The must-watch games from Thursday's first round matchups, the day's complete schedule and SI's recommended reads.

By Emily Caron
March 20, 2019

The first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament is upon us – the madness of March is beginning, brackets are waiting to be busted and fans are anticipating all the basketball to come. Day one of the first round begins on Thursday.

Gonzaga is the only No. 1 seed to begin a postseason run on Thursday, but they're joined by No. 2 seed Michigan from the West along with the East's second-seeded Michigan State and the Midwest's No. 2 Kentucky as the top teams to take the floor before Friday.

From matchups with major upset potential to can't miss player clashes to a complete game schedule, here’s a look at what to watch (and to read) on Thursday as first round of the tournament officially kicks off.

All times listed in Eastern.

Best games

Early afternoon

No. 14 Yale vs. No. 3 LSU (12:40 p.m., truTV)

Everyone is unsure of what the Tigers (26–6) will do in the tournament without head coach Will Wade as the longtime LSU leader remains suspended after he declined to cooperate in an internal investigation into taped conversations with former Adidas consultant Christian Dawkins where he allegedly discussed a recruiting deal in 2017.

Despite the speculation, the Tigers are tremendously talented with or without Wade–they won the SEC regular season title outright with a win over Vanderbilt (thanks to a Tennessee loss to Auburn) one day after their coach's suspension. They fell to Florida in the SEC tournament by just three points on a buzzer beater, but that loss doesn't negate the impressive regular season wins LSU has under its belt going into Thursday's first round game: an OT thriller over Mississippi State, consecutive wins over Auburn and Kentucky and a victory over the conference's golden child, Tennessee in late February.

Yale (22–7) has been on a roll through the Ivy League tournament and the two-offense first teams will be an interesting early afternoon watch–and an indicator of what the Tigers can come March Madness without Wade. 

Afternoon

No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 5 Marquette (4:30 p.m., TBS)

Two of the country's most prolific scorers–Murray State's Ja Morant and Marquette's Markus Howard–will go head-to-head in the First Round of the big dance on Thursday afternoon. If you want to watch two sharp-shooting point guards go at it during the monotony of an end-of-the-week afternoon–with the very real possibility that either could drop oh, say, something like 40 points–this is the game for you.

Could the Golden Eagles make an early exit from March Madness with an upset by a Morant-led mid-major? Tensions will be high and talent aplenty in this game.

Evening

No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 7 Wofford (9:40 p.m., CBS)

Everyone should watch Wofford. The Terriers (29–4) have gone 0–4 in the NCAA tournament but this year's No. 7 seed–attained after Wofford went on an 18–0 run in conference contests and a SoCon tournament championship–is the best seed attained by a Southern Conference team in the NCAA tournament since 1979. Plenty of people have Wofford picked to follow in Loyola-Chicago's footsteps as 2019's mid-major Cinderella.

They enter their First Round clash against a streaky but scrappy Seton Hall team riding on the nation's longest winning streak, having won a school-record 20-straight games since their last loss in December to Mississippi State. With the country's 11th most efficient offense, the Terriers should be a fun watch for your Thursday night.

Recommended reads from the SI Staff

• Eric Single has his four of his favorite Bold Moves for all the audacious bracket-makers out there.

• Need a few good upsets to round out your bracket? Don't know which popular picks are overrated? The SI Staff has you covered.

• I show you how Ja Morant and Markus Howard's head-to-head stats compare before their big clash. 

• Greg Bishop took a look at how while buzzer beaters may seem like one-off miracles, they never just *happen.*

• Michael Shapiro has your March Madness sleeper watch all ready to roll–Who are the under-the-radar teams most likely to crash the Final Four?

• Tristan Jung looks at the most likely Cinderella teams to bust your bracket.

• The SI Staff has the Region-by-Region Breakdown you need–Check out our thorough guides on the WestEastSouth and Midwest Regions before filling out your brackets.

• Molly Geary dives deep into tournament history to show you how momentum, balance and ball security could help predict how far teams go in March.

• Dan Gartland explored the tournament field through the lens of NCAA scandals, providing a unique way to pick your bracket. 

• Alex Briseno recapped Arizona State's victory over St. John's in the First Four on Wednesday night. 

• Dan Gartland provided one fun fact on all 68 teams in the tournament field, from Duke to Farleigh Dickinson. 

Thursday's Full Schedule

• 12:15 p.m.: No. 10 Minnesota vs. No. 7 Louisville (CBS)

• 12:40 p.m.: No. 14 Yale vs. No. 3 LSU (truTV)

• 1:30 p.m.: No. 12 New Mexico State vs. No. 5 Auburn (TNT)

• 2 p.m.: No. 13 Vermont vs. No. 4 Florida State (TBS)

• 2:45 p.m.: No. 15 Bradley vs. No. 2 Michigan State (CBS)

• 3:10 p.m.: No. 11 Belmont vs. No. 6 Maryland (truTV)

• 4 p.m.: No. 13 Northeastern vs. No. 4 Kansas (TNT)

• 4:30 p.m.: No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 5 Marquette (TBS)

• 6:50 p.m.: No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Nevada (TNT)

• 7:10 p.m.: No. 15 Abilene Christian vs. No. 2 Kentucky (CBS)

• 7:20 p.m.: No. 11 Saint Mary's vs. No. 6 Villanova (TBS)

• 7:27 p.m.: No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (truTV)

• 9:20 p.m.: No. 15 Montana vs. No. 2 Michigan (TNT)

• 9:40 p.m.: No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 7 Wofford (CBS)

• 9:50 p.m.: No. 14 Old Dominion vs. No. 3 Purdue (TBS)

• 9:57 p.m.: No. 8 Baylor vs. No 8 Syracuse (truTV)

All games can also be streamed with March Madness Live online on NCAA.com.

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