let the madness ensue
Most eyes will be on the likely future no. 1 NBA draft pick, Zion Williamson, and his Duke teammates throughout this year's NCAA tournament. But the first round remains the best opportunity to catch a glimpse of some under-the-radar teams, players, and storylines. Here are the most intriguing, non-Duke-related match-ups in each region.
West Region — No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 12 Murray State: The most exciting match-up of the first round will pit two of the country's most gifted players against each other. Murray State is led by guard Ja Morant, who could go as high as no. 2 overall in the NBA draft. Markus Howard, a diminutive guard who averages a prolific 25 points per game, headlines Marquette.
Midwest Region — No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 10 Seton Hall: These teams don't jump off the page in a region that features blue bloods like North Carolina, Kentucky, and Kansas, but Wofford and Seton Hall have been playing high quality basketball lately. Wofford went undefeated in the Southern Conference and hasn't lost a game since December. Seton Hall's 20-13 record might seem suspect, but the Pirates have victories over Kentucky, Maryland, Marquette, and Villanova.
East Region — No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 Minnesota: This contest between two mid-tier power conference schools gets a nod thanks to some off-court drama: Minnesota's coach Richard Pitino is the son of Hall-of-Fame coach Rick Pitino, who once led Louisville to three Final Fours and a national title. The Pitino family's relationship with Louisville didn't end well, though, when the elder Pitino was fired after multiple scandals and Louisville's 2013 title run was vacated.
South Region — No. 6 Villanova vs. No. 11 St. Mary's: The defending champion Wildcats aren't as talented as last season's team, but head coach Jay Wright and seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall will make this squad a tough out. Awaiting them, though, is St. Mary's, fresh off an upset over no. 1 seed Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament championship. The two sides have some history, as well — during the 2010 NCAA tournament, the Gaels, then a 10-seed, defeated the no. 2-seeded Villanova to advance to the Sweet 16.