Selection Sunday has come and gone, and now the field of 68 is set. The first-round games in the NCAA tournament are the first step towards chasing a championship. There are always high-end basketball games that go on in the first round, so here are some of the best first-round games on Friday and Saturday.
Best First-Round Games
- #8 LSU vs #9 St Bonaventure
- #8 Loyola-Chicago vs #9 Georgia Tech
- #4 Oklahoma St vs #13 Liberty
- #3 Texas vs #14 Abilene Christan
#8 LSU vs #9 St Bonaventure
Game Time: Saturday, March 20th- 12:45 CDT
If you are looking for a game where the great offense can beat the great defense, this is the game for you. You are looking at a game where a St Bonaventure team ranks fourth in the country in scoring defense, only surrendering 60.1 points per game on opponents. LSU’s offense ranks eighth in the country, scoring 82.2 points per game.
St Bonaventure is coming into the NCAA Tournament as Atlantic 10 tournament champions. The Bonnies have a very balanced attack when it comes to offense. Five players average 10 points or more on the season. The Bonnies score around 70 points per game, they really focus on their hard-nose defense. St Bonaventure holds their opponents to 38% shooting from the field. It’ll be a huge key going against a high scoring offense like LSU.
Moving to LSU, the Tigers are coming into Indianapolis with a lot of confidence. They took a tough loss on Sunday afternoon to Alabama in the SEC championship game. LSU’s offense is led by freshman Cam Thomas who averages 22 points per game. Head Coach Will Wade is going to try and lean on his offense to get momentum in games. Some other key players for the Tigers offensively are Trendon Watford and Ja’Vonte Smart. This is one of the best first-round games to start the tournament.
#8 Loyola Chicago vs #9 Georgia Tech
Game Time: Friday, March 19th, 3:00 CDT
If you are the Loyola (IL) Ramblers, this is a tough draw to start the tournament. Loyola has the potential to make another Cinderella run in this year’s tournament. The best first first-round games usually come from the 7-10 match-ups, 8-9 match-ups, and the 5-12 matchups. This 8-9 game between the Ramblers and the Yellow Jackets will be the best first-round game this year.
The Ramblers look to have a better team than the 2018 team that made their spectacular Final Four run. Big man Cameron Krutwig was on that team, and this year he was named MVC Player of the Year. Krutwig is a very mobile forward that moves a lot in the Rambler’s offense, especially in the pick and roll. Georgia Tech plays a suffocating zone defense and it is very tough to simulate in a practice, which makes it even tougher. So, a huge key to this game is Loyola knocking down outside shots, and finding a way to get Krutwig involved.
Georgia Tech also has a Player of the Year, and his name is Moses Wright. The Senior leads the Yellow Jackets in scoring and rebounds. Josh Pastner has his team playing exceptional basketball, as they just won the ACC championship on Saturday evening. Georgia Tech can beat you on both ends of the floor, their offense is well balanced, with three guys averaging 15 points or more on the season. This is going to be a must-watch game.
#4 Oklahoma State vs #13 Liberty
Game Tine: Friday, March 19th- 5:25 CDT
Let’s start this segment by telling the truth. The Oklahoma St Cowboys got robbed of the 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They got a tough draw in the first round to face Liberty, but this should still be one of the best first-round games this year.
The Cowboys are coming into the 2021 NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. Oklahoma St, led by Cade Cunningham, has beaten West Virginia twice, and Baylor until eventually losing to Texas in the Big 12 championship game. The Cowboys are a very young team but play really good basketball. I think Oklahoma State will move past the first round, but the defense that Liberty plays could expose the inexperience that the Cowboys have.
The Liberty Flames are coming into the tournament as Atlantic Sun tournament champions, and carry a top-3 scoring defense into Indianapolis. Liberty’s offense is like a Wisconsin, where they like to slow down the pace of the game. The Flames rank 340th in the country in possessions per game with around 65 this season. It makes sense that Head Coach Ritchie McKay wants to play this type of offense, he was assistant coach to Tony Bennett for six seasons.
While Oklahoma State will try and run against Liberty, the Flames defense can force the young Cowboy team to turn the ball over. The factor of higher paced offense versus stellar defense is what makes this one of the best first-round games.
#3 Texas vs #14 Abilene Christian
Game Time: Saturday, March 20th- 8:50 CDT
As much as everyone might think Texas might roll through this match-up like there’s no problem, ACU could make this one a game with their defensive abilities. You’ve heard the saying “defense wins championships”, right? Well, Abilene Christian probably won’t win the championship, but the defense could win the Wildcats a first-round game. This game hits the best first-round games list because of its potential.
Texas is coming off of the Big 12 tournament championship, and with the emergence of Jericho Sims down low, the Longhorns could be in Indy for a while. With the combination of the back-court that consists of Andrew Jones, Matt Coleman, and Courtney Ramey plus the front court of Greg Brown and Jericho Sims, it’s a recipe for a great run. The Texas offense will have to be clicking with ACU’s defense.
Abilene Christian sits atop the country in most of the major defensive categories. Ranks 7th in scoring defense, 2nd in steals per game, and 1st in turnovers forced per game. If the Wildcats can disrupt Texas enough and can get some easy buckets in transition, they could really make this one a game. An underrated first-round game to watch.
Well, that just about wraps up the list of some of the best first-round games to watch in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. If you want all the coverage on the NCAA Tournament, make sure to follow me on my Twitter @worldofcollege1.
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