OK, so we all know the tournament begins in earnest Thursday. And I'm as eager as anything to get on with it. I'll be courtside in Salt Lake City but will have the March Madness on Demand screen up with multiple windows going as well. So here's the schedule, first game to last, for Thursday.
I have to say: It's gonna be a good day.
Valparaiso vs. Michigan State, 12:15 p.m. ET (CBS), Auburn Hills, Mich. -- The tourney gets underway with a Tom Izzo team that's actually getting way too little Final Four buzz. We should know better. Valpo's Ryan Broekhoff has the ability to shoot from deep, and if you're telling me he has 30, I'm telling you this game is close with two minutes to go.
Bucknell vs. Butler, 12:40 p.m. ET (TruTV), Lexington, Ky. -- The battle of the B schools will be a brutal affair in terms of physicality. Brad Stevens knows his team has no gimme here; in fact, Mike Muscala of Bucknell is the best player on the floor. Will be close and low-scoring.
Wichita State vs. Pittsburgh, 1:40 p.m. ET (TBS), Salt Lake City -- This game should've been getting more pub. It's a real toss-up. Wichita State has the bigs to go against Pitt. The Shockers and the Panthers know about early exits; who follows the pattern again this year?
New Mexico State vs. Saint Louis, 2:10 p.m. ET, (TNT) San Jose, Calif. -- New Mexico State has a dude who's 7-5 and will win Twitter when this game is happening. SLU is the most dangerous No. 4 seed -- and deepest four -- in some time.
Saint Mary's vs. Memphis, 2:40 p.m. ET (CBS), Auburn Hills, Mich. -- Will the travel affect Saint Mary's? Nah. I think we're all intrigued by Memphis. A team with 30 wins and we don't know how good it really is.
Davidson vs. Marquette, 3:10 p.m. ET (TruTV), Lexington, Ky. -- This is an upset pick on my end. Davidson is very well-coached and could have the two best players on the floor. But having said that, I already hate myself for doubting Buzz Williams.
Southern vs. Gonzaga, 4:10 p.m. ET (TBS), Salt Lake City -- The 1/16 game never gets a lot of run unless it's close going into the half. I don't think that will be the case here. Gonzaga's march to Atlanta begins.
South Dakota State vs. Michigan, 7:15 p.m. ET (CBS), Auburn Hills, Mich. -- Nate Wolters vs. Trey Burke is the one-on-one matchup of the Round of 64. Michigan has struggled as of late. SDSU can shoot 3s well. Michigan State fans will be dressed in SDSU gear and trying to make it a Jackrabbits' den.
Belmont vs. Arizona , 7:20 p.m. ET (TNT), Salt Lake City -- A very popular upset pick here, Arizona has the athletes and Belmont has the guards. I think this stands to be one of the three best games on Thursday.
California vs. UNLV , 7:27 p.m. ET (TruTV), San Jose, Calif. -- A rematch from earlier this season (something the selection committee normally dodges for the Round of 64), UNLV won the first won 76-75. I don't think it'll be that close again. But Cal, the lower seed, gets to play close to home, in San Jose. Could be interesting.
Akron vs. VCU, 9:45 p.m. ET (CBS), Auburn Hills, Mich. -- Shaka Smart used to work for Keith Dambrot. Cool. Akron is without its starting point guard due to marijuana trafficking arrest allegations/suspension. Not cool.
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