Nothing in sports compares to the first two full days of the NCAA Tournament. It's a unique event thanks to the endless action and widespread appeal, even amongst people who aren't even college basketball fans or sports fans in general.
The journey through March Madness features 16 games on Thursday. To follow along with all the action, check out the live bracket. If you're still looking for a printable bracket to fill out before the games get underway, click here.
Now, let's examine some of the most competitive games on tap for the first half of the Round of 64. All three of these matchups were ones people probably spent a lot of time on while filling out their brackets and they'll soon find out if they made the right call.
Wichita State vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh should enter this game with a chip on its shoulder. The Panthers deserved much better than a No. 8 seed after going 24-8 and 12-6 in the Big East. Even though they don't have a singular superstar, it's a very deep group with players who excel in every key role.
The Panthers' experience in Big East games will also play to their advantage. The best teams Wichita State played all season were VCU and Creighton, two middle seeds in the tournament. Pittsburgh played nine games against ranked teams.
Tray Woodall and Lamar Patterson lead an efficient Panthers offense that will force the game to get played at its preferred slow pace. When you combine those elements with the fact Pittsburgh should rightly feel disrespected, it should emerge victorious.
Prediction: Pittsburgh, 71-65
Saint Mary's vs. Memphis
Saint Mary's already owns a tournament win over Middle Tennessee in one of the play-in games. It was exactly the type of efficient performance that makes the Gaels a legitimate threat to Memphis. Matthew Dellavedova knocked down five threes and scored 22 points in the victory.
He's going to cause a matchup problem for the Tigers, which prefer to play an up-tempo style. Memphis' record is inflated by playing in Conference USA. It went 1-3 in games against other tournament teams, with the only win coming over Harvard.
People making a late dash to finish a bracket before the Thursday action gets start and looking for an upset should start with the Gaels. This game amounts to a toss-up, and they should have the momentum after their opening-round win.
Prediction: Saint Mary's, 77-75
Missouri vs. Colorado State
Colorado State received a terrible draw. The Rams were hoping to have a major rebounding advantage over their Round of 64 opponent as the fourth-ranked team in that category. Instead, they play one of the three teams better than them in Missouri.
Minus that edge, the Rams face an uphill battle. The Tigers feature six different players scoring in double figures, which is depth Colorado State can't match. Having reliable junior Phil Pressey running the offense also helps.
Colorado State should be able to keep it close. Its a good team that just didn't have any luck on Selection Sunday. That said, Missouri seems to have a minor advantage in almost every key area and should lock up the win late.
Prediction: Missouri, 74-69
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