While the country anxiously awaits the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament that begins Thursday, the Big Dance actually kicks off on Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton with the First Four games.
There will be two games each day, with the winners joining the round of 64.
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Here is a look at the schedule and broadcast information for the First Four games. Keep in mind that every game throughout the NCAA tournament will be live streamed at NCAA.com/march-madness-live.
|Tuesday, March 18||6:40 p.m.||Albany||Mount St. Mary's||truTV|
|Tuesday, March 18||9:10 p.m.||Xavier||North Carolina State||truTV|
|Wednesday, March 19||6:40 p.m.||Cal Poly||Texas Southern||truTV|
|Wednesday, March 19||9:10 p.m.||Iowa||Tennessee||truTV|
Now that we know what the schedule looks like, let’s dig into a discussion about the stars to watch in the First Four games.
Semaj Christon, Xavier
Semaj Christon led his Xavier Musketeers to victories over the likes of Creighton and Cincinnati this year and feels more battle-tested as a result of playing in the Big East.
Said Christon, according to the Associated Press: “I just think the league is more physical, bigger and stronger. Other than that, every night you're going to have a tough game, home or away.”
Christon finished the season against that stronger competition with nightly averages of 17.1 points, 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals behind 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.
His lateral quickness makes him a formidable defender, and he has no trouble blowing past almost any opponent off the dribble and finishing at the rim when he gets there. If the Musketeers are going to beat North Carolina State, Christon needs to be a major factor.
T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
Much of the discussion in the ACC this year centered on superstars like Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood of Duke, Marcus Paige of North Carolina and C.J. Fair of Syracuse.
However, it was actually T.J. Warren of North Carolina State who took home the conference player of the year award behind nightly averages of 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 52.5 percent shooting from the field.
Warren is a walking mismatch at 6’8” who can take the ball to the rim off the dribble, shoot from mid-range or post up smaller defenders.
The Wolfpack are capable of beating some of the best teams in the country when Warren gets going, as they proved against Syracuse in the ACC tournament, via ESPN College Basketball:
Looking forward, Xavier doesn’t really have anyone on the roster who can be expected to shut Warren down.
If Warren leads the Wolfpack to the round of 64, the Saint Louis Billikens will likely be waiting. The Billikens are a formidable defensive team, but Warren is one of the most talented players in the entire country.
Don’t be surprised when North Carolina State is in the round of 32 thanks to Warren’s excellence.
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
Roy Devyn Marble made some recent history for the Iowa basketball team this season, as its official Twitter page pointed out:
Roy Devyn Marble becomes the first Hawkeye since Adam Haluska in 2007 to garner first-team All-Big Ten accolades. #Hawkeyes— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 10, 2014
Marble averaged 17.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game this year behind 42.8 percent shooting from the field and 36.4 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. Much like Warren, he is something of a walking mismatch at 6’6” because he is often too quick off the dribble for larger forwards and too physical for smaller guards.
Iowa struggled down the stretch of the regular season, but Marble will lead his team to a victory over Tennessee in the First Four matchup.
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