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NCAA Matchup: Utah State vs. Northwestern

NCAA Matchup: Utah State vs. Northwestern
Photo: Utah State Athletics
The first round of the NCAA tournament should be pretty cut and dry. The disparity between the top 16 No. 1 seeds and No. 4 seeds is significant. We don't expect any upsets in the first round there… but since this is the NCAA tournament, teams come out of the woodwork and play out of their minds so anything is possible. 

However, there are some interesting first-round matchups between No. 2 and No. 3 seeds that could go either way.

Coming in at No. 1 on the list is...

No. 21 Northwestern vs. No. 45 Utah State

Northwestern started out strong this year. The Wildcats beat No. 6 TCU 4-2 at the very beginning of the season and went on a 10-match winning tear -- taking out No. 19 Georgia Tech along the way. Then NCAA indoors happened, and things went downhill. Northwestern lost all three matches in the tournament and then fell to Notre Dame, the No. 50 team, 4-1 in its next match. The Wildcats also lost to No. 30 Wisconsin in the regular season and in the Big Ten tournament.

Utah State has a similar story. The Aggies had a strong period of winning and swept 10 of their opponents this year. They had a loss to a lower-ranked team like Northwestern did (fell to No. 47 San Diego). Utah State also beat TCU (4-3) and lost every match at ITA indoors.

These teams are oddly similar, but Utah State has never done this well and exceeded expectations by making it into the ITA National Indoor tournament.

These two teams seem pretty well matched, and the Aggies are ecstatic to be in the tournament. They're the kind of team to bring it and leave it all out on the court. I could be overestimating Utah State's abilities, but I always love a good underdog story and think USU has a chance to upset Northwestern. If the Aggies can pull it off, it will definitely live up to its title as the best first-round match.

PREDICTION: Utah State def. Northwestern 4-3

Other matchups on the list:
5) No. 32 Kentucky vs. No. 40 Georgia State
4) No. 22 South Florida vs. No. 35 Duke
3) No. 24 Oregon vs. No. 34 Memphis
2) No. 33 Florida State vs. No. 39 Arkansas
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