March Madness Survival Guide

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Today is the day.

Right up there with St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, The Kentucky Derby, and the Superbowl, the first Thursday of March Madness is one of the best five days on the calendar.

Because today carries such weight, such great importance, we cannot take it lightly. We must be prepared.

Pre-game Instructions:
There are two schools of though regarding Thursday viewing. Both require you to skip work. But you should have already taken care of this.

Seriously, skip work. Fake an illness if you have to. Hell, actually get sick. This is not a day you want to spend to spend at the office.

Anyways, some people will choose to spend the day at a sports bar, surrounded by friends, food & drink and dozens of TVs. This is not a bad option for the casual fan. The atmosphere of a sports bar on the first Thursday goes virtually unrivaled, and provides for an exciting day of entertainment and revelry.

But the sports bar is often littered with distractions that could keep you from maximizing your viewing intake. While hanging out with your friends, chowing down on burgers and interacting with the random Northwestern State fan is fun, it’s not the most efficient means of viewing.

The real fan will instead find an abode within local proximity. Maybe it’s your own, maybe it’s your friends’, or perhaps it’s the empty home down the street being remodeled. Just make sure it has a large HDTV screen, comfortable viewing seats, and plenty of space for extra monitors, platters of food and cold beverages. These intimate viewing stations should never exceed five people, and should be located somewhere away from the sun, domesticated animals and significant others.

The Setup:
– Flat screen HDTV w/ surround sound (at least 36″)
– Auxiliary television (preferably 22″ or larger. HD recommended)
– Laptop
– External Monitor
– Smart phone w/ March Madness on Demand app
– iPad or Tablet (not necessary, but recommended)
– La-Z-Boy recliner or similar armchair (large couches will suffice, but only with a maximum capacity of two people)
– Coffee table large enough to hold laptop, large pizza, nacho platter and buffalo wings

Food & Beverage
If you are going to prepare food, make sure it’s ready to go well in advance of the first tip-off (12:15 p.m. est) Personally, I’d recommend ordering food. It’s easy and time-efficient. Yes, your buddies may criticize you if you order sushi, but at least you won’t miss any game time, and that’s the key. You know there’s a guy out there somewhere who missed the Bryce Drew shot because he was checking on his jalapeno poppers. Don’t become this guy.

Adult beverages should be handled with caution. Remember, today is a marathon, not a sprint. Not managing your intake will result in a serious case of “The ‘Itis”. This is not Thanksgiving. This is March Madness. There is no time for a mid-afternoon nap. You can sleep in April.

The Schedule
With Turner’s decision to stagger-start the games throughout the day, there is no real “dead period”. But trust us, this is a good thing. Old tournament formats would subject the viewer to two hours of local news. We want Madness, not weather traffic updates.

But still, the 5-7 p.m. block of time is when the least amount of action takes place, so if you really need to do something important, like say, picking your son up from lacrosse practice, this is probably when you should take care of that. But if there was ever a time to let your kid figure out how to get home by himself, it’s today. Tell him it’s a character-building exercise.

But seriously, there’s not a lot of time to do any non-March Madness activities.

Thursday Schedule:
12:15 p.m. – Valparaiso (14) vs. Michigan State (3) – CBS
12:40 p.m. – Bucknell (11) vs. Butler (6) – Tru TV
1:40 p.m. – Wichita State (9) vs. Pittsburgh (8)- TBS
2:10 p.m. – New Mexico State (13) vs. Saint Louis (4) – TNT
2:45 p.m. – Saint Mary’s (11) vs. Memphis (6) – CBS
3:10 p.m. – Davidson (14) vs. Marquette (3) – tru TV
4:10 p.m. – Southern (16) vs. Gonzaga (1) – TBS
4:40 p.m. – Oregon (12) vs. Oklahoma State (5) – TNT
6:50 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (16) vs. Louisville (1) – TBS
7:15 p.m. – South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4) – CBS
7:20 p.m. – Belmont (11) vs. Arizona (6) – TNT
7:27 p.m. – California (12) vs. UNLV (5) – Tru TV
9:20 p.m. – Missouri (9) vs. VCU (5) – CBS
9:45 p.m. – Akron (12) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (5) – CBS
9:50 p.m. – Harvard (14) vs. New Mexico (3) – TNT
9:57 p.m. – Montana (13) vs. Syracuse (4) – Tru TV

If you find yourself struggling to make it through Day 1, reach out to @TroyMachir on Twitter, and he will provide you with all the necessary on-the-go survival tips.

