March 18, 2010

Throughout the day will be checking in with our hoops experts at every game site to get the flavor of the tournament; we'll also follow the madness on Twitter for a taste of what the foremost college basketball experts are saying about the action. And, of course, you'll be able to keep track of all the games on our NCAA tournament scoreboard.

7:16 pm ET: Mercifully, it's over in San Jose. Butler finished with 13 three-pointers in a 77-59 victory over UTEP. The Bulldogs have now won 21 games in a row, the longest winning streak in Division I. They'll meet upstart Murray State on Saturday in a delicious second-round game in San Jose. That completes the afternoon session of the tournament as well as this blog for today. Until then, here's a nice recap by SI's Ann Killion of the tournament's signature moment (for now).

6:57 pm ET: Butler has made eight three-pointers in the second half including five by sophomore guard Shelvin Mack, who has 15 points in the second half and leads Butler with 22 points. It's looking like a lost cause for UTEP: Butler 60-45 with under seven minutes left. Says Ann Killion, watching courtside: "Mack was the captain of the gold medal winning USA U-19 World Championship team last summer and he's having a gold medal performance today. Mack is originally from Kentucky - and unless things go badly in the next six minutes, he'll be facing a team from his home state in Murray State."

6:40 pm ET: Butler is currently on a 22-4 run that began with a Matt Howard free throw with 27 seconds left in the first half.

6:37 pm ET: Butler just opened up a 10-point lead on UTEP, and Ann Killion checks in from San Jose: "Butler is up 47-37 with just over 12 minutes to play. The crowd -- primed by the thrilling finish of the early game -- seems more into the action. The Bulldogs have made five threes in the second half."

6:35 pm ET: If you're curious to see how your bracket compares to the Grammy-winning artist John Legend, we offer the musician's picks here. We've also got brackets from Kevin McHale, CBS newsman, Bob Schieffer and comedian Joel McHale.

6:29 pm ET: It's not college hoops but it's worth sharing. I just received a press release with the following spectacular subject line:


Indeed, the Rocket became interested in bull riding after being a contestant on Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge. He'll make his VERSUS debut during the network's live coverage of the Fresno, Calif. PBR event on March 20. So all was not lost for Notre Dame today.

6:10 pm ET: SI's Tim Layden handicaps the second-round game between Saint Mary-Villanova on Saturday: "Saint Mary's presents significant matchup issues for Villanova -- the Gaels are long and smart. 'Nova will come at them with ball pressure to try to create turnovers. I would expect a very tight game, but Saint Mary's has been hot, and Villanova has been shaky. I like the Gaels. While the East Coast slept, they were becoming a very good team."

6:04 pm ET: UTEP 33, BUTLER 27. That's the halftime score for the the hottest mid-major (Butler) against the scariest mid-major sleeper (UTEP). SI's Luke Winn said the Miners would pose a huge matchup problem with 6-9 Derrick Caracter and 6-11 Arnett Moultrie up front. Character has 12 points and six rebounds for the Miners. "They're exactly the kind of post players who can get Butler star Matt Howard into foul trouble, and the Bulldogs don't have much frontcourt depth behind him," said Winn. " UTEP is a much better defensive team than fourth-seeded Vanderbilt; the Commodores ranked 64th nationally in defensive efficiency, while the Miners were 14th. I wouldn't be shocked if they're the lone double-digit seed to make the Sweet 16."

5:45 pm ET: Kentucky coach John Calipari called UTEP coach Tony Barbee "one of the great young coaches in college basketball." Of course, he's biased. Barbee played for Calipari at UMass (he averaged 12.1 points in 1992) and later served as an assistant for Calipari at Memphis. Barbee has increased UTEP's win total from 14 in 2006-07 to 19 to to 23 last year to 26-6 this season. Barbee told SI this week that his philosophy is wrapped around one word: Pressure. "We are going to come at you for 40 minutes," said Barbee. UTEP and Butler are currently engaged in a terrific game -- 26-24 UTEP with under four minutes to go.

