USA TODAY Sports
The tournament has started!!!
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12:15 #14 Valparaiso 26-7vs #3 Michigan State (25-8) Auburn Hills, MI CBS
A virtual home game for Michigan State... but not a far trip for Valparaiso, either. I'm all about the chalk in this one, despite Valpo's solid big man Kevin Van Wijk.
12:40 #11 Bucknell (28-5) vs #6 Butler (26-8) Lexington, KY TRU TV
Can Butler outscheme the fantastic 6'11 forward Mike Muscala? I don't think so (though many others would disagree). Butler's Rotnei Clarke can SHOOT. He can shoot with one hand behind his back and man in a Jason Voorhies mask tickling his toes with a feather.
1:40 #9 Wichita State (26-8) vs #8 Pittsburgh (24-8) Salt Lake City, UT TBS
Wichita State has a lot of pluck and fought Creighton hard for the regular season and conference crowns in the Missouri Valley Conference. Guard Malcolm Armstead will need to take over for a Shockers win. Pitt does not shoot threes, which will be their downfall... but not this afternoon, as they defend their way to a win. Watch for Tray Woodall at point, Lamar Patterson all over the floor, and Steven Adams' defense.
2:10 #13 New Mexico State (24-10) vs #4 Saint Louis (27-6) San Jose, CA TNT
Saint Louis plays excellent defense and has a solid roster of quick guards and big Australians; Kwamain Mitchell, Jordair Jett, and Cody Ellis are standouts. New Mexico State has a plodding 7'5" Sim Bhullar, one of the few players in the NCAA of Indian descent. They also have former St. John's recruiting target Remi Barry. But they don't do anything well.
2:45 #11 St. Mary's (28-6) vs #6 Memphis (30-4) Auburn Hills, MI CBS
I'm picking St. Mary's in this one, but Memphis coach Josh Pastner might finally have the team that can get him some wins in the NCAA Tournament. Joe Jackson is small and FAST. D.J. Stephens (STEFF-ens) is very good on defense. St. Mary's counters with solid guard Matthew Dellavedova and big Australians. Mitchell Young and Brad Wadlow make their presence known in rebounding.
3:10 #14 Davidson (26-7) vs #3 Marquette (23-8) Lexington, KY TRU TV
Davidson is experienced, rolling, and has an excellent coach in Long Islander Bob McKillop. Jake Cohen stars at 6'10" with some range, and De`Mon Brooks is a solid player. But Marquette goes ten deep, draw fouls with their outside in attack, and despite some lulls in play, tend to pull all kinds of wins out of their nether regions. Watch for BIG man Davante Gardner and slashing wing Vander Blue.
4:10 #16 Southern (23-9) vs #1 Gonzaga (31-2) Salt Lake City, UT TBS
Usually 1 seeds have an easy time. Southern isn't terrible, having romped through the SWAC with excellent defense. But can their center Brandon Moore and forward Javan Mitchell alter enough shots? Probably not. Get introduced to the flowing locks and excellent post play of Kelly Olynyk; Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, and John Stockton's son David Stockton will be making plays on the perimeter.
4:40 #12 Oregon (26-8) vs #5 Oklahoma State (24-8) San Jose, CA TNT
Arsalan Kazemi is impressive on defense and in rebounding. If he gets help from the athletic wing scorer E.J. Singler (Kyle's younger brother) and guards Dominic Artis/ Jonathan Loyd, the Ducks could upend likely top-5 draft pick Marcus Smart of the Oklahoma State Sooners. Markel Brown and Phil Forte need to come up with big shots for Oklahoma State; Le`Bryan Nash has a little Ron Artest in him. Maybe a lot.
6:50 #16 North Carolina A&T (20-16) vs #1 Louisville (29-5) Lexington, KY TBS
Dude. Come on. Louisville might be sloppy for a few minutes in this game while they wake up from their nap (and hour trip from Louisville), but this wll be the bludgeoning of the day.
7:15 #13 South Dakota State (25-9) vs #4 Michigan (26-7) Auburn Hills, MI CBS
You want to watch this game. It will flow, Nate Wolters will keep South Dakota State (the Jackrabbits!) in the game, and Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway (Tim Hardaway's son) and Nik Stauskas will take care of shooting business.
7:20 #11 Belmont (26-6) vs #6 Arizona (25-7) Salt Lake City, UT TNT
Danger game for Arizona. Belmont has Ian Clark, who may be the best shooter in college basketball off the dribble. Is he quick enough to evade Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons, though? Rick Byrd's Belmont Bruins will play small and quick. Arizona needs their big man Solomon Hill to keep up, and for Bronx' Kevin Parrom to make the dirty-work plays.
7:27 #12 California (20-11) vs #5 UNLV (25-9) San Jose, CA TRU TV
Cal has a lot of height, and I have convinced myself that they can beat a talented Nevada Las Vegas team. Cal has Allen Crabbe, an excellent shooter, and David Kravish and Richard Solomon providing height in the paint. UNLV's Anthony Bennett may be a draft pick after this, his freshman year. The Rebels are inconsistent scorers but excellent defenders, with Mike Moser, Khem Birch (formerly of Pitt) providing height inside.
9:20 #9 Missouri (23-10) vs #8 Colorado State (25-8) Lexington, KY TBS
Phil Pressey will try to carry the Mizzou Tigers to the next round with dunk artist Keion Bell (formerly of Pepperdine) and big man Alex Oriakhi (formerly of Connecticut). The CSU Rams counter with some of the most dominant rebounding you will see, starting with former Minnesota big man Colton Iverson and wing Pierce Hornung.
9:45 #12 Akron (26-6) vs #5 VCU (26-8) Auburn Hills, MI CBS
VCU's well-regarded Havoc defense is easy to score against if you get past the pressure. With their starting point guard suspended, expect the pressure to get to the Akron Zips. ACU's Juvonte Reddic will dunk a lot.
9:50 #14 Harvard (19-9) vs #3 New Mexico (29-5) Salt Lake City, UT TNT
Harvard is good at basketball these days. Don't forget that. Siyani Chambers is a player who could play for a major-conference team, and the Crimson have some height. They also have some injuries, and some reluctant perimeter shooters in Laurent Rivard and Christian Webster; they will struggle to find open looks against the height and mass of New Mexico with Hugh Greenwood and fellow Australian Cameron Bairstow. Tony Snell will be impressive, a long, athletic shooter.
9:57 #13 Montana (25-6) vs #4 Syracuse (26-9)
Montana is missing their solid big man Mathias Ward. Syracuse's zone will handle Will Cherry, Jordan Gregory, and run away with the win. Watch Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams - wild but exciting. James Southerland will light up from the perimeter.