For the sixth year in a row Vanderbilt is not playing in the NCAA Tournament, and the March Madness Twitter account woke up and chose violence by reminding us of what happened the last time we did.
All righty then. Anyway, on to today’s action.
(9) West Virginia vs. (8) Maryland (11:15 AM CT, CBS): The day gets started with a game that deserves at least some of your attention; sure, the winner of this one just gets served up to Alabama in the second round, but it’s an 8-9 matchup and those are usually interesting watches.
(13) Furman vs. (4) Virginia (11:40 AM CT, truTV): Furman is in the tournament for the first time since 1980 and has a real chance to pull an upset here, with Virginia being a team that the metrics don’t particularly like (34 in KenPom.)
(10) Utah State vs. (7) Missouri (12:40 PM CT, TNT): The Mountain West can sure shut a lot of people up today, with the conference not having won a tournament game since 2018 and Nevada completely shitting the bed in the First Four. Utah State is actually favored here in spite of being the lower seed.
(16) Howard vs. (1) Kansas (1:00 PM CT, TBS): Howard is in the tournament for the first time since 1992, when they ironically also played Kansas in a 1-vs.-16 first-round game. That one ended with a final score of 100-67 (and, uh, Kansas losing to UTEP in the next round); will this one be closer?
(16) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. (1) Alabama (approx. 1:45 PM CT, CBS): Did you know that the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi campus is on an island? That’s probably the most interesting thing about this game. Oh, and whether the armed dude following Brandon Miller around will be on the Alabama bench. Yeah, seriously, that’s a thing that happened.
(12) Charleston vs. (5) San Diego State (approx. 2:10 PM CT, truTV): This is a popular upset pick (see: previous note about the Mountain West, also see Charleston’s 31-3 record) but the metrics and Vegas don’t really see it. I, personally, am staying away.
(15) Princeton vs. (2) Arizona (approx. 3:10 PM CT, TNT): Snooze.
(9) Illinois vs. (8) Arkansas (approx. 3:30 PM CT, TBS): You kind of wonder if Arkansas, a preseason top-10 team that’s had injury issues, has another deep tournament run in them. The winner of this game will get Kansas in the second round and it’s notable that Arkansas at least would be about a 4.5-point underdog to Kansas.
(9) Auburn vs. (8) Iowa (5:50 PM CT, TNT): One thing I really don’t like about the pod system is that it’s allowed the NCAA to give undeserved home games to teams like Auburn, which is playing the first weekend in Birmingham that probably made sense to somebody in the NCAA offices but is absolutely unfair to Iowa and likely second-round opponent Houston. Then again, it’s equally plausible that Legacy Arena will be filled with people who will definitely not be rooting for Auburn (Alabama fans.)
(12) Oral Roberts vs. (5) Duke (6:10 PM CT, CBS): Like Charleston, Oral Roberts has a really good record (30-4, including an undefeated record in the Summit League.) Also like Charleston, Oral Roberts is a popular upset pick. This one’s a bit more plausible but I could also see Duke making a Final Four run. Seriously, Duke could make the Final Four or lose to Oral Roberts and neither would surprise me.
(15) Colgate vs. (2) Texas (6:25 PM CT, TBS): It’s honestly pretty wild that Rodney Terry has coached Texas to a 2-seed and also likely won’t get the job permanently. It’s even wilder that his former boss Chris Beard already has another job, but that’s explained mostly by Ole Miss being a thing.
(10) Boise State vs. (7) Northwestern (6:35 PM CT, truTV): Fun fact: Northwestern has never lost in the first round and Boise State has never won.
(16) Northern Kentucky vs. (1) Houston (approx. 8:20 PM CT, TNT): Did you know that Northern Kentucky’s head coach is Darrin Horn?
(13) Louisiana vs. (4) Tennessee (approx. 8:40 PM CT, CBS): We are all Ragin’ Cajuns today.
(10) Penn State vs. (7) Texas A&M (approx. 8:55 PM CT, TBS): This low-key might be the best game of the entire first round, with two teams that are hot coming into the tournament and likely underseeded.
(15) UNC Asheville vs. (2) UCLA (approx. 9:05 PM CT, truTV): Last game of the night. If it’s not interesting, you’ll probably go to bed before it ends.