The five must-watch, best games from the tourney's Round of 64
Here are the games you have to watch.
OK, you're still digesting this bracket and wondering who to pick, which games to overthink, which ones you know you'll get wrong no matter the choice, and all that.
It's a wonderful exercise in mental exhaustion and self-loathing.
But beyond the picking, know there is, as always, a batch of games that are just plain fun. Watchable. Ones you'll want to see regardless of rooting interest or what your bracket says.
Each year, CBSSports.com gives you the five must-watch Round of 64 games. And so let's get into it right now. If you'd like to see all the tip times and announcing crews, we've got this beautiful page waiting for you.
Utah (5) vs. Stephen F. Austin (12): Thursday at 7:27 p.m. ET on truTV.
South Region, in Portland. The Lumberjacks of Stephen F. (it just feels good to say, "Stephen F.") aren't surprising anyone. The rare "favored underdog" of sorts here. Brad Underwood, SFA's coach, has won more games in the first two years of his career (61) than any D-I men's coach in college basketball history. That's insane. Last year it was trendy to pick the Jacks to win over VCU because they hadn't lost a game since Nov. 23. This season, the Jacks haven't dropped a game since ... Nov. 24.
If not for SFA's conference, it would be a single-digit seed. And as you can see on my 1-68 seed list, I think Underwood's team is a top-half-of-the-field-good kind of club.
It gets Utah, which hasn't been in the NCAAs since 2009. Delon Wright is the best point guard in college basketball, far as I'm concerned. This is going to be fun. SFA is going to try and push this game, while Utah will go half-court and rely on Wright to do the right things.
It's my favorite game scheduled for Thursday or Friday.
Wichita State (7) vs. Indiana (10): Friday at approx. 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS. Midwest Region, in Omaha. The Shockers have great guards, get out and defend you, a philosophy led by the play of Tekele Cotton. He's a stud and a great dunker. Fred VanVleet is a heady player and a sneaky good defender. Biggest problem for Wichita State? It lacks size. Indiana does as well, though. Wichita State is the better team. It has Ron Baker, a great scorer.
Indiana has a good point guard in Yogi Ferrell, and I wonder if he'll body up and push around VanVleet, who isn't one to be bullied.
James Blackmon Jr. and Baker could trade 3s in this game.
If Indiana loses, Tom Crean is going to have fans in an uproar. But, hey, IU made the field and made it with a little bit of wiggle room.
Oh, and if Wichita State wins, and Kansas wins ... it's my favorite matchup of the NCAAs. Kansas doesn't schedule Wichita State (nor should it, really) but this would be tremendous.
North Carolina State (8) vs. LSU (9): Thursday at approx. 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS. East Region, in Pittsburgh. I always include an 8/9 game, and to me it doesn't get more 8/9 than Wolfpack-Tigers. NC State is the exact kind of team a lot of casual sports fans will look at on their sheet and have no idea what to make of it. LSU has more talent.
But I telll you, from Texas to Wake to Arizona to UConn to Oregon in years past, the "more talented" team in the 8/9 game usually loses. Something about wasted potential and all that. I can't explain it.
This should be good, though. N.C. State is no stranger to dramatic games, and LSU has Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey playing in what could be their last games before declaring for the NBA Draft.
Butler (6) vs. Texas (11): Thursday at appox. 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS. Midwest Region, in Pittsburgh: Butler is going to be an underdog in this game, but they can totally beat Texas. Texas was 3-12 against teams rated in the top 50 of the RPI this year and has underwhelmed most of the season.
To be fair, Texas has also had health issues and not been consistent in roster availability. Still, at a certain point the excuses run dry. But this is such a fascinating game. Texas has the talent of a No. 3 seed. A lot of people will pick against Butler. Texas isn't totally reliable on offense, despite the talent of Isaiah Taylor and the size of Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner.
Butler coach Chris Holtmann and that staff get a heck of a scout here. Butler is much smaller but undeniably tougher than Texas. Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow may need to drain six 3s over the top of the Texas athletes -- something they're definitely capable of.
And Roosevelt Jones is a guy you can't really prepare for until you're on the floor with him. I think this game has a great chance of being close for 40 minutes.
But if Rick Barnes' team loses this game, he'll probably be out of a job.
Arkansas (5) vs. Wofford (12): Thursday at approx. 9:50 p.m. ET on TNT. West Region, in Jacksonville. You might not think it, but I'm telling you, this is a great game and in my opinion the ripest upset for a 12 seed in this year's field. Just an amazing matchup because we've got oil and water. Arkansas wants to push and scream its way to 90 points. Wofford is content to move at an ant's pace and beat you 64-58. Arkansas has NBA-level talent in Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls.
Karl Cochran is a senior guard for Wofford with a decent 3-point stroke and good defensive ability. The whole team has good defensive ability. If you're looking for a surprise hero here, I'd think 6-foot-6 Justin Gordon will be relied upon heavily.
Mike Anderson hasn't won a lot of huge games in recent years. This is a tough spot. If Arkansas plays its "A" game, it will win. But they're not a guarantee for that.
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