NCAA tournament viewing guide: Thursday's round of 64 matchups
Buh-da-da-dum-dah. Bah-da-da. *Takes deep breath* We did it, we did it, we did it, we did it, we did it, we did it, we did it. The best weekend in sports starts Thursday. Whether you're someone who takes both Thursday and Friday off months ahead of time to enjoy a four-day hoops binge, a person who sneaks the games in between meetings, the bold three-hour lunch individual or a call-in-sick mastermind (they see right through it, you know that right?), today is your day. Even those folks who didn't jump all-in on college basketball until the brackets dropped are smiling.
It's Madness time. There are 16 games on Thursday and 16 on Friday -- this is nothing new -- and it can be hard to know exactly what you should be watching once one tips, and another tips, and another's set to start just a few minutes later.
We tested our model during the conference tournament, and we're ready. Here's a viewing guide to keep you focused, driven and happy as the round of 64 tips off.
South Region: No. 11 Dayton (23-10, 10-6 in Atlantic 10) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (25-9, 10-8 in Big Ten)
How to watch: 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: It's the first game of the tournament, with one Ohio team taking on the big bad boys from Columbus. If that's not enough for you, keep an eye on Jordan Sibert (12.5 ppg, .439 3-pt%), who played for the Buckeyes his first two seasons before transferring to Dayton, as SI's Luke Winn noted in his Bracket Busters to watch.
West Region: No. 15 American (20-12, 13-5 in Patriot) vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (26-7, 12-6 in Big Ten)
How to watch: 12:40 p.m. ET, truTV
What to watch for: The Badgers shouldn't have any trouble against the Eagles, but American's a better team than you think. It defends well, shoots better than 38 percent on threes and nearly 56 percent on two-point field goals. That said, this is one of Bo Ryan's most complete teams. While 15-2 upsets happen once in a while, this shouldn't be one of them. Wisconsin isn't going out in the round of 64 for the second consecutive year.
South Region: No. 9 Pittsburgh (25-9, 11-7 in ACC) vs. No. 8 Colorado (23-11, 10-8 in Pac-12)
How to watch: 1:40 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: The Panthers finally got a healthy Lamar Patterson and found their identity in their last few games, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Pittsburgh's Talib Zanna (12.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg) is one of the more underrated post players in the tournament, and the matchup between Zanna and Colorado's Josh Scott (14.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) should be fun to watch.
East Region: No. 12 Harvard (26-4, 13-1 in Ivy) vs. No. 5 Cincinnati (27-6, 15-3 in AAC)
How to watch: 2:10 p.m. ET, TNT
What to watch for: Harvard is a popular upset pick, and the Crimson played UConn tight in early January. Tommy Amaker's bunch is balanced and disciplined. For Cincinnati to escape with a win, the Bearcats are going to need someone other than all-world scorer Sean Kilpatrick, who averages nearly 21 points per game, to step up. That means forward Justin Jackson has to find a way to stay out of foul trouble and impose his will down low.
South Region: No. 14 Western Michigan (23-9, 14-4 in MAC) vs. No. 3 Syracuse (27-5, 14-4 in ACC)
How to watch: 2:45 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: Which Syracuse team will show up: The one that jumped out to 25-0, or the one that lost four of its last six regular season games and was one-and-done in the ACC tournament? With freshman Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant, the Orange should make it out of Buffalo unscathed. Western Michigan, meanwhile, will try to find soft spots in that zone and improve on its 52.4 effective field goal percentage.
How to watch: 3:10 p.m. ET, truTV
What to watch for: The Cougars were one of the last teams in the field and lost Kyle Collinsworth for the rest of the season after the sophomore hurt his knee during the team's WCC final against Gonzaga. So while Tyler Haws (23.4 ppg) can get it going, it'll be hard to match the scoring punch of Oregon, which ranks 12th in adjusted efficiency.
How to watch: 4:10 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: The Great Danes will try to slow it down against Florida, but the overall top seed should have no trouble dispatching Albany. Look for the Gators -- they haven't lost since early December -- to try to establish things in the post early and use defense to create easy offense in transition.
