The 2018 NCAA Tournament technically started on Tuesday night with two of the First Four games being played.
Now that the true first round is upon us, the madness will really begin. A total of 32 games will be played on Thursday and Friday.
Fans across the country will be glued to their TV screens, laptops and mobile devices. Employees and students will likely try their best to balance working and paying attention in class with getting their basketball fill.
Lets down two first round games that have the potential to be classics, including one that may result in an upset.
(6) Miami Hurricanes vs. (11) Loyola-Chicago Ramblers on Thursday, 2:10 p.m., televised on TruTV
Miami ended its season winning four of five games, including an upset of North Carolina.
During that span, freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV, who is projected as a lottery pick in the NBA Draft by Sports Illustrated, averaged 14 points per game and shot 42 percent from three-point range.
Walker elevating his play was crucial for the Hurricanes, as they have gone 11 regular games without star guard Bruce Brown Jr. Head coach Jim Larranaga said that Brown will be in uniform on Thursday but not play.
Loyola-Chicago has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1985, but 2018 may be its year to make some noise.
The Ramblers have four players who average more than 10 points per game. As a team, they shoot over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent on three-pointers.
They are a defense nightmare. They force 13.2 turnovers per game and hold opponents to an average of just 62.2 points per game. According to KenPom.com, Loyola-Chicago’s defense ranks 23 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.
It is worth noting that in each of the last two years, 11-seeds have won three of four matchups with six seeds.
(8) Virginia Tech Hokies vs. (9) Alabama Crimson Tide on Thursday, 8:20 p.m. televised on TNT
Virginia Tech and Alabama both have quality wins on their resume that show their potential.
The Hokies have beaten Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and Clemson once.
In non-conference play, the Crimson Tide have a win over tournament team Rhode Island and a narrow, six-point loss to Arizona. In SEC competition, they have two wins over rival Auburn, including an 18-point dismantling in the conference tournament last week. They also dropped Tennessee by 28 points.
Freshman guard Collin Sexton has led the Crimson Tide this season, averaging 19 points per game. Sexton has made numerous electrifying plays and Sports Illustrated projects him to be selected number-11 in the NBA Draft.
Alabama hopes to have big man Donta Hall back. Hall was concussed during the SEC Tournament. He averages 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, so is a force down low.
Virginia Tech has five players that average more than 10 points per game.
The Hokies are led by a pair of guards named Justin. Justin Robinson and Justin Bibbs average 13.8 and 13.1 points per game respectively. Robinson shoots 45 percent from the field, while Bibbs shoots 48 percent. They both shoot 40 percent from behind the arc.
After watching Virginia Tech’s upsets of Duke and Virginia and seeing Sexton go off for Alabama at different times this year, I believe this game has potential to be a great one.