2018 NCAA Tournament: Must See Games of the First Round

By: Brandon Hudson

It’s finally time! March Madness is here! Let’s take a look at some games that everyone will want to check out this Thursday and Friday. 

Rhode Island vs Oklahoma. Thursday 12:15 pm (ET)

This is a very intriguing game. Not many people know about Rhode Island but they’re a really talented team. I’ve watched them play a lot this season and they’re legit. They have two prime-time players in Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews who their coach refers to as “Batman and Batman” but this is far from a two-man show. They have solid role players who all combine to make up “Robin”. That list includes Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine, Stanford Robinson, “Fatts” Russell and Andre Berry.  

On the Oklahoma side, I’m sure you’ve heard of Trae Young and what he can do, so this game will have its share of fireworks. The only question is, will we see the Oklahoma that started the season or the one who went 4-11 to finish the season? I expect Jared Terrell to guard Trae Young for the majority of this game as he’s one of the best two-way players in the country. I’ve picked Rhode Island to win this game, they do a great job of defending and taking advantage of turnovers. Oklahoma has turned the ball over a lot during their slump and the supporting cast around Young has been inconsistent.

Miami (Fl) vs Loyola (IL). Thursday 3:10 pm (ET)

Had to give a hometown shout out to the Ramblers of Loyola. They have had a great season and, because of that, they get to take on Jim Larranaga and The Hurricanes.

This game, despite what you might think should be a great one. The Ramblers are a team led by Clayton Custer who is probably the best pure Point Guard in the country. Custer has a high basketball IQ and is very crafty at creating for his teammates. Freshman big man, Kameron Krutwig is a star in the making as well, he possesses a soft touch around the basket and can really play.

On the other side, Miami comes in with a talented team of their own, finishing 22-9 on the season. The Hurricanes have two exciting freshmen in Lonnie Walker IV and Chris Lykes. They have stepped up with Bruce Brown going down with an injury. Brown probably won’t be ready to play in the opening game and The Hurricanes will miss him out on the floor. This game is going to come down to who can execute as both teams play solid defense. I’m picking Loyola, they are patient on offense and their ability to defend at a high level should give them the edge over a talented but young Miami squad.

Ohio State vs South Dakota State. Thursday 4:00 pm (ET)

This game should be really fun to watch. You have the Big 10 Player of the Year in Kieta Bates-Diop versus the Summit League player of the year, Mike Daum. Both these guys can flat out score it will be interesting to see who has the better game between the two but I feel this one will be a close game throughout as both teams are physical and like to get after it on defense. I’m taking Ohio State in a close one.

Virginia Tech vs Alabama. Thursday 9:20 pm (ET)

When I saw this matchup in the East bracket my eyes got big! This presents us with a fantastic matchup at the Point Guard position between Collin Sexton from Alabama and Justin Robinson from Virginia Tech. Both teams are evenly matched in my opinion, it will be on the supporting cast to step up. One player in particular, John Petty has struggled, especially on the road. If he gets going, that could spell bad news for Virginia Tech. I’m taking Virginia Tech to win this game, they have the experience and they’re the better team.

Butler vs Arkansas. Friday 3:10 pm (ET)

On Friday, The Butler Bulldogs take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. Two teams with contrasting styles. Butler can really generate offense and they have the ability to score a lot of points. Led by Senior Forward, Kelan Martin, they can get hot and that typically is not something any team wants to see. Arkansas likes to press and speed teams up creating opportunities with their defense. I predict that this will have one of the highest combined point totals as both teams average at or above 80 points per contest this season. I’m am going with the Butler Bulldogs in an upset here. I don’t think Arkansas will be able to generate enough stops to slow Butler down

Missouri vs Florida St. Friday 9:50 pm (ET)

After a disappointing performance in the SEC tournament, Michael Porter Jr. will look to bounce back for The Tigers. What better way than in the NCAA tournament?

I expect a better performance from Porter now that he has come back and played a game. Missouri has played well without him and many are concerned that inserting Porter Jr back into the lineup will disrupt the chemistry. Porter Jr, gives this team a much-needed boost, with his ability to score and handle the ball. Missouri will need Porter’s skill set if they are to beat Florida State. I’m going with Missouri to win this game.

What are others games are you looking forward to seeing?

*Stats from basketball-reference.com

Brandon Hudson runs The Hudson Hornet blog. Catch up on his work right here. We hope to have more guest posts from Brandon, especially with the NCAA tournament getting underway. 

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