5:37 pm ET: Watching the festivities from Jacksonville,'s Andy Staples weighs in on the team you either love -- or love to hate: "It seems as if most of my media brethren would like Duke players and coaches to feel a certain way about the backlash against the Blue Devils' No. 1 seed and -- relatively speaking -- easy region. Is the team angry? Is it inspired? The question got asked a lot of different ways, and it got shot down every time. "I don't know what easy road there is to the Final Four," guard Jon Scheyer said. "For us, we don't really think about it." Coach Mike Krzyzewski, fighting a case of laryngitis, got especially cranky when the same reporter asked the question a second time. "There's no extra push," Krzyzewski rasped. "I mean, we don't need an extra push. If we're seeded sixth, first, eighth, those things don't matter. ... If I was a fan, I think I'd pay attention because everybody talks about that. But as a coach, we don't talk about that at all, because it has no bearing on our performance."

5:24 pm ET: SI's Tim Layden is fast becoming a fan of Saint Mary's point guard Matthew Dellavedova. "He's listed at 6-4 (I doubt that ... more like 6-2) and looks like he belongs on a playground in Kentucky -- ugly mouthguard, jersey is falling off one shoulder -- but Dellavedova is absolutely tenacious. It's easy to imagine a fascinating matchup between the Gaels and Villanova. 'Nova wants to rush the ball, drive and dish, play pressure defense. St. Mary's is a big and slow, wears you down. It will be a battle of wills, halfcourt vs full-court, speed vs, power ... looking forward to it." The Gaels are up 65-50 with under seven minutes remaining. Dellavedova has five points and seven rebounds.

5:15 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson checks in from K-State's rout-in-progress of North Texas: "In a scramble for a loose rebound, Kansas State's Jacob Pullen colllided with the Mean Green's 6-4 Collin Mangrum and landed hard on his tailbone. As Pullen limped off the floor, an angry K-State fan yelled, "He has more talent in his left sock than you do!" Pullen's not on the floor or on the bench right now. Also worth noting: Josh White, North Texas' leading scorer (15 ppg.), just scored his first basket of the game."

5:05 pm ET: SI's Tim Layden is courtside in Providence for Saint Mary's-Richmond: "Saint Mary's Omar Samhan is 6-11 of old school center. Drop steps, shoulder fakes ... and 24 points with 15 minutes left. I'm not sure Saint Mary's would fast break if they were alone on the court. But the Gaels are very good in the half court"

5:03 pm ET: Tweets ESPN's Andy Katz: "OVC has a win over the SEC, the MWC over the SEC and the CAA over Big East. These conferences get opportunities. This time they're winning"

5:01 pm ET: Final: BAYLOR 68, SAM HOUSTON STATE 59: Baylor sets a school record with 26 wins thanks to a huge game from junior forward Ekpe Udoh (20 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks). They'll play Old Dominion on Saturday.

4:58 pm ET: It's Murray State mania across America: Tweets CNBC's Darren Rovell: "Where is Murray State?" spiking in Y! search after the team upsets Vanderbilt (via @yahoosearchdata)."

4:53 pm ET: Baylor has not won a tournament game since beating Bradley in 1950. But they are on the verge. BAYLOR 63, SAM HOUSTON STATE 55. Under a minute to go.

4:49 pm ET: The screams of joy you hear are coming from the CBS Sports offices in midtown Manhattan. The first four NCAA games today have been decided by a combined 12 points

4:47 pm ET: MURRAY STATE! Senior forward Danero Thomas hits the game-winner jumper at the buzzer for the 66-65 win. SI's Killion writes. "The buzzer sounded as the ball went through the net. SI's Phil Taylor called the buzzer beater as the ball was being inbounded. Phil refrained from joining the dogpile atop Thomas on the floor. Prez Obama likely doing a fist-pump."

4:41 pm ET: Some halftime thoughts from SI's Kelli Anderson in Oklahoma City: "Kansas State is doing all the things it usually does well: cleaning up on the offensive boards, getting double-digit scoring from its stars, Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente (both have 11 at the half) and playing with a ferocious intensity. And so far the Cats are sparkling in one category in which they often stink: free throw shooting. For the season, they shot 66 percent as a team. Today they are 5-for-6, or 83 percent."

