There's nothing quite like the first weekend of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. For now, Florida enters as the tourney as the No. 1 overall seed, but anything can happen during March Madness.
By the end of the action on Sunday, the field of 68 will shrink to just 16. Until then, we can expect a lot of excitement, heroism and heartbreak as these college kids try to steal the spotlight on college basketball's biggest stage.
Here's a look at the entire schedule for Thursday and Friday with a closer look at some intriguing matchups, while TV times for the weekend will be announced once the first slate of games is finished. You can also watch every game streaming live online at CBS March Madness Live.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
|Thursday, March 20 Schedule|
|12:15 p.m.||(11) Dayton||(6) Ohio State||CBS|
|12:40 p.m.||(15) American||(2) Wisconsin||truTV|
|1:40 p.m.||(9) Pittsburgh||(8) Colorado||TBS|
|2:10 p.m.||(12) Harvard||(5) Cincinnati||TNT|
|2:45 p.m.||(14) Western Michigan||(3) Syracuse||CBS|
|3:10 p.m.||(10) BYU||(7) Oregon||truTV|
|4:10 p.m.||(16) Albany/Mt. St. Mary's||(1) Florida||TBS|
|4:40 p.m.||(13) Delaware||(4) Michigan State||TNT|
|6:55 p.m.||(10) St. Joseph's||(7)UConn||TBS|
|7:10 p.m.||(15)Wofford||(2) Michigan||CBS|
|7:20 p.m.||(12) N.C. State/Xavier||(5) St. Louis||TNT|
|7:27 p.m.||(12) North Dakota State||(5) Oklahoma||truTV|
|9:25 p.m.||(15) Milwaukee||(2) Villanova||TBS|
|9:40 p.m.||(10) Arizona State||(7) Texas||CBS|
|9:50 p.m.||(13) Manhattan||(4) Louisville||TNT|
|9:57 p.m.||(13) New Mexico State||(4) San Diego State||truTV|
|Friday, March 21 Schedule|
|12:15 p.m.||(14) Mercer||(3) Duke||CBS|
|12:40 p.m.||(11) Nebraska||(6) Baylor||truTV|
|1:40 p.m.||(10) Stanford||(7) New Mexico||TBS|
|2:10 p.m.||(16) Weber State||(1) Arizona||TNT|
|2:45 p.m.||(11) Iowa/Tennessee||(6) UMass||CBS|
|3:10 p.m.||(14) La.-Lafayette||(3) Creighton||truTV|
|4:10 p.m.||(15) Eastern Kentucky||(2) Kansas||TBS|
|4:40 p.m.||(9) Oklahoma State||(8) Gonzaga||TNT|
|6:55 p.m.||(9) George Washington||(8) Memphis||TBS|
|7:10 p.m.||(16) Cal Poly/Texas Southern||(1) Wichita State||CBS|
|7:20 p.m.||(11) Providence||(6) North Carolina||TNT|
|7:27 p.m.||(12) Stephen F. Austin||(5) VCU||truTV|
|9:25 p.m.||(16) Coastal Carolina||(1) Virginia||TBS|
|9:40 p.m.||(9) Kansas State||(8) Kentucky||CBS|
|9:50 p.m.||(14) N.C. Central||(3) Iowa State||TNT|
|9:57 p.m.||(13) Tulsa||(4) UCLA||truTV|
(4) Michigan State vs. (13) Delaware
Date: Thursday, March 20
Time: 4:40 p.m. EDT
After winning the Big Ten championship on Sunday with a 69-55 victory over archrival No. 7 Michigan, the Michigan State Spartans are picked by many to go deep in the Big Dance. But don't sleep on the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens.
MSU coach Tom Izzo has cultivated a winning program that always seems to shine brightest during March Madness, and his team has already showed it can play well under tournament pressure this past week. In each of the past two seasons, the Spartans have exited in the Sweet 16.
But in order to get to the second weekend, MSU (26-8) will have to get passed a well balanced Delaware team (25-9) that put together a late rally to win the Colonial Athletic Association title last week.
This marks the first time since 1999 that Delaware has reached the tourney, and coach Monte Ross sounds like he's looking forward to the challenge, per Kevin Tresolini of the Delaware News Journal.
