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2015 NCAA Tournament - Thursday Schedule and Preview

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Here is the full slate of games for the first day of the Round of 64, including tip times, channels, best games for each time slot, and players to watch.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Early Afternoon Games:

3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. 14 Northeastern Huskies - Midwest Region

Tip-off: 12:15pm (all times Eastern), CBS (Brian Anderson/Steve Smith/Lewis Johnson)

3 Iowa State Cyclones vs. 14 UAB Blazers - South Region

Tip-off: 12:40pm, TruTV (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

3 Baylor Bears vs. 14 Georgia State Panthers - West Region

Tip-off: 1:40pm, TBS (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl)

2 Arizona Wildcats vs. 15 Texas Southern Tigers - West Region

Tip-off: 2:10pm, TNT (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Rachel Nichols)

Game to Watch: Baylor vs. Georgia State

3/14 upsets happen. Last year, we had Mercer over Duke. The year before that, it was Harvard over New Mexico. In my opinion, Georgia State has the best chance of making it three years in a row for the 14 seeds. The Panthers are 67th in KenPom's rankings, substantially higher than the other 14 seeds (which are 120, 121, and 131). They have Ryan Harrow, a transfer from Kentucky. They have Kevin Ware, a transfer from Louisville. They have coach's son R.J. Hunter, who DraftExpress projects to be a first round NBA draft pick.

This time slot doesn't look very attractive on paper, and obviously most everyone reading this site will be tuned into Notre Dame-Northeastern until the final buzzer, whether it's close or not. But if you are looking for something to flip to after the Irish, this might be your stop.

Late Afternoon Games:

6 Butler Bulldogs vs. 11 Texas Longhorns - Midwest Region

Tip-off: 2:45pm (approximate), CBS (Brian Anderson/Steve Smith/Lewis Johnson)

6 SMU Mustangs vs. 11 UCLA Bruins - South Region

Tip-off: 3:10pm (approximate), TruTV (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

6 Xavier Musketeers vs. 11 Ole Miss Rebels - West Region

Tip-off: 4:10pm (approximate), TBS (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl)

7 Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes - West Region

Tip-off: 4:40pm (approximate), TNT (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Rachel Nichols)

Game to Watch: VCU vs. Ohio State

Obviously, Irish fans will (hopefully) be scouting their team's Round of 32 opponent in Butler or Texas, but this VCU-Ohio State match-up could be an entertaining one. The Buckeyes' D`Angelo Russell is one of the best point guards on the planet, and if nothing else, this game will feature his wizardry with the ball in his hands. That said, he will be hounded by VCU's daunting Havoc defense every time he touches the ball.

Will VCU be able to limit Russell's effectiveness? Can VCU force turnovers and get up-and-down the floor for easy baskets against these Buckeyes? Will Russell get enough help from teammates Jae`Sean Tate and Sam Thompson so he doesn't have to shoulder too much of the load? I expect this one to be tight.

Early Evening Games:

1 Villanova Wildcats vs. 16 Lafayette Leopards - East Region

Tip-off: 6:50pm, TBS (Brian Anderson/Steve Smith/Lewis Johnson)

8 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. 9 Purdue Boilermakers - Midwest Region

Tip-off: 7:10pm, CBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

4 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. 13 Harvard Crimson - West Region

Tip-off: 7:20pm, TNT (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl)

5 Utah Utes vs. 12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks - South Region

Tip-off: 7:27pm, TruTV (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Rachel Nichols)

Game to Watch: Utah vs.Stephen F. Austin

I didn't want to pick this one just because it's the trendiest of trendy picks. It's a classic 12 over 5. Stephen F. Austin is a team that some people know from their 12 over 5 upset last year and only 4 losses this season. Utah is a power conference team but doesn't feel like a power conference team (it only recently became one, and the Pac-12 is borderline anyway) and has struggled lately (3-3 in their last 6).

But the other games really sound boring. A 1 vs. 16. Cincinnati, playing the most boring brand of basketball in the country against Purdue, KenPom's second lowest-rated at-large team in the field. A fairly down Harvard team (compared to their recent standards) against a team that just nearly won the ACC. None of these sound like they will provide much intrigue or entertainment. So I'm settling for this one.

It may be an understandably trendy upset pick, but I get the sense that the Utes are all-too-aware of how much everyone is doubting them and are going to come out exceedingly ready to prove everyone wrong. If that happens, the 8th-ranked team in KenPom, featuring one of the most underrated players in the country in Delon Wright, could make a surprise statement despite how lopsided those seeds look.

Late Evening Games:

8 North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. 9 LSU Tigers - East Region

Tip-off: 9:20pm (approximate), TBS (Brian Anderson/Steve Smith/Lewis Johnson)

1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. 16 Hampton Pirates - Midwest Region

Tip-off: 9:40pm (approximate), CBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. 12 Wofford Terriers - West Region

Tip-off: 9:50pm (approximate), TNT (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl)

4 Georgetown Hoyas vs. 13 Eastern Washington Eagles - South Region

Tip-off: 9:57pm (approximate), TruTV (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Rachel Nichols)

Game to Watch: Georgetown vs. Eastern Washington

Another one that is becoming trendy. At the very least, you get to see Tyler Harvey, the nation's most prolific scorer at nearly 23 points per game, take on a top 25 team nationally on the biggest of stages. Harvey has topped 20 points in each of his 4 games against ranked or high major opponents, including 25 in his team's upset win over Indiana in Bloomington.

I'm not big on this one as an upset pick (Eastern Washington is lower in KenPom than every 14 seed), but Eastern Washington plays at one of the faster paces in the country and has an offense nearly as efficient as Georgetown's. There is a very good chance that this one is at least entertaining for awhile and, perhaps if the Eagles can get off to a fast start, can make the Hoyas sweat it out well into the second half.