The NCAA tournament's second-round action gets underway on Thursday, and there are plenty of intriguing games to be excited about, even those involving squads with a rather large disparity in seeding.
This college basketball season has been as wild as any in recent memory, but few of the top seeds are in danger of falling this early on in March Madness. Thursday's schedule includes a couple of mid-major matchups and several other contests with tangible upset potential.
Here is a breakdown of where to catch the best games on Day 3, including a preview and prediction for each game.
Note: In addition to the following TV listings, see the bottom of this article for live stream information.
(3) Marquette Golden Eagles vs. (14) Davidson Wildcats—3:10 p.m. ET on truTV
No one is hotter than the Wildcats entering the tournament. Bob McKillop's bunch is riding a nation-best 17-game winning streak and was arguably snubbed out of a higher seed.
That perceptive lack of respect from the selection committee should drive Davidson to compete extremely well in this one. Seven players average seven points or more for the Wildcats, and 6'10" senior forward Jake Cohen leads the way.
Cohen's three-point shooting ability will stretch out the Marquette defense, but the Wildcats will have trouble matching up with the likes of 290-pound Golden Eagles forward Davante Gardner on the inside.
Marquette should have an advantage on the boards, and its stellar man-to-man defense should help stymie Davidson. However, the Wildcats will be looking to pull the trigger early in the shot clock, and if they sink shots early, it could be an insurmountable hole for the Golden Eagles.
It's really tempting to go with this as Thursday's upset special, but seeing the Big East regular-season co-champions bow out this early would be a massive shock.
Against much better competition than they've faced since Southern Conference play began, look for the Wildcats to get off to a hot start but eventually stop sinking jumpers as the pace inevitably slows down.
Prediction: Marquette 72, Davidson 67
(6) Butler Bulldogs vs. (11) Bucknell Bison—12:40 p.m. ET on truTV
With Butler joining the new Big East (h/t ESPN New York), the Bulldogs are officially not much of a Cinderella story anymore. They have also beaten No. 1 seeds Indiana and Gonzaga this season, but haven't been playing quite as well in recent weeks.
The Bison may be the next mid-major upstart geared for a deep run. Led by outstanding senior center Mike Muscala, who averages 19 points and 11 rebounds per contest, Bucknell also has two guards in Bryson Johnson and Cameron Ayers who can fill it up from beyond the arc.
That type of inside-out offense should give even the exceptional defense of Butler some issues. Still, though, it's hard to count the Bulldogs out this early.
Andrew Smith has the chops to neutralize the crafty Muscala in the post while also contributing valuable points.
The Patriot League champions could be one of the day's feel-good stories, but Butler head coach Brad Stevens will have Butler prepared for anything the Bison throw his team's way. Look for this to be a low-scoring affair, with the Bulldogs narrowly escaping.
Prediction: Butler 58, Bucknell 55
(5) Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. (12) Akron Zips—9:45 p.m. ET on CBS
Shaka Smart's Rams should once again be a major factor in the NCAA tournament. The havoc-wreaking, full-court pressure that he deploys defensively gives teams fits.
That should be no exception against Akron, because the Zips are going to struggle breaking it without the services of typical starting point guard Alex Abreu, who was suspended after a drug arrest.
It has been a wonderful season for the Zips otherwise, though, and their true leader is senior seven-footer Zeke Marshall. Not only is he a strong defender in the paint, but he also leads Akron in scoring and shoots better than 65 percent from the field.
That depends on settling into the halfcourt sets and feeding the ball down to Marshall in the post, which will prove to be difficult for the Zips due to the attacking style of their opponent.
Juvonte Reddic is the tallest player in the Rams' main rotation at 6'9", but that hasn't necessarily been a problem for VCU throughout the year.
The firepower the Rams have on offense, with Traveon Graham, Reddic, Troy Daniels and Rob Brandenburg all averaging in double-figures, will be too much for the Zips to overcome.
Prediction: VCU 68, Akron 60
(6) Arizona Wildcats vs. (11) Belmont Bruins—7:20 p.m. ET on TNT
Prolific scorer Ian Clark may very well emerge as Thursday's shining star if he can drive the Bruins to an upset over their Pac-12 foe in this West region clash.
What makes this so captivating is the hype that Belmont has generated in the media. As Dave Climer of the USA TODAY points out, President Barack Obama, CBS analyst Seth Davis and several other high-profile bracketologists picked the Bruins to pull this one out.
That will put a chip on the Wildcats' shoulder, according to Arizona senior Kevin Parrom. However, Sean Miller's squad enters the tournament just 5-5 in its last 10 games.
The Bruins are riding a wave of momentum after a buzzer-beating overtime victory over Murray State to win the Ohio Valley Conference final.
Clark and Kerron Johnson form a dynamic backcourt for Belmont. This is the third straight time the team has gotten here, without a win in two previous occasions. Look for the inconsistent Wildcats to turn it over frequently and get out-gunned from beyond the arc by the staggeringly efficient Bruins.
Prediction: Belmont 80, Arizona 75
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