Most intriguing matchup
4:40 pm ET, TNT, No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard, Albuquerque: In 2008, No. 4 seed Vanderbilt lost to Siena in the first round. After missing the tournament in 2009, the Commodores lost as a No. 4 seed in the first round to Murray State in 2010. Last season, it was Richmond who knocked off No. 5 seed Vandy in the first round. This is relevant because the Commodores are, once again, a No. 5 seed taking on a quality mid-major program in the opening round in Harvard.
The difference this season, however, is that Vandy is coming off what could turn into a program changing win. Kevin Stallings led this team to a win over Kentucky in the SEC title game, erasing a five point deficit in the final minutes. Vandy’s issue isn’t talent — they have three players in their starting lineup that have a chance of getting picked in June’s NBA Draft — it is their mindset. I don’t think it is a stretch to say they expected to lose big games. Will the win over Kentucky turn this thinking around?
Upsets on the horizon?
1:40 pm ET, TBS, No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Davidson, Portland: Big East tournament title aside, I’m not sold on Louisville. As great as Peyton Siva was in New York last week, he was that inconsistent throughout the rest of the season. He serves as an adequate microcosm of Louisville this year. And while the Wildcats may not have Stephen Curry on their roster, this is a very good basketball team.
2:10 pm ET, TNT, No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana, Albuquerque: Wisconsin’s most important player is their point guard Jordan Taylor. Wisconsin is able to play their slowed-down offense because they are able to put the ball in Taylor’s hands at the end of a clock, allowing him to make something happen. Montana has a terrific back court, led by junior Will Cherry, who just so happens to be an excellent defender. Can he slow down Taylor enough to spring an upset?
Story lines to keep an eye on
12:15 pm ET, CBS, No. 6 Murray State vs. No. 11 Colorado State, Louisville: Colorado State is an underrated basketball team that will only get better next year, but they struggle on the road. This game will be played in Kentucky on the same day that the Wildcats play. Murray State is in Kentucky. Will the Yum! Center be a home game for the Racers?
3:10 pm ET, TruTV, No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville, Pittsburgh: The question that everyone is asking right now is how the Orange play without Fab Melo in their line-up. We get our first look on Thursday.
4:10 pm ET, TBS, No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 12 Long Beach State, Portland: So how healthy is Larry Anderson? He’s LBSU’s second-leading scorer and the Big West’s Defensive Player of the Year. That’s a huge piece to lose. Can the 49ers overcome his absence against a very good New Mexico team?
Oh, and they play too
12:40 pm ET, TruTV, No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Southern Miss, Pittsburgh: The talk of the East Region once the brackets were announced was the possibility of Kansas State upsetting Syracuse thanks to KSU’s ability on the offensive glass and the fact that Syracuse can’t get a defensive rebound. Well, the Wildcats have to get there first.
2:45 pm ET, CBS, No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 BYU, Louisville: “Man, Marquette could be in trouble against Iona on Thursday,” said everyone on the internet midway through the first half of the First Four game. Everyone’s response the next day? “Wow, how is BYU going to compete with Marquette if they were down 25 to this Iona team in the first half?”
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.