Who the Rumble likes on Thursday besides Bill Raftery: NCAA Tournament open thread

It's that time of year, all of you NCAA junkies and closet Long Beach St. enthusiasts.

The NCAA Tournament brings about a pretty accurate definition of American sports. With its pure emotion, stifling competition, one-step-from-death format, and acceptable gambling, the NCAA Tournament exposes the best and worst of athletics and its fans. It's the one time per year you stop cooking dinner to watch the opening tip of New Mexico St. and Indiana.

You're a die-hard fan of 32 teams, and would want to see nothing other than to see the other 32 crumble before your eyes. From Thursday at noon until Sunday night, you and college basketball are the most effortless, maintenance-free relationship you've had since grade school.

So, put down the books, grab a seat, and prepare to take in some calories. It's arguably the best time of year in sports, and it all starts Thursday.

The Rumble's Thursday Round of 64 predictions, below the fold, along with estimated start times, locations, and TV stations for each NCAA Tournament game, below the fold.

Location Day Time Station Game
Pico
Quinn
Tim
KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY) Thursday, March 15 12:15 PM CBS Colorado St. #11 W
vs. Murray St. #6 W
x
x
x
Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh, PA) Thursday, March 15 12:40 PM truTV Southern Miss #9 E
vs. Kansas St. #8 E
x
x
x
Rose Garden (Portland, Ore.) Thursday, March 15 1:40 PM TBS Davidson #13 W
vs. Louisville #4 W
x
x
x
The Pit (Albuquerque, NM) Thursday, March 15 2:10 PM TNT Montana #13 E
vs. Wisconsin #4 E
x
x
x
KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY) Thursday, March 15 2:45 PM CBS BYU #14
vs. Marquette #3 W
x
x
x
Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh, PA) Thursday, March 15 3:10 PM truTV NC-Asheville #16 E
vs. Syracuse #1 E
x
x
x
Rose Garden (Portland, Ore.) Thursday, March 15 4:10 PM TBS Long Beach St. #12 W
x
x
vs. New Mexico #5 W
x
The Pit (Albuquerque, NM) Thursday, March 15 4:40 PM TNT Harvard #12 E
x
x
vs.Vanderbilt #5 E
x
KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY) Thursday, March 15 6:50 PM TBS Western Ky. #16
vs. Kentucky #1 S
x
x
x
Rose Garden (Portland, Ore.) Thursday, March 15 7:15 PM CBS VCU #12 S
x
vs. Wichita St. #5 S
x
x
Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh, PA) Thursday, March 15 7:20 PM TNT West Virginia #10 E
x
x
vs. Gonzaga #7 E
x
The Pit (Albuquerque, NM) Thursday, March 15 7:27 PM truTV S. Dakota St. #14 S
vs. Baylor #3 S
x
x
x
KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY) Thursday, March 15 9:20 PM TBS Connecticut #9 S
x
x
x
vs. Iowa St. #8 S
Rose Garden (Portland, Ore.) Thursday, March 15 9:45 PM CBS New Mexico St. #13 S
vs. Indiana #4 S
x
x
x
Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh, PA) Thursday, March 15 9:50 PM TNT Loyola (Md.) #15 E
vs. Ohio St. #2 E
x
x
x
The Pit (Albuquerque, NM) Thursday, March 15 9:57 PM truTV Colorado #11 S
vs. UNLV #6 S
x
x
x

Our picks for most intriguing games of the day:

Quinn's pick: Iowa St. Cyclones vs. Connecticut Huskies. Has anyone been more fickle than UConn this year? Between not living up (or anywhere close) to preseason predictions and losing Jim Calhoun for almost all of February, the Huskies were unable to find consistency all season. But that's just the thing. All of that sporadic play goes out the window. Don't you remember that they did the same deal last year before winning the whole darn thing? No one truly knows which Huskies we'll see Thursday night in Louisville.

Then there's Iowa State, who is coached by former Cyclone himself and NBA player Fred Hoiberg. In just one year, Hoiberg has raised his Big XII win total from 3 to 12. They play a style that forces the hand of the opponent. It will be quite interesting to see how they fare, much closer to home, against the talented Huskies.

Tim's pick: Va. Commonwealth Rams versus Wichita St. Shockers. After VCU's incredible run under Coach Shaka Smart last year. it's time to see if they can be the Butlers of March again. Bradford Burgess and Juvonte Reddic have been the glue guys for the Rams this season. They will need to continue their double-digit scoring plus solid rebounding will be big.

A player to watch for the Rams if they want to get a win will be D.J. Haley. The only 7-footer on the roster, Haley will have to go up against Wichita State's 7-footer, Garrett Stutz who is averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds. If Haley can size-up Stutz and take him out of his rhythm, it could be a huge momentum shift for VCU.

Pico's pick: Long Beach St. 49ers vs. New Mexico Lobos. The Beach, led by tiny Casper Ware and coach Dan Monson of Gonzaga and Minnesota fame, have been one of the best teams on the west coast this year. The Beach is 25-8 on the season with wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier, and close losses to San Diego State (4 points, at San Diego State), Kansas (8 points, at Kansas), and North Carolina (6 points, at UNC). To be fair, they also got smoked on the road to Louisville and Kansas State. But the Beach have prepared for this moment, and hope to add to their long basketball history.

The defensive-minded New Mexico team led by coach Steve Alford have felt overlooked all season, but they have 27 wins under their belt, former UCLA center Drew Gordon eating up rebounds, and a number of very good shooters for spacing. They are sound and tough; but will the dynamic Ware etch his name into that long list of low-major guards who are talked about for years?

How do you feel about the picks? What would you change? Leave a comment below.

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Schedule recap, with links to the Rumble St. John's game recaps and links to re-watch games

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