Before the end of Thursday’s NCAA tournament action, hundreds of brackets are sure to be busted.
Teams that were sure-fire locks to be safe in the second round don’t appear to be so anymore. In fact, some of those teams are actually guaranteed to lose during Thursday’s slate of games.
All in all, the madness of March won’t take too long to get under way.
But before we get into three likely bracket busters, let’s take a look of Thursday’s schedule of play:
|12:15 p.m.||(11) Dayton vs. (6) Ohio State||CBS|
|12:40 p.m.||(15) American University vs. (2) Wisconsin||truTV|
|1:40 p.m.||(9) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Colorado||TBS|
|2:10 p.m.||(12) Harvard vs. (5) Cincinnati||TNT|
|2:45 p.m.||(14) Western Michigan vs. (3) Syracuse||CBS|
|3:10 p.m.||(10) Brigham Young vs. (7) Oregon||truTV|
|4:10 p.m.||(16) Albany vs. (1) Florida||TBS|
|4:40 p.m.||(13) Delaware vs. (4) Michigan State||TNT|
|6:55 p.m.||(10) Saint Joseph vs. (7) Connecticut||TBS|
|7:10 p.m.||(15) Wofford vs. (2) Michigan||CBS|
|7:20 p.m.||(12) North Carolina State vs. (5) Saint Louis||TNT|
|7:27 p.m.||(12) North Dakota State vs. (5) Oklahoma||truTV|
|9:25 p.m.||(15) Milwaukee vs. (2) Villanova||TBS|
|9:40 p.m.||(10) Arizona State vs. (7) Texas||CBS|
|9:50 p.m.||(13) Manhattan vs. (4) Louisville||TNT|
|9:57 p.m.||(13) New Mexico State vs. (4) San Diego State||truTV|
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West: No. 12 North Dakota State (25-6) over No. 5 Oklahoma (23-9)
The Bison are one of the more talented No. 12 seeds in this bracket.
Since Jan. 11, the team has been on somewhat of a run, winning nine straight games and 14 of its last 15. Not only did North Dakota State capture the Summit League tournament title, but the team has also proved it can play with the big boys, recording a key road victory against Notre Dame, 73-69, back in December.
Still, upsetting the Sooners won’t be an easy task. The team consistently pours in points, ranking No. 7 in scoring (82.2 PPG) and averages a whopping 8.5 made three-pointers each game.
Instead, Oklahoma’s weakness is its defense—No. 308 in points allowed (75.9 PPG).
That leaves an opening for the Bison to get themselves into this game early. With sure shooting—the team leads the nation in field-goal percentage (50.9)—and a solid scoring attack (76.4 PPG), North Dakota State has the tools to do so.
Experience could also play a factor, as senior guard Taylor Braun (18.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.9 APG) could prove to be the X-factor for the Bison.
Did we mention that the game will be played in Spokane, Wash.? There's a good chance the crowd will be pro-North Dakota State for this one.
It all should translate into becoming one of the first big upset of the NCAA tournament.
Midwest: No. 12 North Carolina State (22-13) over No. 5 Saint Louis (26-6)
Sometimes, getting drawn into the First Four could be a blessing in disguise.
For the Wolfpack, they made their showdown with Xavier look like a warm-up affair before the showdown with the Billikens. T.J. Warren (25 points) and Ralston Turner (17 points) combined to help the team blow past Xavier, 74-59, on Tuesday.
That only adds to the run that North Carolina State has been on lately, as the team has won five of its last six. Most recently, that includes an upset of then-No. 11 Syracuse, 66-63, in the ACC tournament.
Meanwhile, it’s been anything but easy going for Saint Louis, which has lost four of their last five games coming in.
But if momentum isn’t enough to give the Wolfpack the edge, history might be on its side, per ESPN Stats & Info:
NC State beats Xavier, will play Saint Louis in 12-5 NCAA matchup ... No. 12 seeds are 5-3 vs 5 seeds in last 2 seasons— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 19, 2014
The big test will be whether Warren can figure out the Billikens defense—No. 18 in the nation in points allowed (61.2 PPG). Then again, nobody has really been able to figure out Warren, as he has scored at least 20 points in 18 consecutive games and poured in an average of 29.7 points over the last nine games.
He could prove to be Saint Louis’ kryptonite.
West: No. 13 New Mexico State (26-9) over No. 4 San Diego State (29-4)
The Aztecs seem to be a trendy pick to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament this season.
However, the Aggies could have something to say about that on Thursday.
Winners of nine of its last 10—including the WAC tournament crown—the team has rode a solid offensive attack up to this point. Thus far, New Mexico State ranks No. 39 in scoring (77.2 PPG) and No. 9 in field-goal percentage (49.1).
But it could be 7'5" center Sim Bhullar that could be all the difference.
“I think they said (Bhullar) is the biggest player in college basketball,” San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher told the media, via Goaztecs.com. “He’s a force. He’s a hard guy to maneuver around and they throw it to him early and often in that low post…He will present a challenge for us, no question.”
But Bhullar (10.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.4 BPG) isn’t the only productive big man the Aggies have in their corner. The 6’10” Tshilidzi Nephawe (11.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG) has also given opponents nightmares.
Given that the Aztecs struggled against the size of New Mexico this season—the team lost two of three meetings—New Mexico State has got to be feeling good going into this one.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and other information are courtesy of ESPN.com.