1. MARCH MADNESS PLAY-IN GAMES: I absolutely love the passion and intensity these teams play with. I loved watching the FDU vs. Prairie View game Tuesday night and look forward to watching the North Dakota St. vs. NC Central game Wednesday evening. Obviously these teams are the weakest in the field, but they play this game like it’s their NCAA Championship. It’s really cool to see these teams get their moment in the spotlight.
2. MURRAY STATE VS. MARQUETTE: This is the game I’m most pumped up about watching on Thursday. This game features two electrifying perimeter talents in Murray State’s Ja Morant (24.6 points and 10 assists per game) who is a potential top three NBA pick, and Marquette’s Markus Howard (who has had 10 games where he’s scored 30 or more points this season, including a 53-point game). Both of these guys can go at a very high level. The explosiveness and energy will be through the roof.
3. RICHARD PITINO (Minnesota): Don’t believe for a second that it isn’t personal. It sure is! Pitino’s Golden Gophers play Louisville, who fired his dad, Rick, in the first round of the tournament on Thursday. A whole lot of passion and intensity will be put into this game.
4. JEREMY LIN (Raptors): Finally got to see him on Monday against the Knicks in the Delon Wright role, playing off of and with a Kyle Lowry and/or Fred VanVleet. He scored 20 points and looked more comfortable. He has struggled in his time in Toronto, but Monday was encouraging and consistent with what I’ve been saying. With Lowry and VanVleet in the mix, he’s able to play off the ball a lot more, which opens his game up. Nice development. Tough break with Lowry unavailable Wednesday on the road in OKC, but these three lead guards will create a sound chemistry.
5. D’ANGELO RUSSELL (Nets): He was fabulous Tuesday night against Sacramento, going for 44 points and 12 assists – including an amazing 27 points in the fourth quarter. He’s made huge strides this season as a player and as a maturing leader. Significant road win for their team. His impact was big.