BY MATT DE SARLE
The bracket is in. And, as always, a bunch of couch potatoes like myself are predicting the future. And if my Crystal Ball is on point this season, below are a bunch of second round matchups that would be extra fun to watch.
8. Corey Kispert vs. Michael Almonacy
This would be the David versus Goliath, Three Point Competition Edition. Gonzaga is the #1 overall seed in March Madness. Corey Kispert is their golden boy three point shooter who can go on a tear. However, Michael Almonacy at App State shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to his three point efficiency. Check out our top 8 sharpshooters in the tourney.
7. DJ Burns vs. Trevion Williams
If Winthrop upsets Villanova and rolls into the field of 32, they could have a matchup against Purdue. And that would pin two heavyweights against each other. Trevion Williams had shed some pounds after coming into the Purdue program a few years ago. DJ Burns might have ticked up a few pounds during this COVID-19 off-season. Whatever the pre-fight weigh in might be, watching these two athletic whirling dervishes down low would be amazing. DJ Burns is coming off a Conference Championship game where he looked like Zach Randolph with his rolling around the paint and sticking quick left-handed hook shots. Williams almost completed a massive comeback victory against Ohio State in the Big 10 tournament. And so both these big boys come rolling into the Big Dance.
6. Moses Moody vs. Mac McClung
If you like shooting guards who can score, this matchup would be for you. Mac McClung is a YouTube sensation for his dunks. Moses Moody is probably an NBA Lottery pick next year. Each guy can fill it up. And each team feeds them when they’re hot. This would be a classic 3 vs. 6 seed matchup, in where whichever team’s highest scorer gets hot late might just advance.
5. Franck Kepnang vs. Luka Garza
Franck Kepnang is from Cameroon and just reclassified in high school so that he can be playing for Oregon this season (and in this tournament). Meanwhile, Luka Garza is from the nation’s capital, a national player of the year, and 22-years-old. If you think experience always wins, this might be a game where your theory gets a scare. Kepnang is an enforcer on the defensive end and definitely doesn’t look like he should be a high school senior at this point. It could be fun to watch the 6-11 freshman battle the 6-11 senior. That is, if things play according to script and the 2 seed takes on the 7 seed.
4. Cameron Krutwig vs. Kofi Cockburn
See, if you’re a fan of the NBA, you might think the traditional post up big man is extinct. Yet, this would be another fantastic matchup of two mammoth men. Cameron Krutwig was a starter on the Loyola Chicago team that made a Cinderella Final 4 run in 2018. Cockburn is a player who has slowly progressed for an Illinois team that earned its place as a #1 seed. These guys are, again, players who their teams know to feed when it’s evidence they’re hungry down low. Help defenders might need some armor in this one.
3. James Bouknight vs. Jahvon Quinerly
Both of these guards are silky smooth and surrounded with other talented guards in their respective backcourts. If 2 seed Alabama plays 7 seed UConn, you might see what equates to pickup basketball highlights here. Quinerly is another YouTube star because of his handles and finger rolling. Bouknight has a ridiculous wingspan for a guard and uses it to finish while seemingly staying in the air forever. These guys would have been a mainstay matchup in the Big East had Quinerly stayed at Villanova. Now we might be treated to this matchup if each team holds its end of the bargain on the first round of games.
2. Kai Jones vs. Aaron Henry
Doesn’t it feel like destiny that Michigan State will advance and play another mainstay NCAA team? How about a second round matchup between 3 seed Texas and 11 seed Michigan State? Aaron Henry is an established forward for Michigan State who can guard, defend, rebound, do it all. Kai Jones is like a track-and-field athlete with a basketball in his hand. He can run for days and finish strong on a fast break. As a freshman, he is already talked about as a top NBA pick. It would be fascinating to watch Tom Izzo’s team try and clog down this game, and athletes like Kai Jones at Texas. It’s how the Spartans got into the tournament: slowing the games down and playing a more physical brand of basketball. With Aaron Henry having played in the national championship game two years ago, he is the type of player who it would be fascinating to watch display his game savvy over some of the lesser experienced top prospects with the Longhorns.
- Scottie Barnes vs. McKinley Wright IV
Scottie Barners is the modern NBA point guard. He’s a freshman and about 6-7. So he looks like a point forward, but he is transitioning well into a role for Florida State as a point guard (he did not play the position in high school). On the opposite end of the origin story spectrum, senior McKinley Wright IV may look like an undersized point guard to an NBA scout, but his heart and determination are like Kobe Bryant. Don’t sell Wright IV and his Colorado Buffs short because they lost to Oregon State in the PAC 12 Championship game. These things happen in college basketball and, besides, Colorado was clearly celebrating its semifinal victory against USC. And so they just had a let down game. This would be a matchup between point guards that you could look back on 10 or 15 years from now with at least one if not both of these guys making a day job for themselves on the next level.