The Madness is finally here.
The men's NCAA tournament begins Thursday at 12:20 p.m. ET. You've done your research, submitted your picks and are now trying to figure out how to watch the games at work. (Here's some help in that department.)
The hardest part is figuring out which of the 16 games on Thursday you have to watch, because there are three different sessions with four games going on at once. That's what we're here for.
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|Bruce Pearl's Vols will be in one of the day's best games.
This breakdown by Mike DeCourcy lists his version of the most compelling games during one of the four time slots. All four are worth watching. For those with more specific tastes, we've broken down by categories below. Happy watching.
No. 10 St. Mary's vs. No. 7 Richmond, 3 p.m. – Richmond guard Kevin Anderson was the A-10 player of the year and could be one of the tournament's break-out stars. The same could be said for Gaels' senior center Omar Samhan, who is to mid-majors as DeMarcus Cousins is to BCS schools. (Really, really good.) The winner has a chance to stun 2-seed 'Nova on Saturday.
No. 11 San Diego State vs. No. 6 Tennessee, 9:45 p.m. – Good chance for any upset here, though most of the country will probably be tuned into Wake Forest-Texas. The Aztecs are comparable to the Vols in terms of size, skill and defense. The potential for a wild, back-and-forth game is high. Added bonus? Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist are calling the game.
No. 11 Old Dominion vs. No. 6 Notre Dame, 12:25 p.m. – The Monarchs' defense doesn't make anything easy. The Irish can score on anyone. But even if Notre Dame is hitting, don't expect a high-scoring affair. Neither team pushes the pace.
No. 13 Murray State vs. No. 4 Vanderbilt, 2:30 p.m.
The Racers is essentially a smaller version of Vandy. Both teams have efficient offenses, decent defenses and don't rely on any one player. If Commodores center A.J. Ogilvy gets into foul trouble, this'll be the game CBS will cut to.
No. 12 UTEP vs. No. 5 Butler, 4:45 p.m.
Poor Bulldogs. They're riding the nation's longest win streak (20 games), grab a nice seed and get stuck with the Miners, who merely controlled C-USA the same way Butler controlled the Horizon. If UTEP's Derrick Caracter controls Matt Howard down low, the Miners are moving on.
All about offense
No. 14 Sam Houston State vs. No. 3 Baylor, 2:45 p.m. – With their big three of Tweety Carter, LaceDarius Dunn and Ekpe Udoh, the Bears are a trendy Final Four pick. But Sam Houston State scored 92 points vs. Kentucky and hit 107 vs. Auburn this season. Don't write off the Bearcats.
All about defense
No. 8 UNLV vs. No. 9 Northern Iowa, 7:10 p.m. – This tweet from Rebels beat writer Ryan Greene made me laugh. Yes, the Panthers are big and experienced. But how will they fare against the versatile Rebs?
Let me introduce you to …
No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 BYU, 12:20 p.m. – The day's first game should be a walk for the Cougars except for a nagging stat: they haven't won an NCAA tourney game since 1993. Time for Jimmer Fredette (the only guy to score over 40 points in a game twice this season) to help BYU break that streak.
No. 14 Montana vs. No. 3 New Mexico, 9:40 p.m. – Anthony Johnson scored 42 in the Big Sky title game. Darington Hobson was the Mountain West player of the year. One of those two gets to play another day.
One for NBA scouts
No. 8 Texas vs. No. 9 Wake Forest, 9:35 p.m. – At least four future pros are in this matchup of skidding teams. The Longhorns have three of them, though. Damion James, Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton are probably too much for Al-Faourq Aminu to offset.
One for Big East respect
No. 11 Washington vs. No. 6 Marquette, 7:20 p.m. – The Pac-10 got ripped all season. If its third-best team beats a team tied for fifth from the Big East, does that end all that talk?
If any of the remaining No. 1, 2 or 3 seeds – Georgetown, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Villanova – are in close games, dial it up here. And if anyone tells you they knew that would happen, ask to see their bracket.
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