Two talented mid-majors, the VCU Rams and UCF Knights, will face off in the 8-9 game of the East Region. The winner likely faces Duke, barring a stunning upset.
VCU is back in the NCAA Tournament for an eighth time in nine years after a very impressive regular season. The Rams went 25-6 overall, winning their final 12 regular season games in a row and claiming the Atlantic 10 title. Unfortunately, their automatic bid hopes were swiftly crushed by Rhode Island in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. But with impressive wins over Texas and Temple on their resume, along with a very close loss to Virginia, the Rams would not be denied a trip to the tournament for a second year in a row.
The UCF Knights make their return to the NCAA Tournament after a decade-long absence. A 23-8 overall record that included upset wins over Houston and Cincinnati have given the AAC powerhouse their fifth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. With an 0-4 record in the tournament, could this be the year that they get that first win?
Date: Friday, March 22
Time: ~9:40 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Location: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, SC
Announcers: Jim Nantz / Bill Raftery / Grant Hill // Tracy Wolfson
Prediction: This is a tight game between two of the more interesting at-large teams from the mid-major ranks. This should be one of the tightest match-ups in the first round.
I'll give a slight edge to VCU, who boast a top 10 defense in all of college basketball this season, vs. UCF's slow, half-court approach.