The madness is finally here.
Whether you have been watching college basketball all season or you're just tuning in now, everyone gets excited for the first few rounds of the NCAA tournament. The first weekend truly embodies chaos in a way that no other sport can handle.
Last season, fans saw a region where the No. 10, 12, 13 and 14 seeds all advanced to at least the round of 32. However, this was overshadowed by Florida Gulf Coast becoming the first No. 15 team to reach the Sweet 16.
There are certain to be more exciting scenarios that most people have not even dreamed about set to take place this time around.
Buckle up and get ready for the thrilling ride that is the first Thursday of March Madness. Here is a guide for everything you need to know about the action.
*Spread info and tournament odds according to VegasInsider.com.
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Second Round Day 1 Schedule
|Ohio State (6) vs. Dayton (11)||OSU -6||12:15 p.m.||CBS||Dayton|
|Wisconsin (2) vs. American (15)||WISC -13.5||12:40 p.m.||truTV||Wisconsin|
|Colorado (8) vs. Pittsburgh (9)||PITT -6.5||1:40 p.m.||TBS||Pittsburgh|
|Cincinnati (5) vs. Harvard (12)||CIN -3||2:10 p.m.||TNT||Cincinnati|
|Syracuse (3) vs. W Michigan (14)||SYR -13||2:45 p.m.||CBS||Syracuse|
|Oregon (7) vs. BYU (10)||ORE -5.5||3:10 p.m.||truTV||Oregon|
|Florida (1) vs. Albany (16)||FLA -21.5||4:10 p.m.||TBS||Florida|
|Michigan St. (4) vs. Delaware (13)||MSU -14||4:40 p.m.||TNT||Mich St.|
|UConn (7) vs. Saint Joseph's (10)||CONN -4.5||6:55 p.m.||TBS||UConn|
|Michigan (2) vs. Wofford (15)||MICH -16||7:10 p.m.||CBS||Michigan|
|Saint Louis (5) vs. North Carolina St. (12)||STL -3||7:20 p.m.||TNT||NC St.|
|Oklahoma (5) vs. North Dakota St. (12)||OKLA -3.5||7:27 p.m.||truTV||Oklahoma|
|Villanova (2) vs. Milwaukee (15)||VILL -16.5||9:25 p.m.||TBS||Villanova|
|Texas (7) vs. Arizona St. (10)||TEX -2||9:40 p.m.||CBS||Arizona St.|
|Louisville (4) vs. Manhattan (13)||LOU -16.5||9:50 p.m.||TNT||Louisville|
|San Diego St. (4) vs. New Mexico St. (13)||SDSU -7||9:57 p.m.||truTV||San Diego St.|
Schedule via ESPN, Spread via Vegas Insider
NCAA Tournament Odds
|4||San Diego St.||65-1|
|12||North Carolina St.||900-1|
|12||North Dakota St.||1000-1|
|12||Stephen F. Austin||N/A|
|13||New Mexico St.||N/A|
|16||Mt. St. Mary’s||N/A|
|N/A||Field (Any Other Team)||100-1|
via Vegas Insider
Top Games to Watch
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton
Ohio State wins games with defense. Point guard Aaron Craft is the Big Ten's all-time leader in steals, and he finds a way to get on everyone's nerves, as noted by Chantel Jennings of ESPN:
Also, Aaron Craft wins every Big Ten player's "Thank God He's Finally Leaving" award.— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) March 10, 2014
The rest of the squad does a great job of closing on defenders to make just about every shot difficult.
However, the Buckeyes have not played anywhere near as well offensively, ranking 208th in the country in points scored per game. Things have been even worse in the second half of the year as they have only topped 70 points in four of their last 19 games, going 10-9 in that stretch.
This is certain to keep every game close, regardless of who is able to pull out a win.
Of course, you can only survive having a poor offense if the defense picks up the slack. It did not do that against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament as the Wolverines were able to hit 12-of-23 three-point shots. Six different players connected from deep.
Dayton has the ability to connect with a similar game plan, with four players averaging over 38 percent from beyond the arc. Jordan Sibert has been especially tough to defend lately, but this unselfish team can pass the ball to the open man, making everyone on the court dangerous.
Additionally, the Flyers have an emotional edge in this game as they look to beat the big school that refuses to schedule against them. CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel explained, via Eric Seger of The Lantern:
The emotional advantage will be Dayton’s. But I think in this case, you always give the edge to the underdog, try to knock off Big Brother … that’s not just winning a tournament game — that’s making history. If Ohio State wins, they’ve won the first round game. If Dayton wins, that’s school history.
With 10 wins in 12 games heading into the tournament, Dayton has the momentum and the ability to pull off this upset.
No. 5 Saint Louis vs. No. 12 North Carolina State
Aside from Doug McDermott, the top player in this tournament to watch is North Carolina State's T.J. Warren. The forward scored 25 points in the team's first-round victory over Xavier, which is right in line with his season average of 24.8 per game.
The 6'8" sophomore can score in a number of different ways, but he likes driving to the net and finishing at or above the rim. Most teams cannot stop him and end up sending him to the free-throw line instead, where he converts with regularity.
Wally Szczerbiak of CBS Sports believes he can make the difference in this high-profile battle:
This tailspin suggested includes losses in four of the last five games for the Billikens. Even the wins before that were not as convincing, as Feb. 5 was the last time they beat an opponent by more than 10 points.
While the squad plays decent defense, it often has trouble scoring. Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports is one of many who think Saint Louis has been over-seeded by the committee:
Louisville as a No. 4 and Saint Louis as a No. 5 are laughable for very different reasons.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) March 16, 2014
Jim Crews' team will make sure the score is close, but Warren and Ralston Turner will find ways to score and pull out a win.
No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Arizona State
Texas surprised many by getting out to a hot start in the Big 12 and finishing with a respectable 11-7 record in conference play. Unfortunately, the Longhorns did not end well, especially on the road.
They lost their last five true road games and only went 2-2 on neutral courts this season. Center Cameron Ridley attempted to give his explanation, via Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News:
I’m not sure what it is. I guess you could say it’s the energy of the gym, maybe. For some reason we just can’t play as well on the road, which is something that we need to fix because earlier in the year, we were playing better on the road.
However, this is still not the biggest problem for Texas in this matchup. A bigger issue is the matchup in the paint, which usually leads to an overwhelming advantage for the Longhorns. Jonathan Holmes and Ridley usually get easy buckets on second-chance opportunities.
This will not be easy against Arizona State, which ranks 11th in the country in defensive rebounding. The squad limits opponents to one shot per possession, and center Jordan Bachynski makes every shot hard with his NCAA-best 4.1 blocks per game.
On the other end of the court, Jahii Carson is capable of lighting up the scoreboard in any game. If he can shoot well, the Longhorns could have little opportunity to keep up.
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