The NCAA tournament officially gets started on Tuesday with two of the four play-in games in the first round getting ready to start up.
The first round will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, then the real action will get started on Thursday with the round of 64 starting up with games on for around 12 hours.
But before we can get to the round of 64, there are still four play-in games to watch for, so let's take a look at the schedule for Day 1 of the NCAA tournament, followed by picks for the first two games.
You can view the official NCAA bracket here.
Day 1 Schedule
|NCAA Tournament Day 1 Schedule|
|Date||1st Round||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Tue, March 18||(16) Albany vs. (16) Mt. 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|
No. 16 Albany vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's
Date: Tuesday, March 18
Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament, but that doesn't mean that these two play-in teams won't be giving it their all to at least advance to the second round.
The Albany Great Danes will be taking on the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers. While the Great Danes had a respectable record at 18-14, the Mountaineers went just 16-16. But Mount St. Mary's has gotten hot at the perfect time, winning four straight games, including the Northeast Conference title game against Robert Morris, to get here.
But it's not like Albany has been cold, as they've won six of their last seven. In order for the Great Danes to take down the Mountaineers, they will need to focus on perimeter defense. Opponents have shot 35.2 percent from behind the arc against Albany, and the Mountaineers will be putting up plenty of threes, as they make an average of 8.9 per game, with Rashad Whack making 2.5 per contest.
Fans may not always watch the play-in games, but this one should actually be an entertaining matchup, even if the winner will likely lose against the Florida Gators in the next round.
No. 12 N.C. State vs. No. 12 Xavier
Date: Tuesday, March 18
Time: 9:10 p.m. ET
While the winner of the first game on Tuesday will likely be one-and-done, the winner of the second game might have a chance to win another one, as they will head into the second round to play the No. 5 St. Louis Billikens.
The N.C. State Wolfpack went just 9-9 in the ACC this season, but their strong record out of the conference helped them go 21-13 and punch a surprise ticket to the tournament. It was a surprise to most of their team, and their reaction to getting a tournament bid was priceless:
Meanwhile, the Xavier Musketeers are 21-12 this season with a 10-8 record in their first year in the Big East, taking down teams like Creighton and Cincinnati to help their tournament resume.
For the Musketeers, one of the big keys to the game will be how effective center Matt Stainbrook can be, as he sprained his left knee in the second to last regular-season game. According to the Associated Press (via USA Today), Stainbrook should be good to go.
"I feel a ton better," Stainbrook said before practice Tuesday. "I've had a little more time to get my legs back."
The key for the Wolfpack will obviously be for T.J. Warren to light it up from the field. He's averaging more than a third of the team's points, putting up 24.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field. Considering he's just a sophomore, that's pretty impressive, but the Wolfpack will be in trouble if he can't step up in a big game like this one.
Overall, this is an interesting matchup between two bubble teams, and we'll see which team was more deserving of a tourney bid in this First Four contest.
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