4:34 pm ET:'s Bryan Graham is excited about Murray State. He e-mails: "The last Ohio Valley Conference school to win an NCAA tournament game came back in 1989 when Middle Tennessee State scored the game's final 21 points to knock off Florida State in a 97-83 stunner. Freshman reserve Mike Buck, who came off the bench to score 23 of his 26 points in the second half, poured in 15 consecutive points during the game-deciding run. We could be seeing OVC history. After winning games in three straight NCAA tournaments 1987 (Austin Peay), '88 (Murray State) and '89 (Middle Tennessee State), the conference has gone 0-20 since. All-time, the OVC is 20-58 in the tournament.

4:32 pm ET: Ann Killion gives the foul trouble update from San Jose: Vandy's Jeffery Taylor has four fouls. Murray State's Tony Easley also has four fouls, and B.J. Jenkins has three.

4:31 pm ET:'s Joe Lemire checks from Sam Houston-Baylor: "Baylor's excitable coach, Scott Drew, who earlier was doing jumping jacks on the sideline to incite the crowd, just received a technical foul for arguing a call. He had been given a coach¹s box warning in the first half. The Bears need the encouragement, as they are tied with No. 13 Sam Houston State at 46 with under 12 minutes to play.

4:23 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson weighs in at halftime of Kansas State-North Texas. The Wildcats lead 41-25 at the half: "North Texas's 5-10 point guard Josh White, little brother of former Oklahoma star Quannas White, is one tough, fearless dude. He doesn't hesitate to drive through K-State's towering front line, which includes 6-1 Luis Colon, 6-8 Curtis Kelly and 7-foot Jordan Henriquez-Roberts ... not that he has had a lot of success so far. K-State has 6 blocks so far, and White hasn't made a basket."

4:23 pm ET: The Murray State-Vandy game is heading for a great finish. E-mails Ann Killion: "Murray State is known for its balanced scoring, with five players averaging 10 points per game and a sixth averaging 9.5 points per game. That player, Issac Miles, leads all players with 17 points and B.J. Jenkins has 11 points. If Murray State (up 55-52 with 6:27 to play) is going to hang on they need Danero Thomas, Tony Easley and Ivan Aska to step up.

4:15 pm ET: Some Murray State minutiae: The Racers became the first team in Ohio Valley conference history to win 30 games. That total included 23 victories in a row, missing the league's longest winning streak by two. The team's margin of victory this season was 17 points per game and they won 13 games by 20 or more points against Division I opponents. One of the school's most famous alums: former major league pitcher Kirk Reuter.

4:02 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson gives us an update from courtside at Kansas State-North Texas: "I was about to say, if North Texas can keep it close they have a real chance: They are 8-1 in games decided by three points or fewer. Then a flurry of Curtis Kelly layups later, it was 14-8, Wildcats." At the moment, K-State leads 20-14 with under eight minutes to go in the first half.

3:58 pm ET: Tweets College's Jerry Palm, who is at the Milwaukee subregional watching practice: "This is the most dead open practice session I've ever been to. Media outnumber people in the stands. Less than 100 fans here."

3:55 pm ET: Ann Killion is kind enough to give us a Barack Obama bracket update from San Jose: "President Obama missed out when ODU beat Notre Dame. He got Villanova and BYU right. So far Murray State -- up by 6 early in the second half -- is coming through for him."

3:52 pm ET: With Murray State leading 42-38 with 15:43 remaining, we highlight this nice work by the Wall Street Journal's David Biderman who writes: "Those of us who picked Murray State to upset No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt Thursday may not be as bold as we think we are. According to sports book, the three-point spread in this game is the smallest in a matchup between a 13-seed and a 4-seed since 2003, when Dayton was favored by just 2½ over underdog Tulsa, which pulled off a 13-point victory."

3:45 pm ET:Tweets colleague Luke Winn: "Frank Hassell's dad was yelling into his cell phone as his son -- ODU's star -- walked off the floor: "He's a beast! A beast, baby!"

