NCAA Tournament 2021: Dates, Tip Times and TV Schedule for First Four, 1st Round

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2021

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, left, speaks with forward Drew Timme during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Young Kwak/Associated Press

Start making your plans accordingly because the schedule for the opening games of the NCAA men's tournament is out.

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports passed along the times, dates and television schedule for the highly anticipated contests:

Matt Norlander @MattNorlander

NCAA Tournament tip times, venues, TV announcing teams. FRIDAY AFTERNOON WINDOW: https://t.co/Q2ta4tLn0C

Matt Norlander @MattNorlander

NCAA Tournament tip times, venues, TV announcing teams. SATURDAY AFTERNOON WINDOW: https://t.co/57XitiGnIk

Matt Norlander @MattNorlander

NCAA Tournament tip times, venues, TV announcing teams. SATURDAY EVENING WINDOW: https://t.co/ChLKFBxXGp

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The traditional schedule with First Four games on Tuesday and Wednesday of tournament week leading into the round of 64 on Thursday and Friday is a bit different. The COVID-19 pandemic forced adjustments with the entire tournament taking place in the state of Indiana, and the schedule is also different.

That means the entire First Four is Thursday with something of a quadruple-header.

It's not that often fans are treated to a showdown between two of the best programs in college basketball history in the First Four, but that is the case this year with Michigan State and UCLA just sneaking in as two of the last at-large bids.

Nobody has more national championships than UCLA's 11, and Michigan State is tied for seventh in history with 10 Final Four trips. That is quite the headliner for the opening night of tournament basketball and could very well come down to the final minutes.

It was something of a surprise to see the Spartans just get into the field with wins over two of the No. 1 seeds in Illinois and Michigan, as well as No. 2 seed Ohio State.

They are a dangerous group with a legendary coach in Tom Izzo who could threaten some of the top teams in the bracket if they get past the Bruins.

UCLA struggled down the stretch and enters the Big Dance with four straight losses, but it also started 12-2 with losses to Ohio State and San Diego State as the only blemishes in that span. The Bruins are capable of getting hot at the right time and making a deep run, but a clash with Michigan State is a daunting opening task.

And an excellent appetizer for the round of 64 on Friday and Saturday.