March Madness has begun and one thing's for sure, there's going to be some great basketball games today. With 16 games, the first starting at 12:15 p.m. and the last one starting at 9:57 p.m., it's one of the best days of the year for basketball fans.
However, with this great reward of non-stop college basketball comes a frustrating dilemma. Which games should you watch? Although they all start at different times, the fact remains that will be games that overlap and heaven forbid, possibly games that end at the same time.
Here are my four picks for the games that will be must-see television. It's the round of 64 so while we won't be seeing too many elite matchups, there should still be some really exciting games. Even in the less exciting games, there exists enormous upset potential that could change the face of the tournament.
East Region No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana
Where: The Pit, Albequerque, New Mexico.
When: 2:10 p.m. ET
TV Network: TNT
Betting Line: Wisconsin, -8.5 according to www.vegasinsider.com.
Key Injuries (courtesy of Chicago Tribune)
Montana: Kevin Henderson (ankle), questionable. Jordan Wood (nose), questionable.
Wisconsin: No injuries reported.
My Analysis: On paper this game seems like it should be a blowout. Wisconsin is a four seed with a suffocating defense, while Montana is a 13 seed with no games against any ranked teams this season.
But a closer look reveals conditions that are prime for a upset. Wisconsin has performed awfully against the spread in two of the last three seasons, where they barely got by lower seeded teams. In addition, Montana has won 20 of their last 21 games including 14 straight to end the season.
Already, bracket experts have pegged this game as being one of the rare 13 seed upsets over the four, including Andy Bottoms from www.midwestsportsfans.com.
The Grizzlies come in red hot after winning 20 of their last 21 games, and I think they match up well with Wisconsin.
Guard Will Cherry is a tough defender and would be able to pressure Jordan Taylor, while both teams have big men who can step outside and make shots in Derek Selvig and Jared Berggren.
I agree that this game should be close and have Montana pulling off one of the more surprising upsets in the first round. Expect a close low-scoring defensive battle, thanks to superstar defenders like Montana's Will Cherry. But in the end, I'll take Montana in an upset.
Montana 58 Wisconsin 54.
East Region No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville
Where: CONSOL Energy Center Center, Pittsburgh, PA.
When: 3:10 p.m. ET
TV Network: True TV
Betting Line: Syracuse, -17 according to BetOnline.com.
Key Injuries/Absences: Syracuse: Fab Mello (academic reasons.)
My Analysis: It may seem weird putting a No. 16 vs No. 1 seed in a preview for top games of the day. However, I really feel like UNC-Asheville could take advantage of Fab Mello's absence. Melo is Syracuse's leading rebounder, and he's also very good at blocking the ball. Syracuse's defense will miss him a lot.
UNC-Asheville certainly isn't lacking in confidence. Senior guard Matt Dickey recently expressed his confidence to John Day of the Boston Herald:
To win UNC-Asheville will need big games from both Dickey and J.P. Primm. If they can shoot lights-out from the field and if Syracuse starts slow without Mello, history could be made here.
It's amazing that no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed. Even in a seemingly perfect scenario like this, Syracuse is still the overwhelming favorite. I'm going to go with the Orange to win this one, although it should be closer than the usual blowouts we get in these scenarios.
Syracuse 87 UNC Asheville 73
East Region No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia
Where: CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh PA.
When: 7:20 p.m.
TV Network: TNT.
Spread: Gonzaga, -1 according to Vegasinsider.com
Key Injuries: West Virginia: Kevin Noreen (ankle), definitely out. Pat Forsythe (multiple injuries), definitely out.
Gonzaga: No injuries listed.
My Analysis: This should be another close matchup with a seven seed and a 10 seed. The Zags are favored to prevail in a close game here.
For West Virginia to win they will need to shoot well and frequently get the ball to Kevin Jones. Darryl Bryant could also help Jones carry the offensive load.
Gonzaga is a team known for pulling upsets in the NCAA tournament. Now, they are actually the favored team and I feel like they will get the win.
Gonzaga 70 West Virginia 61
West Region No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 BYU
Where: KFC Yum Center, Louisville, Kentucky.
When: 2:45 p.m. ET.
TV Network: CBS.
Betting Line: Marquette, -6 according to www.docsports.com.
Key Injurys: BYU: Stephen Rogers (knee) out, Ian Harward (Illness) out, Chris Collingsworth (knee) out.
My Analysis: BYU comes into this game very hot after their epic comeback win against Iona. BYU won 78-72 after being down 25 points.
Still, Marquette is favored to win this game. They are far more physical and have the size and strength to give BYU trouble. Marquette will need to use forward Jae Crowder to exploit BYU's defense.
I think that Marquette will win this one. It should be close but BYU's magic from the "First Four" won't be enough to keep them going in the tournament.
Marquette 79 BYU 56
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