If you have plans for Thursday, too bad. You better wipe the whole day out because the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament is mere hours away.
Although the Big Dance officially got underway with the first play-in game on Tuesday, today is when March Madness is at its best. You have hours upon hours of basketball, upsets and the biggest stars in the college game.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
Make sure you've got your viewing station ready.
With so many games in such a short amount of time it's impossible to attentively watch each and every second. As a result, you'll want to go into the day knowing exactly which games demand your utmost attention.
Here's a look at Thursday's full slate of matchups.
|2014 NCAA Tournament Schedule—March 20|
|Time (ET)||Teams||TV Info||Prediction|
|12:15 p.m.||No. 6 Ohio State||No. 11 Dayton||CBS||Dayton|
|12:40 p.m.||No. 2 Wisconsin||No. 15 American||TruTV||Wisconsin|
|1:40 p.m.||No. 8 Colorado||No. 9 Pittsburgh||TBS||Pittsburgh|
|2:10 p.m.||No. 5 Cincinnati||No. 12 Harvard||TNT||Harvard|
|2:45 p.m.||No. 3 Syracuse||No. 14 Western Michigan||CBS||Syracuse|
|3:10 p.m.||No. 7 Oregon||No. 10 BYU||TruTV||Oregon|
|4:10 p.m.||No. 1 Florida||No. 16 Albany||TBS||Florida|
|4:40 p.m.||No. 4 Michigan State||No. 13 Delaware||TNT||Michigan State|
|6:55 p.m.||No. 7 UConn||No. 10 St. Joseph's||TBS||UConn|
|7:10 p.m.||No. 2 Michigan||No. 15 Wofford||CBS||Michigan|
|7:20 p.m.||No. 5 Saint Louis||No. 12 N.C. State||TNT||Saint Louis|
|7:27 p.m.||No. 5 Oklahoma||No. 12 North Dakota St||TruTV||North Dakota St.|
|9:20 p.m.||No. 2 Villanova||No. 15 Milwaukee||TBS||Villanova|
|9:45 p.m.||No. 7 Texas||No. 10 Arizona State||CBS||Texas|
|9:50 p.m.||No. 4 Louisville||No. 13 Manhattan||TNT||Louisville|
|9:57 p.m.||No. 4 San Diego St.||No. 13 New Mexico St.||TruTV||San Diego St.|
|Sports Media Watch|
These three in particular present the best combination of overall quality and upset potential.
Games to Watch
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State
This game should feature a lot of offense. Oklahoma is averaging 82.2 points a game (seventh in the country), and North Dakota State is 46th (76.4 points a game). While the Sooners have the talent advantage, their defense is also ranked 308th in the country in scoring average, so the playing field might be a bit more level in that respect.
In Taylor Braun, the Bison have the kind of star player who can put the team on his shoulders and spark the upset. CBS Sports' Matt Norlander thinks the senior guard is right up with there with the best in the country when it comes to value:
I know this next sentence is going to feel like it could apply to about 30 guys, but judging this team off the game I watched Tuesday night -- and what little I've seen of Braun in online Synergy video -- he seems like arguably the most valuable player to his team in the country. Maybe Shabazz Napier or Russ Smith comes close. But the senior forward (18.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.9 APG) ranks in the top percentile in 14 KenPom.com categories. And he's a joy to watch.
He's an efficient scorer that takes smart shots, doesn't give away the ball often and makes opportunities for himself and his team often on defense -- both near and away from the rim.
You always see at least one No. 5 vs. No. 12 upset each year, and this is one of the most likely candidates. The longer North Dakota State stays in this game, the more its belief and confidence will grow. Between the Bison's potent offense and the Sooners' leaky defense, don't rule anything out in this one.
No. 7 UConn vs. No. 10 St. Joseph's
More St. Joseph's means more of head coach Phil Martelli. More Martelli means more of his grandson.
By now, just about everybody has seen young Philip Steven Martelli prowling the stands mimicking his grandfather on the sideline.
As great as it would be to see the younger Martelli "coaching" all the way through to the national championship, the Hawks will have their hands full in the second round.
Connecticut ranks 11th in adjusted defense, according to Ken Pomeroy, and Shabazz Napier is like Kemba Walker in his ability to take a good team and turn it into a great team.
Napier has already caught the attention of Chris Paul, who told Yahoo! Sports, "But I really like Louisville right now because I really like the kid Russ Smith and I like UConn because I'm a big Shabazz Napier fan. You have to have great guard play in the tournament."
This will be a great test to see if the Huskies are as overlooked as the selection committee made them seem. In what's a weaker region, they could do a lot of damage.
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware
Michigan State is another team poised to capitalize on the relative weakness of the East region. Many experts have the Spartans listed as a Final Four team.
The thing with Michigan State is that it's so hard to get a read on what it can do in the tournament. For so much of the season, the Spartans were without one or any combination of Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Keith Appling.
Tom Izzo's team finally appears to be hitting 100 percent across the board.
Delaware head coach Monte Ross said he won't be afraid to have his team try to match MSU blow for blow, per Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News.
"They’ve really been pushing the ball up the court," said Ross. "And we like to push the ball up the court. So I think that will lend to a free-flowing game going up and down, which quite frankly is OK with us."
The Blue Hens will present a nice barometer of where Michigan State is and where it still needs to go.
Note: All stats are from Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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