Beginning Thursday at noon, 32 games will tip-off in a span of 33 hours. Before you go handing in that losing tournament bracket (You will not win. You have no chance. You might as well not enter.) take a gander at SIOC's first round "analysis."
Xavier vs. Georgia, 12:15 p.m
You know how sometimes when you use a coupon for a free sandwich, the person at the register looks at you like a lazy freeloader who doesn't deserve a delicious sub, but then they still give it to you because it's the rule and they have to? I assume that's how the Georgia basketball team feels. I'd also like to point out that after all the Bulldogs have been through (tornado in the Georgia Dome, playing 85 minutes of basketball in a Saturday double-header, winning the SEC championship late on Sunday afternoon) they were rewarded with shortest break of any tournament team. Xavier is pleased.
Kansas vs. Portland State, 12:25 p.m.
The Big 12 was weak this year, but Kansas did have impressive nonconference wins against USC, Arizona, and ... uh ... Ohio. But don't worry because DannyManning is now an assistant coach (when he's not busy coaching his son's seventh-grade team.) Manning might not be the most dominating player in college basketball anymore, but he's not a perennial tournament loser like everybody else associated with Kansas basketball.
Michigan State vs. Temple, 12:30 p.m.
After wining the A-10 title game in Atlantic City the Temple team decided to go out to a nice restaurant for dinner. They couldn't find one. That won't be a problem this week in Denver, but the Owls will have to contend with the Spartans tough rebounding and Drew Neitzel's experience (this must be his sixth or seventh NCAA tournament.)
Marquette vs. Kentucky, 2:30 p.m.
1. Billy Gillispie will repeatedly crouch and yell.2. Marquette will shoot copious amounts of three pointers.3. Gardner-Webb will watch in suspense, wondering how the game affects its RPI.
Purdue vs. Baylor, 2:50 p.m
Baylor is the quintessential "happy to be here" team. It's their first tournament berth in 20 years. It's ecstatic. They get a whole extra week before next fall's 63-7 Oklahoma football pummeling is the only thing they have to look forward to.
UNLV vs. Kent State, 2:55 p.m.
Before the start of the season Kent State coach Jim Christian gave MAC player of the year Al Fisher a scholarship without ever seeing him play in person. It worked out well for Fisher, but what about the rest of us who always blamed our failure to land a Division-I scholarship on not having coaches see us play in person. Now we must look inside ourselves and come to the realization that we were never good. Some of us aren't ready for that.
Pitt vs. Oral Roberts, 3 p.m.
I'm officially declaring the Sam Young shot-fake as the next evolutionary step in basketball fakes. It's physically superior and more psychologically advanced than all of today's run-of-the-mill shot fakes. Young doesn't fake a shot. He fakes jumping. Evidently, that's a much better way to get the defender to leave his feet.
Stanford vs. Cornell, 5:00 p.m.
The always mysterious 5 o'clock game. It sits alone, the bridge between the afternoon and the evening, its sole purpose to ensure that the thought of even speaking to his family won't cross Greg Gumbel's mind until Sunday night. Cornell comes in having won 16-consecutive games, but I'm sure students from both schools already know that because of their highly developed brain enzymes.
USC vs. Kansas State, 7:10 p.m.
It's a battle for NBA draft position as K-State's Bill Walker takes on USC's Taj Gibson. Oh also, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo are playing. Look for Mayo to shoot 7-of-34 from the field while Beasley records the first ever 40-40 NCAA tournament game.
Duke vs. Belmont, 7:10 p.m.
Lack of impressive nonconference road victories? Check. Inflated seed despite lack of conference-tournament championship? Check. Offense that relies too heavily on three-pointers? Check. Stir all those ingredients in a bowl, bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, and you got yourself another early Duke tournament exit.
Washington State vs. Winthrop, 7:20 p.m.
Winthrop makes its eighth tournament appearance in 10 years while Washington State makes just its sixth appearance in school history. The key to the game is Cougar guard Derrick Low. He's from Hawaii, and everybody knows Hawaiians have special powers.
BYU vs. Texas A&M, 7:25 p.m.
Aggies coach Mark Turgeon once called his first post-Billy Gillespie season a "no-flippin'-win situation" because he would be blamed for losses and Gillespie would be given credit for wins. Apparently over the last month Turgeon really didn't want to give Gillespie any credit. And just in case you were wondering, BYU freshman forward Chris Collinsworth enjoys Harry Potter, but there's no word on whether he enjoys long walks with Bob Costas or threading a Cover Two defense.
Wisconsin vs. Cal State Fullerton, 9:40 p.m.
Last Sunday's Big Ten title game received an overnight rating of .18, meaning one person watched 18 percent of the game. Even though the Big Ten is unimpressive, the consensus is Wisconsin deserved better than a No. 3 seed. So now, the Badgers will either play with a chip on their shoulder and make a run to the Final Four, or they'll confirm the Big Ten is weak and feeble by getting crushed before the weekend ends.
West Virginia vs. Arizona, 9:40 p.m.
Which of these teams is not like the others? The answer is Arizona. The Wildcats are the only at-large team with a losing record in their conference and the only at large team with more than 13 losses. None of that is good for Chase Budinger's draft position, which is falling faster than Bear Stearns stock. (What? Too soon?)
Notre Dame vs. George Mason, 9:50 p.m.
