March Madness Midwest 1st Round Preview

March Madness Midwest 1st Round Preview

by March 19, 2021 0 comments

The NCAA tournament kicks off today in what will be an exciting day for college basketball fans nationwide. Last year’s tournament cancelation was the beginning of a new level of appreciation for fans, and this tournament is bound to be one we won’t forget.

The midwest region is led by a couple of strong teams in Illinois and Houston. There’s depth to the region as well, and it could give us some big upsets. A full rundown of the day is just what you need to kick off the return of the NCAA tournament.

All times are eastern standard time.

Illinois (1) vs Drexel (16)

Date: Friday, March 19

Time: 1:15 PM

How to Watch: TBS

University of Illinois basketball is officially back as they enter the tournament as one of the best teams in the country. With a 23-6 record on the season, including 8-3 vs top 25 teams, the Iliini will look to overwhelm Drexel behind Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. It’s not hard to envision that happening.

Drexel finished their season with a 12-7 mark that included no matchups with top 25 opponents. Junior Camren Wynter leads a well-rounded Drexel scoring attack that will need to be at their best in order to keep up with Illinois. Expect Dosunmu and Cockburn to overwhelm on both ends of the floor, kicking off what should be a long tournament run.

Loyola Chicago (8) vs Georgia Tech (9)

Date: Friday, March 19

Time: 4 PM

How to Watch: TBS

Two conference champions face off in this matchup that could be one of the best games in the entire tournament’s first round. Loyola comes in scorching hot, winners of 17 of their last 18 games. They’re not far removed from their 2018 Final Four run and have experience remaining from that team, including big man Cameron Krutwig. He leads his team in points, rebounds and assists per game.

Georgia Tech will, unfortunately, be shorthanded in slowing Krutwig down due to the absence of their best player, Moses Wright. Wright won the ACC Player of the Year Award for the season, but will not be playing in this one due to a situation involving Covid. It’s a tough break for Georgia Tech and puts Loyola in a position to handle business to advance to the second round.

Tennessee (5) vs Oregon State (12)

Date: Friday, March 19

Time: 4:30 PM

How to Watch: TNT

The Tennessee Volunteers (18-8) take on the Oregon State Beavers (17-12) in the third tipoff of the midwest region. The Beavers come in as a popular upset pick, having just won the PAC-12 tournament as the fifth seed. They went on a shocking run to punch their ticket to the big tournament.

The Volunteers have been up and down over the course of the season, but win games behind a stellar defense that is among the most efficient in college basketball. This is the third straight tournament appearance for the Vols under head coach Rick Barnes. The Beavers can win this one if they remain hot, but it will take a stellar team shooting performance against this Tennessee defense.

Oklahoma State (3) vs Liberty (13)

Date: Friday, March 19

Time: 6:25 PM

How to Watch: TBS

Projected number one NBA draft pick Cade Cunningham leads the Oklahoma State Cowboys into their round one matchup with Liberty. Cunningham is as dynamic a player you’re going to find in the tournament and could lead his team to a deep tournament run. He’s a special player but will need help from his teammates.

Liberty is not a team to overlook. They went 23-5 on the season and will be making their fifth appearance in the tournament in program history. Undersized guard Darius McGhee leads the explosive Liberty offense that can shoot with the best and takes care of the ball. This game has reason to call for an upset, and it may come down to how much support Cunningham is able to get from his supporting cast.

Houston (2) vs Cleveland State (15)

Date: Friday, March 19

Time: 7:15 PM

How to Watch: TRUTV

Houston may be the most underrated team in the entire NCAA tournament this year. Entering with a 24-3 record and elite production on both ends of the floor, the Cougars could be preparing for a deep run. Quentin Grimes leads the Cougars high-scoring offense, averaging 17.9 points per game this season.

The Cleveland State Vikings will have their hands full looking to pull off the upset, but they’ve busted brackets before. Their last tournament appearance saw them win in the first round as a 13 seed back in the 2009 tournament. This year, Houston is just far too much ahead of them on both ends of the floor and should take care of business with ease.

Clemson (7) vs Rutgers (10)

Date: Friday, March 19

Time: 9:20 PM

How to Watch: TBS

Tenth seeded Rutgers (15-11) faces off against the seventh-seeded Clemson (16-7) Friday night. Rutgers struggled against top competition this year with a 1-7 record against top 25 opponents. While the record is poor, the experience they have playing good teams is matched by few in the tournament.

Clemson played just three games against top 25 teams, though they went 2-1 in those games. Clemson relies on the three-ball, a dangerous dependency in tournament play. They’re a good shooting team though, so unless Rutgers slows them down from behind the arc Clemson will be able to advance to the second round.

San Diego State (6) vs Syracuse (11)

Date: Friday, March 19

Time: 9:40

How to Watch: CBS

Jim Boeheim leads his Syracuse team into a matchup with the Aztecs, who lost just four games all season. They’re coming in riding a 14 game win streak and have shooters that can get hot quickly and change a game in Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel. They’re the primary reasons the Aztecs are among the most deadly perimeter shooting teams in the nation.

Syracuse can shoot it well too and know how to score the ball. They averaged 75.8 points on the season, but let up 70.7 on the other end. Unless that defense takes it to another level, at least, they’re going to be overwhelmed trying to slow down San Diego State. This game will be an interesting one on the late slate of the tournaments opening day.

West Virginia (3) vs Morehead State (14)

Date: March 19

Time: 9:50 PM

How to Watch: TRUTV

Last but not least, Morehead State (23-7) takes on West Virginia (18-9) in the final midwest game of the opening round. Miles McBride and Derek Culver lead the Mountaineers into a game in which they are double-digit favorites. They get it done on offense each and every night and that has been able to carry their lackluster defense to where they are today.

Morehead State may be just the team capable of upsetting West Virginia. They struggle offensively but excel on defense, a requirement to beat the midwest regions three seed. Johni Broome will be key if an upset is coming in this one, the freshman big man averaged 13.9 points and 9 rebounds this year and will be a handful for the Mountaineers on defense. If Broome is able to get going, this may be a bracket buster on day one of the NCAA tournament.

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