College Sports

You should not miss these games during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament

Thursday and Friday are near-perfect sports days with only one flaw: It’s just about impossible to adequately pay attention to every NCAA Tournament game in action throughout the first round.

Inevitably, you have to pick and choose the game — or handful of games — to pay attention to at any given point, then be ready to adjust on the fly. Let these game be your starting points when you plan out your days later this week:

Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Murray State Racers

The two best point guards in the country square off in Hartford, Connecticut, as Murray State’s Ja Morant matches up with fellow All-American Markus Howard for Marquette.

Morant is this Tournament’s man of mystery, most people only aware of his exploits through quick Twitter videos, SportsCenter highlights and his placement in mock NBA Drafts, but he did lead the nation in assists.

Howard, on the other hand, is a dynamic scorer, a skill which could make him a first-round Draft choice.

LSU Tigers vs. Yale Bulldogs

Yale scored 97 points against the Harvard Crimson in the Ivy League championship and has a legitimately talented team. Shooting guard Miye Oni could be a second-round pick in June.

In a normal scenario, it would still be tough to envision the Bulldogs knocking off the Southeastern Conference regular-season champions, but coach Will Wade is embroiled in an FBI investigation, which could make things difficult for LSU. Star center Naz Reid will have to dominate.

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Northern Kentucky Norse

All-American shooting guard Jarrett Culver was one of the sport’s breakout stars this year, guiding Texas Tech to a share of the Big 12 Conference title. He’s a potential top-five pick, which makes it theoretically foolish to pick against the Red Raiders.

Forward Drew McDonald might have what it takes to spring an upset for Northern Kentucky, though. A finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, McDonald is one of only five active players with 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds.

Ole Miss Rebels vs. Oklahoma Sooners

The matchups between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds are supposed to be good and Ole Miss-Oklahoma fits the bill. The Sooners boast a top-25 defense in the Pomeroy College Basketball rankings, while the Rebels feature the No. 33 offense in the country.

As for an individual matchup, Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree averages 18.2 points per game and Oklahoma guard Christian James averages 14.4. They could find themselves trading buckets in the second half of this one with a likely meeting with the Virginia Cavaliers on thee line.

VCU Rams vs. UCF Knights

Like usual, VCU has an awesome defense — the No. 7 defense in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. The Rams will try to harass UCF and reach a likely second-round matchup with the Duke Blue Devils.

The one big problem? Knights center Tacko Fall. He checks in at 7-6. VCU doesn’t have a player taller than 6-10.

Bonus

Belmont Bruins vs. Temple Owls

Belmont’s inclusion is a nice nod toward mid-majors, especially since Senior All-American wing Dylan Windler should get NBA looks. His matchup with star Temple shooting guard Quinton Rose in the First Four should be fascinating, since both are listed at 6-8.

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. St. John’s Red Storm

The last two teams in the field of 68, Arizona State and St. John’s are evenly matched in the First Four, each carried by a star guard.

Freshman shooting guard Luguentz Dort was the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year for the Sun Devils and point guard Shamorie Ponds has 10 30-point games in his Red Storm career.

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