3:40 pm ET: SI. com's Ann Killion weighs in at halftime of Murray State-Vandberbit: "Tight game between neighbors: Murray State -- in Murray, Ky. -- and Vanderbilt in Nashville are 120 miles apart. Probably a great atmosphere in some of the establishments in Clarksville, Tenn. (the midway point between the two cities). But 3,000 miles away in San Jose? Not so much."

3:34 pm ET:'s Joe Lemire checks in with a postgame scene from Old Dominion's 51-50 upset of Notre Dame: "With a one-point lead and nine seconds remaining, Old Dominion¹s Keyon Carter stepped to the line and hit both free throws. His trick? "I talk to the rim," he said. "I said, 'Nothing else matters except these free throws.'" Carter admitted that he often whispers "sweet nothings" to the rim. The rim has never replied but ODU held on for the victory.

3:30 pm ET: With Sam Houston sticking tight with Baylor -- it's 23-23 with under five minutes to go in the first half -- something to keep in mind:

Sam Houston gave Kentucky everything it could handle in November before finally falling102-92 in Rupp Arena.

3:27 pm ET: Louisville Courier-Journal reporter, Michael Grant, who covers Murray State for his paper, checks in: "Worth noting is Murray State starting guard B.J. Jenkins is wearing a bandage on his left ring finger. He cut it, believe it or not, while cutting down the net in the OVC title game. He claims that a cameraman accidentally nudged the ladder. The injury required three staples, which came out earlier this week." At halftime it's Murray State 36-32. Jenkins leads all scorers with nine.

3:22 pm ET: SI's Tim Layden checks in from Providence with the postgame scene: "Robert Morris players stood around at midcourt like they didn't want to leave. When they walked, they got a standing ovation from Villanova fans."

3:15 pm ET: Final -- VILLANOVA 73, ROBERT MORRIS 70. Our Robert Morris historian, Bryan Graham, weighs in: "It was 20 years ago today that Robert Morris lost another heartbreaker as a No. 15 seed: a 79-71 loss to second-seeded Kansas in the first round of the 1990 NCAA tournament in Atlanta.

3:07 pm ET: Great stat from CBS via Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal: First three games of this year's tournament have already equaled the number of overtime games all of last year.

3:05 pm ET:'s Ann Killion checks in from San Jose: "Murray State just took the lead -- with nine minutes left in the game. Vanderbilt's high scorer, sophomore Jeffrey Taylor, is out of the game at the moment. Though Taylor went to Hobbs High School in New Mexico, He is a native of Norkopping, Sweden. His dad Jeff, who played for the Rockets and the Pistons, eventually played professionally in Sweden."

3:03 pm ET: SI's Tim Layden checks in from Villanova-Robert Morris: "Robert Morris had little chance in a 5-minute OT, having lost two key players to fouls. Villanova benefited from multiple trips to line in last four minutes. RMU body language now says ''we're cooked.''"

2:59 pm ET: BYU 99-92. Final. Jimmer Fredette finished with 37 points including 13-of-26 from the field. If he has a similiar game on Sunday, he'll be a household name come Monday.

2:56 pm ET: Villanova up 62-58 in overtime, looking like they are about to survive. Coming up on three minutes remaining.

2:49 pm ET: BYU's Michael Loyd Jr. has scored all six of BYU points in overtime. He has 24 in the game and is 7-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from three.

2:45 pm ET. Some great Robert Morris stats, courtesy of's Bryan Graham: Robert Morris is 9-1 when holding opponents under 60 and 8-2 when holding teams between 60-69.

2:45 pm ET: Florida's Kenny Boynton just fouled out with 3:57 left in double overtime. Scored 27 points, What a game for the freshman guard, but look for BYU to take over now.

2:40 pm ET: And we go to DOUBLE OVERTIME with BYU-Florida. Tied at 81. Siena won the last double-OT game in the NCAAs, toppling Ohio State in the first round last year.

