It's that time again! March Madness returns after a two-year hiatus, and fans across the nation are itching to see the world's greatest playoff tournament in action once again. A regular season that many thought would never be completed has given us 68 teams that all have a shot of raising a banner, albeit some more than others. While opening weekend won't present much of a challenge for most top seeds, there are plenty of matchups that will have amateur bracketologists scratching their heads. Here are five games to keep your eyes on this weekend.
(8) Loyola-Chicago v. (9) Georgia Tech (Friday, 4:00 PM)
Good luck picking this one. Porter Moser's tenacious Loyola-Chicago squad faces off against the ACC Tournament champions in Georgia Tech. The Ramblers come into the tourney as KenPom's ninth-rated team, anchored by the nation's top adjusted defensive efficiency. We've written about Loyola Chicago before, and wouldn't be surprised to see them go on a deep run.
The Yellow Jackets entered the ACC Tourney as a #4 seed but came out on top with a terrific second-half comeback versus Florida State in the title game. ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright is a matchup nightmare for every team in the country, averaging 17.4 PPG and 8.4 rebounds. Scrappy guard Jose Alvarado and sharpshooter Michael Devoe round out a gritty Josh Pastner-led crew.
Need another reason to get excited? These are two of the most experienced teams in the country; four of the top five scorers on both sides are seniors. On paper, Loyola-Chicago is the better team, but Georgia Tech is on a hot streak, and have played much more difficult opponents all season. This one has the potential for an ugly, grind-it-out classic.
(6) San Diego State v. (11) Syracuse (Friday, 9:40 PM)
San Diego State is a trendy darkhorse pick in this tournament, and it isn't hard to see why. Ending the season ranked #16 in the AP Poll, the 23-4 Aztecs have one of the best duos in the nation with Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel. While their offense ranks outside the top 40 in adjusted efficiency, their defense sits at 11th. They ended their season on a high note, defeating rival Utah State in the Mountain West championship game.
In typical Syracuse fashion, Jim Boeheim's team spent all season on the bubble. After two wins to close out the regular season against fellow tourney teams in North Carolina and Clemson, 'Cuse beat NC State in the ACC Tournament before losing a heartbreaker to Virginia. The Orangemen have a reputation for making deep runs as double seeds; they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen as an 11 seed in 2018 and the Final Four as a 10 seed in 2016.
The key for this matchup will be SDSU's ability to beat Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone. Three-point opportunities should be there; if Schakel can shoot well from beyond the arc (46.7 3P