The 2014 NCAA tournament will tip off on Tuesday night from Dayton, Ohio with two win-or-go-home first-round matchups.
In the opener, a pair of No. 16 seeds, Albany and Mount St. Mary's, will battle for the unenviable right to play overall No. 1 seed Florida on Thursday afternoon in Orlando. Afterward, a pair of 12th-seeded sleepers, N.C. State and Xavier, will square off for a berth in the Midwest Region second round.
The winner will take on a vulnerable fifth-seeded Saint Louis squad on Thursday night.
With the madness set to begin, here we'll get you set with everything you need to know for Day 1.
*Spread info and tournament odds according to VegasInsider.com.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
First-Round Day 1 Schedule
|Day 1 Schedule|
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Tue, March 18||(16) Albany vs. (16) Mount St. Mary's||6:40 p.m.||truTV||March Madness Live|
|Tue, March 18||(12) NC State vs. (12) Xavier||9:10 p.m.||truTV||March Madness Live|
NCAA Tournament Odds
|2014 NCAA Tournament Odds (to win it all)|
|(12) NC State||900-1|
|(16) Albany||100-1 (the field)|
|(16) Mount St. Mary's||100-1 (the field)|
No. 16 Albany (-2.5) vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's
In Tuesday's first first-round showdown, America East champions Albany will go head-to-head against surprising Northeast Conference winners Mount St. Mary's, who finished the regular season with a 16-16 record.
The Mountaineers were mediocre at best over the course of the year but got hot late to win their conference tournament and steal an automatic bid.
Albany also picked up steam late, winning six of seven games to close out the regular season. But despite the fact that the Great Danes posted a better record and are slight favorites, watch for Mount St. Mary's to win its fifth in a row and earn the right to play No. 1 Florida in the second round on Thursday.
After all, the Mountaineers are a much more dangerous team offensively, boasting two prolific scorers in Rashad Whack and Julian Norfleet, who are each averaging close to 18 points per game coming into Tuesday's NCAA tournament opener.
Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian is well aware of Albany's potential and where his team must attack on Tuesday in order to be successful, per The Baltimore Sun's Pete Barrett:
They play two post guys. They are one of the better rebounding teams in their league. They shoot a high percentage from [3-point range], although they shoot a lot of 3s, and they allow their opponents to take a lot of 3s.
In addition to relying on the three, Albany depends heavily on sophomore Peter Hooley from Australia. The 6'4" guard leads the team in scoring and three-point shooting and will need to deliver a big-time performance to propel the Great Danes to another win.
Mount St. Mary's 72, Albany 65
No. 12 N.C. State (+2.5) vs. No. 12 Xavier
Tuesday's nightcap pitting 12th-seeded N.C. State against 12th-seeded Xavier will feature two teams trending in opposite directions.
While the Wolfpack won four of their last five to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance, the Musketeers finished the year losing three of their last four. Unsurprisingly, many, including ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, like N.C. State to advance to the second round, where they'll have an excellent shot to upset No. 5 Saint Louis on Thursday.
Led by sophomore forward T.J. Warren, who's averaging 24.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season, the Wolfpack will have a great chance at advancing so long as they can contain the Musketeers on the boards and limit second-chance opportunities.
Xavier is led by sophomore guard Semaj Christon, who's averaging 17 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. Containing Christon and closing out on him on the arc will be key for Mark Gottfried's side as they look to capitalize on the selection committee's generosity on Tuesday.
Watch for them to keep Christon under wraps and build off the momentum gained in Greensboro, N.C., last week en route to an early tournament triumph.
NC State 69, Xavier 63
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