Like I told the guys, there are going to be no bad teams in this tournament. There are going to be no teams that aren't worthy of being in the tournament. So we were going to get a very, very good team. I didn't think we'd get the winner of the Big Ten Tournament championship. But with Tom Izzo you're getting a Hall-of-Fame coach. You're getting a team that's battle-tested in the NCAA Tournament. But, you know what? That's the beauty of March, that you get an opportunity to play games just like this.
Delaware features five double-digit scorers, including a trio of talented guards in Devon Saddler (19.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG), Davon Usher (19.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG) and Jarvis Threatt (18.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG). Forward Carl Baptiste—listed at 6'9", 260 lbs—has also stepped up his play lately and has season averages of 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
But the Spartans also have four scorers who averaged at least 10 points a game in Gary Harris (17.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG), center Adreian Payne (15.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG), guard Keith Appling (12.3 PPG, 4.6 APG) and forward Branden Dawson (10.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG).
It's no wonder that the more talented and experienced Spartans are the favorites in this one, but Delaware features a potent offense that takes care of the ball and will surely he a handful.
(7) Texas vs. (10) Arizona State
Date: Thursday, March 20
Time: 9:40 p.m. EDT
According to VegasInsider.com, this contest currently features the smallest spread (Texas favored by 1.5 points) of any second-round NCAA tournament game on the schedule. It also features some interesting back storylines, as Steve Patterson became Texas' athletic director in November after leaving the same position at Arizona State.
On the court, this matchup will feature two teams that struggled to close out the regular season. While Texas (23-10) has gone 3-5 in its past eight contests, the Sun Devils (21-11) are 2-5 since defeating Arizona in double overtime on Valentine's Day.
But as Chris Karpman of ASUDevils.com relayed, ASU coach Herb Sendek is looking forward to a clean slate.
The Longhorns feature one of the youngest rosters in the country and it's led to inconsistent results. While there is no doubting the talented core of forward Jonathan Holmes (13 PPG, 7.0 RPG), guard Isaiah Taylor (12.5 PPG, 3.9 APG) and center Cameron Ridley (11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG), Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic noted they have trouble shooting consistently.
The Longhorns don't shoot well. Their effective field-goal percentage (which takes into account the extra value of a made 3-pointer) is 47.3 percent, which ranks 264th nationally. In fact, all of their shooting numbers (from 2-point range, 3-point range and the foul line) rank 244th or worse.
ASU is led by the inside-out duo of point guard Jahii Carson (18.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.0 RPG) and 7'2" center Jordan Bachynski (11.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.1 BPG), who was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Another Sun Devil to keep an eye on is senior guard Jermaine Marshall, who is averaging 15 points per game for Sendek this year.
But the Sun Devils have also looked lost on occasion this year, as evidenced by the late-season swoon. In the end, this contest could come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes.
(5) VCU vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin
Date: Friday, March 21
Time: 7:27 p.m. EDT
VCU coach Shaka Smart is used to being the underdog, but after his team went 26-8 in the competitive Atlantic 10 Conference, his program is no longer low-profile come March.
But the Rams will likely be without 6'3" guard Melvin Johnson, a sharpshooter who averaged 10.4 points per game while averaging 2.0 three-pointers per game with a 39.5 field-goal percentage from beyond the arc.
Johnson suffered a knee injury in the A-10 semifinal and has been ruled doubtful, per the school's Twitter account.
As such, VCU will have to be on upset watch against Stephen F. Austin, which went 31-2 in the unheralded Southland Conference. SFA suffered early-season losses to Texas and East Tennessee State in November, but the Lumberjacks have won 28 straight entering play Friday.
It always seems like the 5-12 matchups produce an upset in this tournament. Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner of ESPN.com (subscription required) offered their take on why SFA could pull off a win on Friday.
They force turnovers at a staggering rate (24.4 percent of opponent possessions, ranking third in the NCAA); at the same time, they protect the ball, and the combination drags out the length of their possessions to an average of 20.5 seconds and slows the pace of their games (ranking 304th). They shoot 3s frequently and effectively, and despite having no starters taller than 6-foot-6, they pull down 38.5 percent of missed shots (ranking 11th).
While SFA has a quartet of players that average at least 12 points per game, VCU also has a menacing style of defensive play that makes it hard to keep up with. This figures to be a gritty game with two tough teams, but the Rams should look to 6'9" forward Juvonte Reddic (11.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG) to exploit SFA's lack of size down low.