Quite honestly, the first day of the NCAA Tournament was weird.
The afternoon sessions were great: a bunch of competitive games, a couple of massive upsets (15-seed Princeton beating 2-seed Arizona and 13-seed Furman beating 4-seed Virginia) ... and, hell, even a 1-vs.-16 game between Kansas and Howard was interesting for a while.
The evening session? Not so much. Duke quickly murdered a plucky Oral Roberts team, 2-seeds Texas and UCLA handled their business, and what was supposed to be the game of the night between Penn State and Texas A&M ended up being a Nittany Lion runaway. 1-seed Houston and 4-seed Tennessee got bogged down in competitive games, but both were brutal to watch.
I’m not sure what to expect today. Coincidentally, three of the 3- and 4-seed pods play today, which means there might only be one or two complete beatdowns. We’ll see.
(10) USC vs. (7) Michigan State (11:15 AM CT, CBS): The day gets started with Tom Izzo looking to do what he does in March, against a USC team playing in its third straight tournament. This could be fun, but it will probably have to carry the early window.
(14) Kennesaw State vs. (3) Xavier (11:40 AM CT, truTV)
(14) UC Santa Barbara vs. (3) Baylor (12:30 PM CT, TNT): I’m putting these two together because this is why USC-Michigan State will need to carry the early window. Kennesaw State is playing in its first NCAA Tournament ever, and as for UCSB, in theory they could make things interesting, but Baylor seems like the kind of team these days that doesn’t fuck around with first-round opponents.
(12) VCU vs. (5) Saint Mary’s (1:00 PM CT, TBS): Hey, look! Two November Vanderbilt opponents!
(15) Vermont vs. (2) Marquette (1:45 PM CT, CBS): Did you know that Shaka Smart hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2013? I know, that surprised me too. Anyway, Marquette should beat Vermont. Then again, Texas should have beaten Abilene Christian a couple of years ago...
(11) Pitt vs. (6) Iowa State (2:10 PM CT, truTV): Remember, we had questions about Pitt’s inclusion. In spite of the seeds, I will not be surprised if this is a blowout.
(11) NC State vs. (6) Creighton (3:00 PM CT, TNT): This, on the other hand, has upset written all over it. Creighton is good, but Greg McDermott’s March record is lacking.
(13) Iona vs. (4) UConn (3:30 PM CT, TBS): The last game of the afternoon session is something that some people are calling a potential upset, mostly because Iona is coached by Rick Pitino... but the metrics have viewed UConn as a top-10 team all season, so they’re more like a 2-seed.
(16) Fairleigh Dickinson vs. (1) Purdue (5:50 PM CT, TNT): Fairleigh Dickinson going up against 7’4” Zach Edey will probably look about like a bunch of middle-schoolers going up against a grown-ass man.
(11) Providence vs. (6) Kentucky (6:10 PM CT, CBS): This game will decide whether John Calipari has Figured It Out. I mean, Kentucky should probably beat Providence. They might not.
(12) The Drake vs. (5) Miami (6:25 PM CT, TBS):
(14) Grand Canyon vs. (3) Gonzaga (6:35 PM CT, truTV): CLAPPING INTENSIFIES
(9) Florida Atlantic vs. (8) Memphis (8:20 PM CT, TNT): Ya know, I kind of hate that this is an 8-9 matchup.
(14) Montana State vs. (3) Kansas State (8:40 PM CT, CBS): The Big Sky Conference hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2006, which feels like it has to be one of the longest droughts among mid-/low-major leagues. (Related: I’m not actually sure what the difference between a mid- and low-major is.)
(13) Kent State vs. (4) Indiana (8:55 PM CT, TBS): This one’s another popular upset pick, mostly because Kent State is good and Indiana is a 4-seed despite being 30th in KenPom.
(11) Arizona State vs. (6) TCU (9:05 PM CT, truTV): Bobby Hurley and Jamie Dixon! One of them has to win!