Everything You Need to Know About March Madness Day One

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreHoopsCollege Basketball National Lead WriterMarch 16, 2017

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The best days of the year are finally here. I hope you've called in sick, have your comfy clothes on and multiple televisions set up in your living room.

Let this be your guide to the first day of the tournament with a few last-minute bracket tips and some advice on games and players you should be watching.

Most Likely Upsets

No. 12 UNC Wilmington vs. No. 5 Virginia: The Cavaliers are not nearly as good as they've been the last three years. They still have a great defense—best in the country, in fact—but they've really struggled to score as of late.

The Seahawks have the better offensive talent and their small-ball lineup—all starters are 6'7" or shorter—is one of the best scoring units at the mid-major level. They return four starters from a team that nearly upset Duke in the 2016 opening round, including senior guard Chris Flemmings, who scored 18 points against Duke and has one of the coolest backstories in the tourney.

UNC Wilmington is coached by Kevin Keatts, a hot prospect who could make a move to a bigger school after the season. Beat Virginia, and his stock will go up even more.

No. 12 Middle Tennessee State vs. No. 5 Minnesota: The Blue Raiders are back in the NCAA tournament and a known commodity this year. In 2016, they ruined a lot of brackets by knocking off second-seeded Michigan State, a trendy national title pick.

Middle Tennessee returned its two leading scorers from that team—Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw—and is led in scoring this season by Arkansas transfer Jacorey Williams. That's one of the best trios on the mid-major level and Upshaw, who is comfortable operating from the perimeter or the blocks, is a matchup nightmare. Just ask the Spartans.

The Gophers finished fourth in the Big Ten and are arguably over-seeded. (The two Big Ten teams that tied for second are seeded lower. Please explain that one to me.) This is Minnesota's first tourney appearance under fourth-year coach Richard Pitino. His prize? A matchup with one of the best mid-major teams in the country.

Biggest Stars in Action

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Josh Hart, Villanova: If you're an old-school basketball fan who loves the fundamentals and guys who utilize ball fakes and pivoting, you'll love Hart. Seriously, the dude is one heck of a pivoter.

Hart was the leading scorer for the national champs last season and is a National Player of the Year contender this year. He's an efficient and reliable scorer who fills the stat sheet, averaging 18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Swanigan is another contender for National Player of the Year. Purdue's big fella—he goes by "Biggie"—is a double-double machine (18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game).

The Boilermakers play an old school style in that they love to feed the post and rely heavily on the back-to-the-basket scoring of Swanigan and surround him with shooters. Swanigan is also surprisingly effective from deep, knocking down 43.1 percent of his 72 attempts from beyond the arc.

Monte Morris, Iowa State: Iowa State's senior has long been the most reliable point guard in the country. Morris will finish his career as the NCAA's all-time leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. Fun stat: Morris could turn the ball over 59 straight times without recording an assist and he'd still set the record.

The Cyclones play fast and shoot a ton of threes with Morris smartly running the show. He averages 16.3 points, 6.1 assists and (shocker here) has an NCAA-best assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.7.

Game Most Likely to Produce a Buzzer-Beater 

No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech: The Hokies had six games decided by three points or less and the Badgers had three this season. This Wisconsin team had all off its games in last year's tournament come down to the wire, with its three tourney games decided by a combined 12 points.

Bronson Koenig hit one of the shots of the tournament last year to beat Xavier in the round of 32. (His sick step-back at the buzzer is the video above.) Expect Koenig to be the guy to take a last-second shot for Wisconsin again. For Virginia Tech, the go-to guy in that situation would probably be Seth Allen, who is a 45.5 percent three-point shooter.

1 Player You Should Be Rooting For: Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga 

William Mancebo/Getty Images

Karnowski had to miss last season because of back surgery, and even though he probably could have booked it to play pro ball somewhere, he returned for a fifth and final year at Gonzaga.

An even better reason to root for him is he has a beard and it's outstanding. He's also Polish and a giant with a soft touch. And he busts out the occasional behind-the-back pass from the post. How can you not love that combination of talent and beard?

Prop Bet of the Day

Number of times it's mentioned on the Northwestern-Vanderbilt broadcast that this is Northwestern's first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Not sure if you heard or not, but the Wildcats had never made it before this season. Oh, you heard? Sorry, we sportswriters and broadcasters sometimes like to beat you over the head with a fun narrative. I set the over/under at 10.5.

Day One's Games

Notre Dame vs. Princeton, 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS

Virginia vs. UNC Wilmington, 12:40 p.m. ET on truTV

Butler vs. Winthrop, 1:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Gonzaga vs. South Dakota State, 2:00 p.m. ET on TBS

West Virginia vs. Bucknell, approx. 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS

Florida vs. East Tennessee State, approx. 3:10 p.m. ET on truTV

Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee State, approx. 4:00 p.m. ET on TNT

Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt, 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS

Maryland vs. Xavier, 6:50 p.m. ET on TNT

Villanova vs. Mt. Saint Mary's, 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS

St. Mary's vs. VCU, 7:20 p.m. ET on TBS

Purdue vs. Vermont, 7:27 p.m. ET on truTV

Florida State vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 9:20 p.m. ET on TNT

Wisconsin vs. Virginia Tech, 9:40 p.m. ET on CBS

Arizona vs. North Dakota, 9:50 p.m. ET on TBS

Iowa State vs. Nevada, 9:57 p.m. ET on truTV

Live streams for all games available at NCAA.com

C.J. Moore covers college basketball and football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @CJMooreBR.


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