2:39 PM: SI's Ann Killion checks in at the start of the Murray State-Vanderbilt in San Jose: "A few minutes before tipoff here at HP Pavilion, and, as expected, not a big lunchtime crowd. However, there are quite a few Cal fans tailgating in the sunshine of the parking lot. Maybe they're just soaking up the Madness and pretending that they're actually in Jacksonville."

2:38 pm ET: Villanova's ScottieReynolds was 1-of-13 from field and 0-of-7 from three at last check. Incredible.

2:35 pm ET:'s Bryan Graham checks in with a stat as Robert Morris leads Villanova with with just over three minutes to go: No.15 seeds are 4-96 in the first round since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The four No. 15s that have won: Hampton (2001), Coppin State (1997), Santa Clara (1993) and Richmond (1991).

2:30 pm ET: Tweets ESPN's Andy Katz: "If Nova goes down lower part of South opens up for Richmond or Baylor if both can win first-round games to get to Elite Eight."

2:25 pm ET: Florida and BYU soon to start overtime. Tied at 75. Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons missed a jumper with under a second left that would have won it.

2:23 pm ET: The first final in the books is a juicy upset. No. 11: Old Dominion 51, No. 6 Notre Dame 50. Irish senior forward Luke Harangody finished with four points, a brutal end to a terrific college career.

2:20 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson checks in from Florida-BYU: "Florida's maligned perimeter defense suddenly got very effective when 6-10 Vernon Macklin put his hand in Jimmer Fredette's face. Air ball, Fredette. Meanwhile, Florida suddenly can't miss from the arc: Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons both hit huge treys to put Florida ahead."

2:18 pm ET: Old Dominion leads 51-48 with 9.6 to go.

2:15 pm ET: The biggest winners today? CBS. They have three razor-thin games at the moment. Fantastic stuff.

2:12 pm ET: FIRST UPSET ALERT OF THE TOURNEY: Old Dominion leads 49-46 with 29.6 left.

2:09 pm ET: Freshman Kenny Boynton is playing out of his mind. He's 4-of-8 from three-point land and leads Florida with 23 points. He's also been incredibly active against Jimmer Fredette. It's a three-point game -- 68-65 -- with under four minutes to play.

2:06 pm ET:Tweets Seth Davis: "Hard to believe Robert Morris has 16 TOs and Nova has 2 fast break pts. Nova just needs to put together 3-4 good minutes to create space"

2:02 pm ET: SI's Tim Layden checks in from Villanova-Robert Morris: "Scottie Reynolds is getting frustrated. On a near-save, he was called out of bounds and let loose with a long, loud expletive that rhymes with ''firetruck."

1:57 pm ET:'s Hunt, the Florida alum, is irate: "We have eight minutes of (expletive deleted) ignorance every game." It's 61-53 BYU with 7:28 remaining.

1:53 pm ET: Notre Dame senior guard Ben Hansbrough leads all scorers in the tournament at the moment with 17 points. He's 7-of-12 from the field and 3-of-7 from three-point land. He's also got five rebounds, three assists and a steal. Monster game for a guy who averaged 11.6 points during the season.

1:49 pm ET: Self-promotion alert: Feel free to follow me on Twitter. Seriously, I'm hilarious.

1:46 pm ET:The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy is no fan of Harangody's defense. Tweets DeCourcy: "Harangody helping as much on D as I am, and I've got a press table between me and the Monarchs."

1:43 pm:'s Luke Winn checks in from ODU-ND in New Orleans: "At some point, Luke Harangody is going to wake up and start scoring, right? I don't think he wants to let his career end with a scoreless game. Notre Dame's having a hard time getting him the ball against ODU's zone, but he needs to start aggressively calling for the ball, too."

1:40 pm ET: The zone has been active for Old Dominion. The Monarchs (26-8) are allowing only 57 points per game and Notre Dame was 13-of-34 (38.2 percent) from the field with 12:21 left. Score: ND 34-33.

1:36 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson checks in from from Florida-BYU: "BYU crowd on its feet. Jimmer Fredette isn't hitting from outside, but he's finding ways to score. He already has six (14 total) this half."