No. 1 Kansas dominates No. 4 Purdue in style

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Kansas, the top-seeded team in Midwest region, didn’t just beat No. 4 Purdue, it did so in style. Fast break after fast break, dunk after dunk, the Jayhawks ran the Boilermakers off the floor, advancing to the Elite Eight with a 98-66 win on Thursday night in Kansas City.

Kansas went on an 11-0 run in the second half, forcing four Purdue turnovers during that stretch. Once the Boilermakers finally got back on the board, the Jayhawks led 69-56. That run broke open the game en route to the 32-point victory.

Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham each had 26 points. Mason added seven rebounds and seven assists. Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan ended his season — and perhaps, his college career — with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Kansas advances to play No. 3 seed Oregon on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

WATCH: LaGerald Vick’s 360 dunk

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It takes a lot of confidence to throw down a dunk better suited for pre-game lay-up lines than the middle of a NCAA Tournament game.

But Kansas sophomore guard LaGerald Vick thought this breakaway opportunity in the second half of a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 4 seed Purdue was the perfect time to throw down a 360 dunk.

Jordan Mathews three sends No. 1 seed Gonzaga past No. 4 West Virginia

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Jordan Mathews hit a three with less than a minute left and West Virginia missed a pair of threes on the final possession of the game as No. 1 seed Gonzaga won a dogfight, 61-58, over No. 4 seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Mathews, who finished with 13 points on the night, spent 4:30 on the bench before checking into the game right before hitting the eventual game-winning three. It came on a possession fitting of this game, which was the embodiment of the mantra ‘a close game is not always a good game.’ Nigel Williams-Goss, who played arguably his worst game as a member of the Zags, turned the ball over immediately after gathering a defensive rebound. But West Virginia’s Nathan Adrian had a shot blocked at the rim and, after corralling the loose ball, Williams-Goss found Mathews open in the wing for a three that put the Zags up 60-58 with 37 seconds left.

What’s going to be talked about after this game is the final possession for West Virginia.

Jevon Carter, who finished with 21 points and who, prior to that final possession, continued to hit big jumper after big jumper for the Mountaineers, airballed a three and, after West Virginia gathered the rebound, threw up another tough three that bounced off the front rim. West Virginia again got the loose ball, and after Carter dribbled 15 seconds off the block, he gave the ball up to Daxter Miles, who didn’t have enough time to get the shot off:

That possession is going to haunt Carter for a long, long time, and West Virginia was rightfully criticized for the way that they “executed” on that possession — I wonder if Bob Huggins regrets not saving a timeout for the end of the game — but it’s impossible to criticize West Virginia without also mentioning that Gonzaga’s defense was as good as it gets.

Not just just on that possession, either.

The Zags made life difficult for West Virginia all night long, and that should not come as a surprise to anyone that has been paying attention to this Gonzaga team. West Virginia shot 26.7 percent from the floor. They were 5-for-23 from three, and if it wasn’t for the 20 offensive rebounds they grabbed — more than the 16 field goals they made on the night — Gonzaga would have walked out of the SAP Center with a comfortable win. They are, quite literally, the best defensive team in college basketball, according to KenPom, and they made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to get the win. That’s what championship-caliber teams do.

And if you still don’t believe that Gonzaga can win a national title this season, than I’m not sure what else you need to see.