George Mason is back after a two-year hiatus, and anything other than a Final Four appearance will be considered a major disappointment. The Fighting Irish are led by Big East player of the year Luke Harangody. Although he's a dominating basketball player, I can't help but think he would make an even better lumberjack
UCLA vs. Mississippi Valley State, 9:55 p.m.
Ben Howland believes the big-game experience on his roster makes this the best UCLA team he's coached. You know what else helps? Not having to play a Florida team with Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Corey Brewer.
CLICK BELOW FOR A PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES
Tennessee vs. American, 12:15 p.m.
AU (who shall henceforth be referred to as "America's Team") makes its first tournament appearance. No longer will the public be ignorant of its nickname (The Eagles), or the color of its jerseys (blue.) Meanwhile, Tennessee is already printing up T-shirts with its official 2008 slogan: "Hey ... remember when we beat Memphis"
Gonzaga vs. Davidson, 12:20 p.m.
Another mid-major showdown. It will be just like watching ESPN2 on that Saturday in February when nothing else is happening and they set up televised mid-major games. Prepare yourself for a 4300-percent increase in Del Curry face time.
Miami vs. St. Mary's, 12:30 p.m.
Speaking of mid-majors, a St. Mary's win would do wonders for Gonzaga and the entire WCC. TV networks can't hype Gonzaga vs. "Anonymous WCC Team," but they can sell Gonzaga vs. "that St. Mary's team you need to watch because they'll probably make the tournament." If this keeps up, the WCC could soon have enough money flowing through it for there to be a scandal.
Drake vs. Western Kentucky, 12:30 p.m.
Sometimes when the Jazz play a cellar-dwelling team from the East, Kyle Korver lets his brother, Klayton, suit up instead of him. Nobody ever notices.
Butler vs. South Alabama, 2:45 p.m.
A lot of people out there think Butler was screwed by the tournament committee. What they don't know is that mid-majors have to fill out an application to be considered for anything higher than a No. 7 seed, and this year Butler forgot to turn it in on time.
Georgetown vs. UMBC, 2:55 p.m.
It's a monumental accomplishment for a school to reach its first NCAA tournament. That's why UMBC made sure to celebrate its inaugural berth with ... uh ... a moderately sized cake and some quiet conversation. Because every game between geographic rivals must be called the "[medium of transportation between the two cities] Series," I'll go ahead and dub this the "Baltimore-Washington Parkway Series."
Texas vs. Austin Peay, 3:00 p.m.
Here is what Texas coach Rick Barnes had to say on the challenge of playing a tournament game in Little Rock:
"We're scheduled to come play Arkansas next year, and if the fans don't treat us well, we're not going to come. You can put that out there. I'm serious. We've got enough money here we can buy our way out of it. So, they'd better be good to us."
There's nothing like invoking the massive funding of your basketball program in order to threaten a crowd into cheering for you. Austin Peay will enjoy their home game.
UConn vs. San Diego, 3:00 p.m.
The NCAA put the kibosh on UConn's tours of ESPN, but if the Huskies reach the Final Four, Jim Calhoun promises to give his team a tour of the spacious, 500 square foot Norwich public television station.
UNC vs. Mount St. Mary's, 7:10 p.m.
Here's the one problem I see for North Carolina down the road: Because they don't have anymore home games, the next time Tyler Hansbrough bloodies up his jersey there won't be another one handily hanging in the rafters. Also, the team doesn't play any defense.
Oklahoma vs. St. Joseph's, 7:10 p.m.
St. Joseph's most impressive nonconference win came against Sienna. Oklahoma went 0-5 against the top three teams in the Big 12. St. Joseph's lost to Holy Cross. Oklahoma lost to Stephen F. Austin. Three words. N-I-T.
Vanderbilt vs. Sienna, 7:20 p.m.
Because there's a law that every NCAA tournament article has to have at least one upset pick (I think it's tacked onto the Patriot Act), let's go with Sienna over Vanderbilt. Vandy can't play away from home, and the MAAC is my favorite conference with a four-letter acronym.
Mississippi State vs. Oregon, 7:25 p.m.
The Bulldogs need just five wins to give guard Ben Hansbrough a chance to play his brother in the title game. Considering that Ben has Hansbrough genes, I don't see how he could possibly be defeated unless it was by another Hansbrough.
Louisville vs. Boise State, 9:40 p.m.
The last time Boise State made the NCAA tournament was in 1994. They were a No. 14 seed. They played Louisville in the first round. As you can see, the selection committee is not real creative with first round matchups.
Indiana vs. Arkansas, 9:40 p.m.
Eric Gordon is not happy about all the games Indiana might have play before it's time for the NBA. He has predraft workouts to schedule for God's sake! Why can't the NCAA be more accommodating?
Clemson vs. Villanova, 9:50 p.m.
There's nothing duller than a No. 5 vs. No. 12 game featuring two major conference teams. The good news is that K.C. Rivers and Trevor Booker (both are beasts) will be on the floor, as well as a Villanova team taking pride in snaring the final at-large bid. Villanova students should not be answering unidentified calls from Columbus, Blacksburg and Phoenix area codes.
Memphis vs. UT-Arlington, 9:55 p.m.
After a brutal Conference USA schedule, Memphis surely has a few minor skin lacerations and maybe even a blister or two. That's what happens when you bang bodies with the likes of East Carolina and Rice.