East Region: No. 13 Delaware (25-9, 14-2 in CAA) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (26-8, 12-6 in Big Ten)
How to watch: 4:40 p.m. ET, TNT
What to watch for: The Blue Hens have five players who average 10 points or more, and the two-man duo of Jarvis Threatt and Devon Saddler dominated the CAA this season. While Delaware should keep it close early, Michigan State is just too strong inside. Tom Izzo makes his real money in March, and this is the first chance to make another deep run.
East Region: No. 10 Saint Joseph's (24-9, 11-5 in Atlantic 10) vs. No. 7 Connecticut (26-8, 12-6 in AAC)
How to watch: 6:55 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: Shabazz Napier can do it all, and at times this season he's had to, as Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels haven't always been consistent. Saint Joseph's had a nice run to win the Atlantic 10 tournament and the Hawks are a well-coached team, but they probably won't be able to grind out a win against the Huskies' stout defense.
How to watch: 7:10 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: The Terriers play above-average defense and can force turnovers, but they don't have much presence inside. Michigan can use that to its advantage and get comfortable early, then switch to the jumpers the Wolverines like to take. For people who haven't tuned in much this year, now's a good time to check in on Nik Stauskas (17.5 ppg, .449 3-pt%), who has been one of the best players in basketball this season.
Midwest Region: No. 12 N.C. State (22-13, 9-9 in ACC) vs. No. 5 Saint Louis (26-6, 13-3 in Atlantic 10)
How to watch: 7:20 p.m. ET, TNT
What to watch for: T.J. Warren is playing at an incredibly high level as of late, and it will be that old immovable object vs. irresistible force thing as the sophomore takes on Saint Louis' stellar defense. The Billikens tumbled into the tournament losers of four of their last five, while the Wolfpack gained confidence with every game they played in March.
West Region: No. 12 North Dakota State (25-6, 12-2 in Summit) vs. No. 5 Oklahoma (23-9, 12-6 in Big 12)
How to watch: 7:27 p.m. ET, truTV
What to watch for: The Bison don't get blocked, don't turn it over, shoot the ball well, hit their free throws and are one of the most experienced teams in the nation. While that's not a guaranteed recipe for success, the Sooners better be on alert. Oklahoma has to stick to its game plan and get scorers like Buddy Hield and Cameron Clark involved early.
How to watch: 9:25 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: Milwaukee came together to win four straight, including a victory over the Horizon's best team in Green Bay, to win the conference, and can hang with teams if it hits from beyond the arc. The issue is that the Panthers didn't quite do that enough during the regular season despite shooting a ton of threes. Villanova will certainly welcome that style of play.
Midwest Region: No. 10 Arizona State (21-11, 10-8 in Pac-12) vs. No. 7 Texas (23-10, 11-7 in Big 12)
How to watch: 9:40 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: Rick Barnes cooled his seat down considerably with a stellar season, but he'd quiet a lot of critics if Texas could find a way to make a run in this year's tournament. It faces a stiff test against Arizona State. Herb Sendek's team makes a high percentage of threes and plays pretty decent defense. If Jahii Carson can get hot, the Sun Devils might be able to catch Texas off guard.
Midwest Region: No. 13 Manhattan (25-5, 15-5 in MAAC) vs. No. 4 Louisville (29-5, 15-3 in AAC)
How to watch: 9:50 p.m. ET, TNT
What to watch for: Rick Pitino is taking on former assistant Steve Masiello, and neither coach is all that happy about it. On Wednesday, Pitino said: “I don’t think it’s right for either one of us." Manhattan basically runs the exact same schemes as Louisville, and Masiello is fiercely familiar with the inner workings of the Cardinals. That's all fun in pregame, but when the game starts, Louisville still has the players and the personnel that got it the No. 1 ranking in KenPom.
West Region: No. 13 New Mexico State (26-9, 12-4 in WAC) vs. No. 4 San Diego State (29-4, 16-2 in Mountain West)
How to watch: 9:57 p.m. ET, truTV What to watch for: Steve Fisher's team boa-constricts the heck out of opponents defensively, and teams that aren't ready for it seem like they're watching water fill up in a boat. It's only a matter of time before the whole thing sinks. It has the potential to be a long day for the Aggies if they can't get the ball inside early and often.