The first big day of March Madness is here, but the excitement can turn into confusion if you are not prepared.
Thursday's action features 16 games with four going on at a time for much of the day. Florida against Albany is the only No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchup, which means the rest of the slate includes favorites that have to be on alert for possible upsets.
Based on what we have seen in past years, fans should be ready for thrilling upsets, historic performances and shocking buzzer-beaters.
In order to make sure you are ready for the action, take a look at this guide for the NCAA tournament. You can watch all games online with March Madness Live.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
- Download the Printable Bracket
- Follow the Latest Bracket Updates Live
- Play the Free Bracket Challenge
Second-Round Day 1 Schedule
|Ohio State (6) vs. Dayton (11)||OSU -6||12:15 p.m.||CBS|
|Wisconsin (2) vs. American (15)||WISC -13.5||12:40 p.m.||truTV|
|Colorado (8) vs. Pittsburgh (9)||PITT -6.5||1:40 p.m.||TBS|
|Cincinnati (5) vs. Harvard (12)||CIN -3||2:10 p.m.||TNT|
|Syracuse (3) vs. W Michigan (14)||SYR -13||2:45 p.m.||CBS|
|Oregon (7) vs. BYU (10)||ORE -5.5||3:10 p.m.||truTV|
|Florida (1) vs. Albany (16)||FLA -21.5||4:10 p.m.||TBS|
|Michigan St. (4) vs. Delaware (13)||MSU -14||4:40 p.m.||TNT|
|UConn (7) vs. Saint Joseph's (10)||CONN -4.5||6:55 p.m.||TBS|
|Michigan (2) vs. Wofford (15)||MICH -16||7:10 p.m.||CBS|
|Saint Louis (5) vs. North Carolina St. (12)||STL -3||7:20 p.m.||TNT|
|Oklahoma (5) vs. North Dakota St. (12)||OKLA -3.5||7:27 p.m.||truTV|
|Villanova (2) vs. Milwaukee (15)||VILL -16.5||9:25 p.m.||TBS|
|Texas (7) vs. Arizona St. (10)||TEX -2||9:40 p.m.||CBS|
|Louisville (4) vs. Manhattan (13)||LOU -16.5||9:50 p.m.||TNT|
|San Diego St. (4) vs. New Mexico St. (13)||SDSU -7||9:57 p.m.||truTV|
Spread info via VegasInsider.com
Top Teams on Upset Alert
No. 5 Cincinnati vs. No. 12 Harvard
As soon as the brackets were announced, Harvard became a trendy upset pick. Nicole Auerbach of USA Today was one of the first on board:
Harvard gets a 12 seed! 5-12 matchup with Cincinnati in Spokane. Look at this for an upset pick.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 16, 2014
The rest of the country then followed with this trend:
Harvard plays a solid defense and has great balance on the offensive side of the ball. Five Crimson players average double-digit points per game and three different players average at least three assists per contest.
This ability to share the basketball helps the team survive against even the better defenses in the country.
That will be needed against Cincinnati, which is as physical as anyone in college basketball. Mick Cronin's team had an excellent year in the new AAC and few teams were able to score consistently against the Bearcats.
However, the difference in this game is that Cincinnati does not have anywhere near the balance offensively. Sean Kilpatrick will be the best player on the floor, averaging 20.7 points per game and always willing to take a big shot. The problem is the next highest scorer is Justin Jackson at 11.1 points per game.
Cincinnati will only survive if Kilpatrick has a great shooting day, putting a lot of pressure on the senior in the postseason.
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State
North Dakota State has one of the more efficient offenses in the country due to the willingness to pass up a good shot for a great shot. The Bison are first in the nation with a 50.9 field-goal percentage despite not having too many sharpshooters on the roster.
Leading scorer Taylor Braun explained how teamwork has helped his squad this year, via Jody Norstedt of WDAY:
That just describes our whole team. It really doesn't matter who gets the attention or who gets all the accolades or whatever. Our basketball team is such a team, we really are a team. We can beat you in so many ways.
Of course, Braun does deserve most of the credit as the team's leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals and three-point shooting. When he is playing well, he can carry the Bison far into this tournament.
Oklahoma has its own big-time scorers between Buddy Hield, Cameron Clark and others. This group has the athleticism to get into the lane with ease or pull up for a jump shot if given the space.
The problem is that the Sooners struggle defensively, ranking 308th nationally in points allowed per game. This means that even if they can run their fast-paced attack, they will give up the same amount of points on the other end.
North Dakota is likely to keep up on the scoreboard throughout the game. The question will be which side can make the key baskets when needed.
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware
At this point, it seems downright crazy to pick against Michigan State. Many of the top analysts are picking them to win the entire tournament, via For The Win:
Everybody on ESPN's bracket special picked No. 4 seed Michigan State to win the title http://t.co/fAIxPKGOBN— For The Win (@forthewin) March 17, 2014
Amazingly, the No. 4 seed enters the Big Dance with the second-best odds to win a title, trailing only Florida.
However, this type of press is only going to force the players to overlook their first few opponents, which could be damaging. It is important to remember that the Spartans lost seven of their last 12 games to end the regular season, most of which with a healthy Keith Appling and Adreian Payne.
The Big Ten tournament win obviously proves that Michigan State is playing well at this stage, but this is still a squad that underperformed throughout most of the season.
On the other hand, Delaware is a team that can flat out score. Devon Saddler, Davon Usher and Jarvis Threatt all average at least 18 points per game for one of the fastest teams in college basketball. Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press provides a breakdown:
It's the Delaware breakdown now. High-scoring, get to the line, low turnovers and high volume of shots.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) March 17, 2014
If the Blue Hens can get Michigan State to play at their pace, they can make the shots necessary to pull off an upset. This scenario would certainly cause plenty of people to rip up their brackets in a hurry.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.