Download the CBS Sports App today and get instant tournament news and alerts, plus play Brackets!

The NCAA Tournament officially starts Tuesday evening woth the First Four games in Dayton, Ohio -- eight teams looking for four spots among 64 in the first round of the Big Dance.

Two games each, Tuesday and Wednesday night, feature schools playing for spots as No. 16 and 11 seeds. When the selection committee ranked the field, these schools landed in the 65-68 slots.

Even if you’ve heard of them, you might not have enough intel for an informed decision about making your picks. We’re here to help. We’re all about making you the smartest, most informed person in your office, just in time to clean up on your pool. Here are the impact players you need to know in these games.


Mount St. Mary’s (16) vs. New Orleans (16), 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV

MSM: The Mountaineers won their first Northeast Conference regular-season title in 21 years and secured the tournament title, thanks in large part to sophomore sharpshooter Elijah Long. He averages 15.4 points and 4.4 assists -- the latter figure ranking first in the NEC. He is one of only 10 players in Division I this season averaging at least 15 points, five rebounds and four assists.

UNO: A solid nucleus forms around Southland Conference Player of the Year Erik Thomas (19.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .591 FG pct.). And they’ll need his best to overcome the nation’s third-worst turnover percentage (23.8 percent of their possessions).

Kansas State (11) vs. Wake Forest (11), approx. 9 p.m. ET, truTV

K-STATE: The Wildcats need bench production. They were second-to-last in the Big 12 and 318th among Division I teams. Sophomores Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes score in double figures, but K-State struggles to score beyond its starting five. Look for 6-foot-10 reserve center Isaiah Maurice to play an integral role in defending the post against John Collins. K-State needs major minutes from him to be successful.

WAKE: Welcome to the big time, John Collins! If you don’t know the name, write it down because he’s the reason Wake is going to win this game. Collins nearly averaged a double-double this season (18.9 points, 9.8 rebounds). He doesn’t have a bulky frame at 6-10 and 220 pounds but he’s as athletic as any center in the nation and uses every ounce of muscle to his advantage in the post. There’s a reason he’s going to be considered among the NBA’s top big man prospects very soon.


N.C. Central (16) vs. UC Davis (16), 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV

NCCU: Leading scorer Patrick Cole could be the reason the Eagles find their way into the first round. The onetime Siena transfer is averaging 19.5 points and seven rebounds and was named the MEAC Player of the Year. The 6-5 senior guard has scored 20-plus in nine games since January.

UCD: The Big West champ has never been dancing, and might struggle because of its offense. If the Aggies are to advance, they’ll need a big night from senior guard Brynton Lemar, who’s averaging 16.1 points.

Providence (11) vs. Southern California (11), approx. 9 p.m. ET, truTV

PROVIDENCE: You will never guess who Providence drew in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season? Yup, Southern Cal. Last year the Friars won a 70-69 thriller. But Vegas currently favors the Trojans by a point in this one. If Providence is to advance, it will need big production from big man Rodney Bullock. The slightly undersized (6-8) center is averaging 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds and can play inside and outside of the paint. His bucket with less than two seconds left beat USC in last year’s tourney.

USC: Power forward Bennie Boatwright is a year older and smarter -- one reason I’m picking the Trojans. The 6-10 sophomore is averaging 14.6 points. He’s a polished scorer who can hit from deep and can finish and draw contact around the rim. Factor in his 92.6 percent free-throw shooting, and Boatwright is the X-factor.