1:33 pm ET: Florida has started the second half very sloppy, including two straight turnovers and a foul sending Jimmer Fredette, a 90 percent free throw shooter, to the line. BYU leads 43-38 with 16:32 left.

1:30 pm ET:Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher have a combined four points for Villanova at the half. Reynolds averaged 18.5 points this season; Fisher averaged 13.7.

1:28 pm ET: It's Robert Morris 28-22 at the half, and SI's Tim Layden points out that at one point this year, Villanova was 20-1 and Robert Morris was 12-9. Wow.

1:25 pm: Nice anecdote here on BYU's Michael Loyd Jr. from the Deseret News after his performance Feb. 27 against New Mexico: "When he was summoned into the game early in the second half against No. 10 New Mexico, BYU guard Michael Loyd Jr., was so surprised that he was in the middle of chewing on a candy bar. Loyd, his mouth full of chocolate, quickly stood up from his comfortable seat on the bench, dropped the candy bar on the floor and hustled down to the scorer's table to check into the contest, his jaws chomping furiously. What Loyd did from there surprised most of those who watched what unfolded, though the end result didn't have the sweet ending the sellout crowd of 22,644 at the Marriott Center was craving as the No. 13 Cougars fell to the Lobos, 83-81, Saturday afternoon."

1:21 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson checks at halftime of Florida-BYU: "Michael Loyd Jr. was getting about eight minutes a game through the first 25 games, before a breakout performance against New Mexico on Feb. 27, when he scored 19 points in the second half ( an 83-81 loss). Worth noting, too, is that Florida, the worst perimeter defending team (36.3%) during the SEC season, is doing a great job on Fredette, but not on anyone else: The Cougs are 3 for 5 from the arc."

1:18 pm ET: For those who want a brief break from the tournament, here's the cover of today's New York Post. Always a rare day not to see Tiger Woods here.

1:12 pm ET: SI's Tim Layden checks in from Providence: "Robert Morris is furiously defending the perimeter and at this point, Villanova looks slow and sloppy. But remember, Villanova was down 14 to American U last year in the first round."

1:10 pm ET: BYU leads Florida at the half, 35-33. senior editor Ryan Hunt, a Florida alum who bleeds Gator orange, observes: "Florida broke down when center Vernon Macklin and forward Erik Murphy went to the bench with two fouls. I'm happy with the first half. Florida is an inconsistent team, but the one thing that makes me nervous is that Fredette hasn't done much yet."

1:05 pm ET:'s Andy Glockner is pulling no punches on Twitter: "There's no other way to put this: Villanova has been shockingly bad so far and is getting blatantly outworked by RMU."

1:04 pm ET: Villanova's Scottie Reynolds just scored his first two points of the game with 5:54 left in the first half. Stunning.

1:01 pm ET: Tweets Seth Davis: "Why is Nova trailing Robert Morris by 6? They're 1-8 3fg and -10 on the boards. Yup, that'll do it."

12:58 pm ET: What about Bob? That's what Villanova is asking right now. "If you were dropped from outer space into Providence and didn't know anything about seeding or reputation, you would think Robert Morris is better than Villanova," says SI's Tim Layden, watching from press row.

12:56 pm ET: BYU sophomore guard Michael Loyd Jr. is having himself a half. He's 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from three-point land. He scored 10 straight points. Loyd averaged 4.6 points this season in just 13.4 minutes.

12:50 pm ET: If you want some details about the CBS broadcast coverage of the second set of afternoon games: Murray State-Vanderbilt will be on in 23 percent of nation, North Texas-Kansas State in 4 percent, Sam Houston State-Baylor in six percent, and Saint Mary's-Richmond in 30 percent.

12:48 pm ET: Tweets ESPN's Andy Katz: "There's always a smaller guy who goes off early and Karon Abraham is filling it up with three 3s. It's RMU's only shot."

