For the next two days, sports fans everywhere will be filling out brackets, but come Thursday, all we can do is watch. And that's the true beauty of March Madness.
The madness really begins Tuesday night. The first two of four play-in games will take place in the tournament's semi-new format.
The Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (what a mouthful) and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers kick off tournament activity by competing for the final spot in the South region and the chance to play the No. 1-overall seed Kentucky.
After the three other play-in games are completed, we'll have our tournament set in stone and we can spend the next two weeks of our lives glued to the television.
Here is a complete TV schedule for Thursday's inaugural action so you can keep track of when and how to watch plus a little preview for each matchup.
West: #11 Colorado State (20-11) vs Murray State (30-1), 12:15 pm ET on CBS
The Murray State Racers have been a remarkable team this season, and many are penciling them in as this year's tournament Cinderella. If the Racers want to impress, they'll have to start by beating a Colorado State team that is in the big dance for the first time since 2003. Don't underestimate the Rams. They're at 20-11 after playing the nation's fifth-hardest schedule.
East: #9 Southern Mississippi (25-8) vs #8 Kansas State (21-10), 12:40 pm ET on truTV
The Kansas State basketball team has somewhat fallen off this year, due in part to the successes of their three Big 12 rivals: Missouri, Kansas, and Baylor. But that doesn't mean they won't be dangerous come tournament time. Coach Frank Martin is a loose cannon and will most likely have his team firing on all cylinders against the Golden Eagles.
West: #13 Davidson (25-7) vs #4 Louisville (26-9), 1:40 pm ET on TBS
Did anyone expect Louisville to come out of the Big East tournament as champions? Rick Pitino's Cardinals didn't have a great season (10-8 in Big East play) but definitely have the momentum swing from their Big East championship. And now they play a Davidson team who will run as much as them. If you want a fast-paced basketball game with a legitimate upset possibility, tune in to this one.
East: #13 Montana (25-6) vs #4 Wisconsin (24-9), 2:10 pm ET on TNT
Many don't realize the Montana Grizzlies hold the nation's longest active winning streak. The Big Sky champions will meet Wisconsin with 14 straight victories, having not lost since January 14th. Another fact worth noting: Montana gives up the fewest points in the country (52.9 ppg). Grizzlies-Badgers? This game could get wild.
West: #14 BYU/Iona vs #3 Marquette (25-7), 2:45 pm ET on CBS
The BYU Cougars and Iona Gaels will battle Tuesday to face one of the Big East's best teams: Marquette. The Golden Eagles were embarrassed in tournament play and will have something to prove come Thursday in the big dance. Iona will pose a much greater threat to Marquette with its lethal offensive capability, but there shouldn't be too much of an upset alert on this one.
East: #16 UNC-Asheville (24-9) vs #1 Syracuse (31-2), 3:10 pm ET on truTV
This contest will be the first chance for a No. 1 seed to show their true power against a smaller foe. Will Syracuse do just that? The Orange have been ousted sooner than expected in recent seasons, but don't expect the mighty Bulldogs to send Jim Boeheim's team packing.
West: #12 Long Beach State (25-8) vs #5 New Mexico (27-6), 4:10 pm ET on TBS
Casper Ware of Long Beach St. might be one of the most underrated players in the country with his ability to drain three's and put a game out of reach early. This game puts two conference champions head to head and brings us one of the most interesting matchups in the first round. Don't be surprised if the Long Beach St. 49ers upset the Lobos.
East: #12 Harvard (26-4) vs #5 Vanderbilt (24-10), 4:40 pm ET on TNT
After barely missing out on last year's big dance, the Harvard Crimson are in the tournament for the first time since 1946. Coach Tommy Amaker has built a great program, and something Harvard can be proud of. Can we expect this to be a typical 12-5 upset? Possibly. Vanderbilt considers itself the "Harvard of the South." How ironic.
South: #16 Miss. Valley St/Western Kentucky vs #1 Kentucky (32-2), 6:50 pm ET on TBS
Kentucky is the tournament's No. 1-overall seed for a reason. The team packed full of diaper dandies is great in all aspects of the game and with a coach like John Calipari, anything is achievable. You have to feel sorry for whoever the Wildcats face in Louisville. At least they won the play-in game.
South: #12 VCU (28-6) vs #5 Wichita State (27-5), 7:15 pm ET on CBS
Last year, Shaka Smart had VCU make a Cinderella run to the Final Four. Don't be surprised if they bust your brackets again. Brandon Burgess is a powerful threat for the Rams and could cause trouble for an under-the-radar Wichita State team. This is definitely the most interesting 12-5 contest.
East: #10 West Virginia (19-13) vs #7 Gonzaga (25-6), 7:20 pm ET on TNT
It would be hard to see this as an upset if West Virginia won. Although Gonzaga is the higher seed, there are much more possibilities for the Mountaineers here. Coach Bob Huggins is one of the best in the game for a reason. I'd be surprised if West Virginia didn't "upset" the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
South: #14 South Dakota State (27-7) vs #3 Baylor Bears (27-7), 7:27 pm ET on truTV
South Dakota State has the coolest mascot in the big dance. Unfortunately, that won't net them any points towards an upset of the Baylor Bears. The Jackrabbits' first tournament appearance will likely be cut short by Scott Drew's overachieving ball club. While Baylor's women's team will probably go further than the men's squad, Baylor should be safe for now.
South: #9 Connecticut (20-13) vs #8 Iowa State (22-10), 9:20 pm ET on TBS
The Connecticut Huskies have had a season to be proud of, considering they've been without coach Jim Calhoun for a lot of it and couldn't replace Kemba Walker on the court. If they can stop the Cyclones of Iowa State from making too many three-pointers, the Huskies have a great chance at moving on. Watch for Jeremy Lamb to make some serious noise.
South: #13 New Mexico State (26-9) vs #4 Indiana (25-8), 9:45 pm ET on CBS
The Indiana Hoosiers have been one of the most improved teams this season and are one of only two teams to beat this year's No. 1 seed Kentucky (Vanderbilt being the other). However, the Hoosiers face a legitimate threat here. The Aggies have true inside power and are rolling, coming off of an 82-57 win in their Conference Championship against Louisiana Tech.
East: #15 Loyola, MD (24-8) vs #2 Ohio State (27-7), 9:50 pm ET on TNT
This will be the ugliest game of the first round. The Ohio State Buckeyes will come out with something to prove after losing the Big 10 Championship to the hated Michigan State Spartans, and Loyola (MD) will have to face the wrath. The Buckeyes are going to send the Greyhounds running.
South: #11 Colorado (23-11) vs #6 UNLV (26-8), 9:57 pm ET on truTV
UNLV is one of the most storied basketball programs in history, believe it or not. And the Rebels are in a good spot to be successful again. The Colorado Buffaloes are one of only two teams from the Pac-12 in the big dance (Cal being the other) and it shows how weak the conference was. If they don't take don't take Colorado too seriously, I believe UNLV will let the Buffs slide past them.
Steven Conklin joined the Bleacher Report in October 2011. Steven is a student at the University of Central Missouri and is currently a B/R Intern. Any comments, suggestions, or questions are welcomed.
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