hill face. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to zero in on the possibilities.
The way I see it, 3 categories/traits can make a game memorable. The more factors present, the more likely the chance is the game will stick into the fabric of college hoops forever.
Great game: Two teams battling back and forth until one flinches and the other makes a deciding play. Example: Arizona/Gonzaga, 2003, 2nd round, Salt Lake City.
Upset: A team wins a game that nobody expected them to win: Example: Lehigh/Duke, 2012, Round of 64, Boston.
Superb performance: A player is so magical that sometimes you don’t even remember if his team won or lost the game: Example: Marvin O’Connor (37 points), St. Joe’s (vs Stanford), 2001. 1st round, San Diego.
Here’s a look at games that have potential to be memorable and highlight the traits that could make them so.
Thursday, 3/21 (all times ET)
3 Marquette vs 14 Davidson (3:10p) – This game has become a trendy upset pick because of Marquette’s unsightly exit from a very visible Big East Tournament and an advanced stats appreciation of a Davidson team who returns to the Dance for the second year in a row. Upset potential evident.
5 Oklahoma St. vs 12 Oregon (4:40p) – This game jumped right off the screen the second it was announced by Greg Gumbel last Sunday. The Ducks are fresh off a Pac-12 title. Oklahoma St. has been one of the pleasant surprises of the year. Marcus Smart provides massive potential for a superb performance for the Pokes, as does Arsalan Kazemi of Oregon, who makes positive basketball plays all over the court. Upset and great game potential are here too.
4 Michigan vs 13 South Dakota St. (7:15P) – Two of the very best lead guards (Nate Wolters, Trey Burke) in the field face off here in Auburn Hills, MI. Don’t think it will be a complete cakewalk for the Wolverines though – Wolters has big-time superb performance potential and there will be a lot of Michigan St. fans in the stands. leftover from earlier in the day there. Upset and great game potential!
5 UNLV vs 12 Cal (7:27p) – It’s kind of a bummer that these two teams already played this year (UNLV won by 1 at Cal) and it’s kind of weird that this game is in San Jose, not far from Cal’s Berkeley campus. But this one could be memorable and Cal’s Allen Crabbe has superb performance potential. He quietly put together a Pac-12 Player of the Year campaign – averaging over 18 points a game. Many folks will be catching him in action for the first time.
8 Colorado St. vs 9 Mizzou (9:20p) – These are two teams with contrasting styles and it could make for a close, thrilling game. The post will be loaded with the Ram’s Colton Iverson and Mizzou’s Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriahki. Phil Pressey adds superb performance possibilities. Larry Eustachy will be re-introduced to a large portion of the country in a close, hard-fought battle.
4 Syracuse vs 13 Montana (9:57p) – I’m going to throw all my eggs in this game’s basket and declare that it has upset, great game and superb performance (Montana’s Will Cherry) potential. Montana is back in the field in back-to-back years and have won 21 of 23. Or Cuse shows up. If that happens then forget everything I said and burn this article.
5 Wisconsin vs 12 Ole Miss (12:40p) – Oh my, where to begin? Both teams made runs in their respective conference tournaments and played Sunday. Marshall Henderson will be on the court screaming. Mike Brusewitz’s hair will be on the court doing whatever it does. These team’s personalities are so much different it’s like Greasers vs Socs. Great game, superb performance and upset potential. Slam dunk must-see!
8 N.C. State vs 9 Temple (1:40p) – Great game potential, along with superb performance possibilites from Temple’s Khalif Wyatt. Temple has proven they can win close games, N.C. State has proven that when they play hard and smart…it’s a surprise. Another contrast in styles game. Temple is looking to get out of the Second (formerly First) Round for only the second time since 2001.
7 Illinois vs 10 Colorado (4:40p) – I see this as a classic first round tussle that will definitely be an exciting watch. Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker of Colorado matching up in the backcourt against Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson of the Fighting Illini will be a delight. These teams are almost doppelgangers of each other. To me, it’s the contest “Most Likely to End in a Crazy Buzzer Beater”.
8 UNC vs 9 Nova (7:20p) – Villanova basketball this year only decided to show up when the lights were on, and well, they are on right now. UNC has been trending upward since going to a smaller, faster lineup. This has great game potential. That both programs are name brands doesn’t hurt the memory factor either.
6 UCLA vs 11 Minnesota (9:57p) – Technically. you have to say this has upset potential, but with UCLA Jordan Adams-less, I think these teams are evenly matched. Minnesota has the ability to rebound against anyone, while the LA Kids have a short bench but great offensive play-makers still remaining with Kyle Anderson, Larry Drew and Shabazz Muhammad. Great game potential. Watch out for Andre Hollins of the Gophers if the game is close late.
Round of 32 (Sat, 3/23 & Sun, 3/24)
1 Louisville vs 8 Colorado St./9 Mizzou Winner – The Cards have made things interesting all year (re: coming back in the Big East Championship Game, losing 3 in a row) and it sort of makes sense. They are an explosive team, sometimes even in a negative way (re: Russ Smith in the 5OT game against ND) and they may let the winner of the Midwest’s 8/9 game stick around for awhile. Both have talented backcourt leaders (Phil Pressey of Mizzou and Dorian Green of CSU) that won’t back down or cower in the face of Peyton Siva and Smith’s pressure.
7 Creighton 10 Duke – The one that got away. Doesn’t it sort of feel that way? Doug McDermott’s game seems custom made for Duke. He’s like a better Ryan Kelly, or a Christian Laettner 2.0, and he even wears royal blue! It will be fun to see Dougie and Co. trade baskets with Duke’s three-point heavy attack that’s led by Kelly and Seth Curry. A year after playing UNC, the Jays get Tobacco Road rival Duke. The Blue Devils may have to just survive this one.
10 Iowa St. vs 2 Ohio St. – Iowa St. lit up Kansas twice during the regular season, even though they have no wins to show for it. And I sort of see this potential Round of 32 match-up playing out that way if it comes to fruition. The Cylones could get hot. And if they’re hot, they can hang around with anyone (until they go cold). Ohio St. will adjust and score just enough to win, but I doubt they will cover.
4 Michigan vs 5 VCU – Another “Everything” game. If it happens I have a feeling we’ll remember it. This could be the best Third Round tilt this year, with Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. trying to deal with team steals leader Briante Weber (2.8 spg) and VCU’s HAVOC game plan . Last year VCU lost to another Big Ten team in this round, Indiana, on a late jumper by Will Sheehey.
4 Syracuse vs 5 UNLV – If these teams are fortunate enough to make it to this point we could see what basically amounts to a 3-point shooting contest. And it will be a lot of fun. James Southerland (Syracuse) and Katin Reinhardt (UNLV) may compete to see who can shoot one from the 12th row first and not get pulled out of the game. Fans of flash will be entertained here.
2 Miami vs 7 Illinois/10 Colorado winner – Don’t sleep on Colorado or Illinois in this spot. Even casual fans are aware that the Illini posses impressive wins over Gonzaga and Indiana. The Buffs went to this round in 2012 and feature plenty of growing talent. Andre Roberson grabs boards at a crazy level. And remember, Miami is new to this, even though their collective age seemingly averages out to 47.3 years. Shane Larkin is their catalyst, but he’ll have to work hard against the likes of Dinwiddie, Booker, Paul and Richardson.
Written by Patrick Kang