12:43 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson checks in: "Florida doing a good job limiting Jimmer Fredette from outside while heating up from their own perimeter. Sophomore point guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Kenny Boynton hit back-to-back threes. Florida leads by five (24-19) with eight minutes left. Fredette has eight points on 4-of-8 shooting. He's 0-for-2 on threes."

12:42 pm ET:New York Times college basketball reporter Pete Thamel tweets that the entire Robert Morris starting five went to press row and fist bumped their radio guys before the game. "Odd, but kind of cool," says Thamel.

12:40 pm ET: Reynolds now in for Villanova with 16:09 left in first half. Teaching moment over.

12:35 pm ET: Our Twitter-happy colleagueSeth Davis checks in from the CBS Studios in New York. "Sometimes the worst thing you can do against BYU is score on them. No team in America is better at running after made baskets."

12:34 pm ET: Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said he expected senior forward Luke Harangody to come off the bench and play about the same amount against Old Dominion."Practice was good these last couple days because it's getting him back into a rhythm," Brey told reporters "We're open to anything, but that seems to be a good segment of time for him, 24 or 25 minutes."

12:30 pm ET: SI's Kelli Anderson checks in from Oklahoma City. "OKC didn't sell out (no OU in the dance) and the Ford Center isn't even half full five minutes before tipoff. There are a few hundred Gators fans behind me, and a clutch of BYU faithful across the court -- at least eight of whom are wearing Jimmer Fredette's 32 jersey. One Coug fan is holding up a sign that says OUr NOah is better looking than their NOah. (That would be referring to 6-8 sophomore forward NOah Hartsock) ... BYU mascot appears to have some hops, though."

12:27pm ET: Villanova coach Jay Wright said he will bench Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher to start the game. CoreyStokes and Maalik Wayns will be the starters. A Villanova spokesperson said Wright benched the pair as part of "a minor teaching moment." SI's Tim Layden says the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence is about 60 percent full minutes before the tip.

12:26 pm ET: SI's Luke Winn checks in from New Orleans where he's covering Old Dominion-Notre Dame: "This might be the sleepiest scene I've witnessed in six years covering the NCAA tournament. Hardly anyone outside the arena, and hardly anyone inside at about 11 am. No scalping scene to speak of, either. Either Notre Dame-Old Dominion isn't a hot ticket, or New Orleans has yet to wake up from St. Patrick's Day."

12:22 pm ET: Forget the play-in game: BYU freshman guard Tyler Haws scores the first basket of the NCAA Tournament.

12:18 pm ET:'s Andy Glockner says he's sitting directly behind Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery for the Robert Morris-Villanova game in Providence. "Not a good draw for me," says Glockner. "Raff is like 6-foor-5. You might be able to see my laptop on TV, though."

12:15 pm ET: You want trends? Chew on this: Florida has won 12 consecutive NCAA tournament games, all coming between 2006 and 2007. That's one behind Duke (1991-93) for second place on the list behind UCLA. BYU, on the other hand, has lost seven straight tournament games, but are a fashionable pick in this game after finishing with the best record (29-5) in program history.

Pregame: We follow it every March not only to see who becomes the game's champion but also to champion the game. That's how SI's Alexander Wolff described the NCAA Tournament 20 years ago this month and the maxim is just as true today. Beginning at 12:20 p.m. ET (11:20 a.m. local time at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City) with the tip-off between 10th-seeded Florida against No. 7 BYU, America's 19-day basketball holiday begins anew.

While watching Thursday opening game, keep your eye on BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.'s Andy Staples predicts Fredette will rise from obscurity into mainstream stardom this weekend. Says Staples: "It helps that the 6-foot-2 guard from Glens Falls, N.Y., has a name that lodges itself in the brain and won't let go. He's also capable of dropping 30-plus on an opponent. Fredette has seven 30-plus point games this season, including a 49-point outburst against Arizona and a 45-pointer last week against TCU. As [Weber State's Harold] Arcenaux, [Davidson's Stephen] Curry and [Wyoming's Fennis] Dembo would attest, scoring in bunches is one of the easiest paths to sudden mainstream fame and tourney immortality."

Immortality awaits for some; obscurity for others. Welcome to March Madness ...

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