Other than conference affiliation, there are no rules when the Selection Committee builds their bracket. Whether it be coaches matching up with their former team, a rematch of two teams who have NCAA Tournament history or high-powered offenses battling top-ranked defenses, the matchup could happen in March. As March and the most captivating tournament in sports approaches, here are five matchups fans would love to see in the NCAA Tournament.
Marquette vs Duke
Steve Wojciechowski taking on his former coach and the school he played for in the mid-90s would be all sorts of entertaining. The game would be pretty exciting, too. Markus Howard has been playing out of his mind, as limiting him to 25 points is considered an accomplishment. Howard has some solid pieces around him, too, with the Hauser brothers and Theo John all capable of contributing.
Everyone knows how good Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish are, and this game would be about as up-and-down as any game in the tournament. Both teams score at a high level and are effective when getting out in transition. Duke and Marquette are both poised for deep runs in the tournament, and this would be an enticing potential Sweet 16/Elite Eight matchup.
Minnesota vs Louisville
In this potential matchup, Richard Pitino would be taking on the school where he once was an assistant coach. But also the school that just recently fired Hall of Fame coach and his father, Rick Pitino. This season has been and still is a huge season for the younger Pitino, as many believe he entered this year on the hot seat. Getting the Gophers back to the tournament would be huge. And his team is fully capable, with Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy leading the way. However, Minnesota needs a couple more wins to guarantee an at-large bid as they sit squarely on the bubble.
Chris Mack surprisingly has the Cardinals in comfortable tournament position in his first season. Louisville is a deep, talented team led by sophomore Jordan Nwora. We saw just how good of a team they can be in their collapse against Duke. This potential matchup would be an entertaining one, for many reasons.
Nevada vs North Carolina
The scoreboard operator better be on high alert if this game were to take place. Both teams average over 82 points per game and love to let it fly from three-point range. The Wolfpack have dynamic scorers in the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline, and are led by one of the most intense coaches in the country in Eric Musselman. The Wolfpack fell to cinderella Loyola (Chi.) in the Sweet 16 a season ago. They have all the tools to get back there and possibly even deeper.
The Tar Heels were sent home in a surprisingly early fashion last NCAA Tournament, and one would think that will drive this team come tournament time. Besides a home loss to Virginia, North Carolina is playing at a high level, as Coby White, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye are a formidable trio for Roy Williams. Defense would be optional in this one, and whoever has the ball last just might be the one who advances.
Tennessee vs Virginia
A matchup with two teams who are polar opposites: Tennessee is known for scoring the ball at will, while Virginia is the top-ranked defense in the country. They say offense wins games, and defense wins championships. The Vols’ have an intimidating presence in the paint in Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. It would be interesting to see how the Cavalier’s stifling defense would affect Tennessee’s high-powered offense. The deepest the Vols’ have ever gone in the Big Dance was in 2010, when they reached the Elite Eight.
Virginia has beaten everyone on their schedule not named Duke. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter are experienced, talented veterans Tony Bennet can rely on. They’ll use last year’s stunning loss to 16th-seed UMBC as motivation for a deeper run this March. When a top-ranked offense takes on a suffocating defense, something’s got to give. This potential Elite Eight/Final Four matchup would be must-watch, involving two college hoops’ heavyweights.
Kentucky vs Wisconsin
Many fans in the Commonwealth would look forward to a date with the Badgers. The matchup would be a rematch of the 2015 Final Four, where Kentucky’s quest for an undefeated season ended. The Cats were two games away from going 40-0, etching their names in college hoops’ history as one of the best teams ever. This year, Kentucky appears capable of getting back to yet another Final Four. PJ Washington is playing like a top five player in the country for John Calipari and Ashton Hagans is playing the point guard position effectively.
If teams have any hope of beating Kentucky, they need an experienced big that can battle down low with the Wildcats’ size. Wisconsin has that in Ethan Happ, who is about as skilled as any post player in college basketball. D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison are veteran, steady guards that can handle Kentucky’s pressure. Yes, Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Karl Towns and Devin Booker are all in the NBA, but this game could provide us with another March Madness classic.
Follow Taron Long on Twitter: @TaronAllDayLong