West Virginia was a terrible matchup for Gonzaga. Their guards, as good as they’ve been all season long, are not cut out for playing against a back court that is that much tougher, that much quicker, that much more aggressive and that much more athletic than them. Williams-Goss, who was a second-team NBC Sports All-American, was exposed. He finished the evening 2-for-10 from the floor with five turnovers and just a single assist before finding Mathews for the game-winning three. As a team, Gonzaga turned the ball over 16 times. Josh Perkins didn’t even get a shot off. Silas Melson was 2-for-7 from the floor. Throw in Zach Collins, who had just a single point, and four of Gonzaga’s top seven players were flat out bad on Thursday night.

That was, unequivocally, a game played the way West Virginia wanted it to be played. The Mountaineers controlled the game.

And yet, Gonzaga is still headed to the Elite 8, one game — against the winner of No. 2 Arizona and No. 11 Xavier — away from the right to go to the Final Four.

The knock on this Gonzaga team was their toughness, both physical and mental. Would they be able to handle a team that plays the way that West Virginia plays? Would they be able to handle the game pressure of playing to the final possession in the Sweet 16?

The answer is yes.

That doesn’t mean Gonzaga is going to win the national title.

But they are certainly good enough to get it done.

No. 3 Oregon advances after thriller with No. 7 Michigan

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Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling, 69-68, victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.

In a game in which neither team could fully grasp control of the game, it came down to the wire. Michigan held a 3-point lead with two minutes to play. Jordan Bell, who was unquestionably the deciding factor in this contest, came up with the first of several critical hustle plays down the stretch. He knifed in on a missed free throw, for the second-chance bucket, cutting the deficit to one.

On the ensuing Michigan possession, Bell didn’t block it but affected Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot enough to force the miss. Tyler Dorsey, the other hero for the Ducks, continued his stellar play this month with a go-ahead layup after he spun through the Wolverine defense. Bell’s close out on D.J. Wilson sent his 3-point attempt way off the mark. Bell would corral another offensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and while Dylan Ennis left the door open for Michigan following another missed free throw, Bell, deservedly, rebounded Walton’s miss as time ran out.

“Do whatever you can to win,” Bell told reporters after the game. “Me, get every rebound, offense or defense, help my team out as much as possible.”

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points. Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with stat-line of 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.

Dillon Brooks is without a doubt the star, but Bell and Dorsey round out a big three that could lead the Ducks to Phoenix.

Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on March 11, Oregon announced that Chris Boucher would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. How would this effect Oregon’s defense days before it began its quest for a Final Four?

Bell has helped answer those questions on Thursday night. He’s a big reason why Oregon outscored Michigan, 34-16, in points in the paint. But his greatest impact was how he slowed down the two-headed monster of Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson, two forwards whose increased production is a big reason why Michigan’s unlikely run extended into the second weekend of the tournament. The duo scored a combined 19 points off 7-of-20 shooting.

The other for Oregon was the continued offensive tear of Dorsey. In six postseason games, the sophomore two-guard is averaging 23.0 points per game. He went toe-to-toe with Walton, who was playing as good as any guard in the country, in the final minutes and got the better of the battle. Playing at this level, Oregon has another go-to scorer, one who has no issue taking a big shot late in the game. In either matchup in the next round, that should come in handy. Dillon Brooks, one of college’s toughest matchups, will either be busy with Purdue’s massive frontline or locked in an all-out war with Kansas’ Josh Jackson the perimeter.

“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. We got down four there and guys could have gave into it. They didn’t. They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”

The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

“We know Purdue is really big and Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said.

WATCH: Steve Alford end practice with half-court shot

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford ended practice on Thursday by drilling a half-court shot on the first attempt.

According to the Associated Press, this has been a season-long battle between the UCLA coaching staff and the players.

“Truth be told, we’ve been getting slaughtered. We’ve got guys like Lonzo (Ball) literally takes a jump shot from the timeline. We were just lucky that they only got one shot at it. I think coaches are down about eight on the half-court shots this year. I told them, though, that the coaches are ahead at the Sweet 16. I don’t think they’re buying it.”

No. 3 seed UCLA is set to play No. 2 seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Memphis. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats, 97-92, in a non-conference matchup on Dec. 3.