A little after noon tomorrow, the NCAA Tournament begins in Buffalo, New York. Most people's brackets are in shambles after the first set of games. Yet Thursday and Friday could see some amazing upsets and just some plain good basketball games.
(6) Ohio State vs (11) Dayton; 12:15 pm, CBS - The Buckeyes drew their in-state brethren the Dayton Flyers for round one. They may have King of Grit Aaron Craft, but if Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross can't score, they're in trouble. Dayton can beat anyone not named St. Joseph's, and has a equally-deep bench.
(8) Colorado vs (9) Pittsburgh; 1:40 pm, TBS - Pitt lost steam against mighty Virginia last weekend, but have skilled shooters. Their task is battling fellow cardiac kids Colorado, and this one will likely go down to the wire.
(5) Cincinnati vs (12) Harvard; 2:10 pm, TNT - Being Harvard's coach agrees with Tommy Amaker. Second-straight tourney berth for the Crimson, and fortunate to be in the dangerous 12-spot. Cincinnati plays defense, and Harvard scores points. Expect a balanced game.
(3) Syracuse vs. (14) Western Michigan; 2:45 pm, CBS - Western Michigan has two excellent guards, especially Shayne Whittington, but give up a lot of fouls and rely on those two guards to keep them in games. Syracuse is likely too much for them, but MAC schools show up in the tournament, as Michigan found out two years ago against Ohio. Take heed, Orange!
(7) UConn vs (10) St. Joseph's; 6:55 pm, TBS - Shabazz Napier in the tournament is a sight, and this St. Joe's team is probably the best 10-seed in the field. UConn does well against teams not named Louisville, so turn this one on over dinner.
(5) St. Louis vs. (12) NC State; 7:20 pm, TNT - The Billikens enter the tournament in a slide, and got bounced early last year. NC State looked good last night in their play-in game, but a play-in winner in the 12 spot is not as much of a concern.
(4) SDSU vs (13) New Mexico State; 9:57 pm, truTV - Steve Fisher's team has but one obstacle to overcome to get past WAC champion New Mexico State: Stop SIM BHULAAAAR. This game is on upset watch until Bhular fouls out, or eats Steve Fisher, whichever occurs first.
(6) Baylor vs (11) Nebraska; 12:40 pm, truTV - Tim Miles got the Huskers into the tournament by the silk of their corn cobs (ha, farming puns!), but now they have to play Baylor. They have a seven-footer pulling down rebounds, but as we saw during the Big Ten season, Nebraska can score from anywhere on the floor. Great start to the Friday set of games.
(8) Gonzaga vs (9) Oklahoma State; 4:40 pm, TNT - Gonzaga isn't the bracket-buster of old, but somehow earned a higher seed than Oklahoma State, a team that was on fire the first half of the season. Then they lost six games in February, and people forgot about Marcus Smart. A mild upset, sure, but Ok. State has a good chance to take down Arizona on Sunday.
(6) North Carolina vs (11) Providence; 7:20 pm, TNT - It's not the North Carolina of old, rampaging through the tournament's early rounds. Providence struck gold in the Big East tournament and beat Creighton to grab the conference's bid. The 11 seeds have really come on in recent years, so watch closely.
(5) VCU vs (12) Stephen F. Austin; 7:27 pm, truTV - 28-0 since Thanksgiving. That's Stephen F. Austin, not VCU. Michigan ripped up the VCU defensive press last year, and guess what? SF Austin plays shutdown defense themselves. The 12 seeds won three of four in 2013, and this might be the biggest lock of all the potential upsets in the field.
(8) Kentucky vs (9) Kansas State; 9:40 pm, CBS - A region is loaded when Kentucky is placed in the eight spot. The eight-nine games are historically coin-flip decisions, but this is the one that will blow up a lot of baskets if the Wildcats go down on day two.
(3) Iowa State vs (14) North Carolina Central; 9:50 pm, TNT - It has become a rule of thumb that if a team is good enough to beat Michigan, they're probably a final four contender. Michigan lost early in Ames, Iowa, and the Cyclones kept on winning. Not really on upset alert here, Iowa State is just fun to watch.
(4) UCLA vs (13) Tulsa; 9:57 pm, truTV - I watched the tail end of Tulsa's Conference USA tournament victory over Louisiana Tech. They only won by nine points, but they play defense and have won 11 straight games. Steve Alford is in his first year running UCLA's program, and he is notorious for falling short of expectations in the NCAA tournament. Of all the four seeds, the Bruins are the weakest. Go, Golden Hurricane!
May there be loads of chaos tomorrow, for the benefit of all.