- With the NCAA tournament starting on Thursday, here's a TV guide to get you and your brackets through day 1.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The next 96 hours will be chock full of some of the best basketball of the season. Thursday features several of the nation’s top scorers on teams that have the potential to bust a lot of brackets.
(All times Eastern.)
12:15 p.m., CBS
West Regional: No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Princeton
Notre Dame is the only school in the country that has advanced to the Elite Eight in each of the last two years, and junior forward Bonzie Colson is the only ACC player to finish the season averaging a double double (17.5 points, 10.2 rebounds). But the Tigers have a Cinderella feel. Princeton hasn’t lost since Dec. 20, and coach Mitch Henderson knows what it feels like to topple a giant, having scored eight points in the Tigers’ first-round upset of UCLA in 1996.
12:40 p.m., truTV
East Regional: No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNC Wilmington
The Seahawks are a serious upset threat. Last year they gave Duke a scare as a No. 13 seed before fading in the second half. Kevin Keatts’s squad plays quick (50th nationally in average possession length) but under control (second lowest offensive turnover rate), while boasting the country’s 18th-most efficient offense and most efficient scorer, period: 6' 7" sophomore forward Devontae Cacok, a transition-dunk specialist who converts a blistering 79.9% of his shots while averaging 12.3 points. On the other hand, Virginia has the best efficiency-based win odds for a 5 seed.
1:30 p.m., TNT
South Regional: No. 4 Butler vs. No. 13 Winthrop
While the Bulldogs are now NCAA tournament veterans and they’re led by super reserve Kelan Martin (16.1 points), March was made for a player like Winthrop senior point guard Keon Johnson. Not quite 5' 7", he averaged 22.5 points per game (10th in the nation) and has come up big in clutch situations all season. Against Illinois on Nov. 21 he scored 38 points to give the Eagles their biggest win in nearly a decade.
2 p.m., TBS
West Regional: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 South Dakota State
Daumination alert: The Zags would do well to scout Mike Daum, the best unknown forward in D-I. A 6' 9" sophomore, Daum was the nation’s second-leading scorer (25.3) and was the Summit League player of the year. Gonzaga has enough weapons to survive another of Daum’s patented scoring barrages, but don’t miss this chance to watch one of the country’s most exciting players.
2:45 p.m., CBS
West Regional: No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Bucknell
Can Bucknell, a team that starts three players who shoot 39.6% or better from beyond the arc, channel the magic of the 2005 team that upset No. 3 seed Kansas in the first round? Not against Press Virginia, a defense that led the nation in turnovers forced per game. Plus, the Mountaineers are by far the strongest No. 4 seed.
3:10 p.m., truTV
East Regional: No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State
This might be a popular upset pick but Florida senior point guard Kasey Hill has waited a long time to get back to the NCAA tournament and he’s not going to bow out in the first game.
4 p.m., TNT
South Regional: No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee
The Gophers won’t be sleeping on the Blue Raiders this year after their win over fellow Big Ten team Michigan State last March. But Middle Tennessee’s versatile frontline has gotten even stronger with the addition of 6’ 8” senior forward JaCorey Wiliams, who redshirted last season after transferring from Arkansas.
4:30 p.m., TBS
West Regional: No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt
Finally! The Wildcats reached the NCAA tournament for the first time after a 78-year drought and NU certainly doesn’t want to leave the Big Dance early. This will be one of the best battles of the first day, as the Commodores counter with Luke Cornet, 7’ 1”, 250-pound senior post.
6:50 p.m., TNT
West Regional: No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Xavier
This should be a classic battle between two clutch guards. The Muskies have 6’ 6” junior Trevon Bluiett (18.1 points, 5.8 rebounds) and the Terps counter with 6’ 3” junior Melo Trimble (17.0 points, 3.7 assists). The banged-up Musketeers have lost seven of their last 10 but shouldn’t be counted out of this matchup.
7:10 p.m., CBS
East Regional: No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's
The Mountaineers managed a one-point win over New Orleans in the First Four, but there’s no way the defending champs become the first No. 1 to lose an opener.
7:20 p.m., TBS
West Regional: No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 VCU
The Gaels tend to thrive when not facing Gonzaga. (They lost just four games this season, three of them to the Zags.) Don’t miss a chance to see Aussie big man Jock Landale (16.8 points, 9.3 rebounds) go to work in the paint. The Rams are led by senior guard JeQuan Lewis (14.7 points, 4.6 assists), a streaky shooter who seems to be getting hot at just the right time.
7:27 p.m., truTV
Midwest Regional: No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Vermont
The Catamounts have won 21 straight games heading into the Big Dance but the Boilers have Biggie. Caleb Swanigan, the 6’ 9”, 250-pound Purdue forward, averages 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds. Vermont doesn’t have a single player taller than 6’ 8”.
9:20 p.m., TNT
West Regional: No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast
Fourth-year coach Joe Dooley’s Eagles are not the pace-pushing, freewheeling lobbers of the program’s recent past, but their efficiency inside the arc (55.5% two-point shooting, 14th nationally) and the well-rounded talents of 6' 2" Central Florida transfer guard Brandon Goodwin (18.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists) will make them no easy out for the Seminoles. FSU should compare notes with Michigan State, which escaped with a one-point win over Florida Gulf Coast at home in November. Luckily for Florida State, Orlando is not Dunk City.
9:40 p.m., CBS
East Regional: No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech
The Hokies are a program on the rise, thanks to the rebuilding work coach Buzz Williams has done over the last three seasons. They have five players who average more than 10 points per game. The Big Ten co-runner-up, however, deserved a higher seed and will be playing with extra motivation to reach its fourth Sweet 16 in four seasons.
9:50 p.m., TBS
West Regional: No. 2 Arizona vs. No 15 North Dakota
The Fighting Hawks won the Big Sky regular season and tournament titles. They were the best defensive team in the conference, and have a trio of dynamic guards who push the pace and can score from long range. None of this will matter against an experienced Wildcats team that will dictate the pace and thoroughly outplay North Dakota.
9:57 p.m., truTV
Midwest Regional: No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Nevada
Former Warriors and Kings coach Eric Musselman leads the Wolf Pack. They protect the ball well, and senior guard Marcus Marshall (19.8 points) and sophomore wing Jordan Caroline (9.8 rebounds) are both capable of taking over the game. The Cyclones counter with steady senior point guard Monte Morris, who led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, and senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long, who drops long-range bombs for the win.