Being the freak NCAA Tournament aficionado that I am, I’ve developed a mental list of my 10 favorite stages of the tournament. You have the likely selections: that very first session of games, the Thursday night cap, the intermission between Final Four games, and of course One Shining Moment.
But the moment where I most appreciate the greatest playoff system in all of American sport comes around 7:30 on Saturday evening. If you’re a self-respecting red-blooded American, you’ve undoubtedly taken advantage of the three-week drama by supplementing it with some day drinking. At this time of the early evening, the first wave of afternoon 2nd round games reach their crescendo and, regardless of how exciting their finish was, CBS quickly cuts to the very next game as though what we just witnessed wasn’t that big of a deal. Onto the next one. There’s plenty more fine theatre to be had.
It happens in a very small window, like that green flash before the sun sets, but it’s incredibly underrated. Heck, maybe you have to be a bit buzzed to feel it. But anyway, I urge you to be cognizant of this tonight and see how it feels. If you get tingly, you’ll be proud to have invested so much time and energy into this sport. It’s the true peak of March Madness in my mind.
Four Games To Focus On Today
No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 3 UConn (9:40 EST; TBS) – In their lone meeting of the Big East regular season, the Huskies downed the Bearcats with ease out at Fifth Third Arena. A perfect 9-0 on neutral courts, UConn may or may not be a tad nervous after seeing what UC did to Missouri down low on Thursday night. Surely there a bit tougher and more physical, but Alex Oriakhi will not win this game for Jim Calhoun. It will be the usual suspects of Kemba, Lamb and Roscoe Smith scoring off the dribble and the bounce.
No. 11 Gonzaga vs. No. 3 BYU (7:45; CBS) – Just when you thought the Bulldogs weren’t going to be relevant in this year’s tournament, they blast a feeble St. John’s Red Storm with a 9-15 output from beyond the arc. Seeding means absloutely nothing here, as this game between two of the most prominent non-BCS Conference teams will feature at least 10 lead changes and some sort of weird finish. Call it a premonition, but this should be the the maddest game of the day.
No. 13 Morehead State vs. No. 12 Richmond (5:15; CBS) – Playing for the right to be the tournament’s true Cinderella, the Spiders are getting 3.5 points from Vegas, but I would take the Eagles to advance to the second weekend, and all but send Kenneth Faried to Disneyland. The senior has gone rogue for too long now, and he’s the perfect character to develop a man crush on for the rest of the month. Let’s all root for the Ohio Valley Conference winner.
No. 5 Kansas State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin (8;40; TNT) – Despite a bummer of a regular season, the Wildcats are one game away from being in a position where their season can’t really be deemed as a failure. This will be a battle of possessions. The Badgers are the slowest team in the tournament, and were able to corral Belmont into a 59 possession game. Don’t even look at the score mid-way through the half here, you’ll know exactly who is winning just by tracking this game’s pace.