11 UCLA Bruins vs. 14 UAB Blazers - South Region
Tip-off: 12:10pm (all times Eastern), CBS (Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel/Allie LaForce)
1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats - Midwest Region
Tip-off: 2:40pm (approximate), CBS (Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel/Allie LaForce)
Game to watch: Both
Well, you can easily watch both of these games, as the powers that be apparently do not want multiple sites going on simultaneously in the afternoon. I think this is disappointing when that forces two teams (in this case, our team) to likely wait until 10pm local time just to tip off. On a related note, why on earth wouldn't the games in Portland draw the later time slots? That makes no sense and is probably more egregious than not spreading these games out throughout the day in the first place.
So, yea, I guess watch both of these games. Neither of them sounds very interesting. Kentucky is going to beat Cincinnati by double-digits and UCLA is probably going to luck their way into another Sweet 16, just like last year. Last year, they at least rightfully beat a 12 and 13 seed to do it (must be nice); this year, they should not have even made the tournament then needed a terrible goaltending call to beat SMU, only to draw a 14 seed in the next round. Steve Alford, of all the scumbags in this sport, has been the luckiest of all of them.
Early Evening Games:
2 Arizona Wildcats vs. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes - West Region
Tip-off: 5:15pm, CBS (Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner/Rachel Nichols)
6 Xavier Musketeers vs. 14 Georgia State Panthers - West Region
Tip-off: 6:10pm, TNT (Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas/Jamie Erdahl)
1 Villanova Wildcats vs. 8 North Carolina State Wolfpack - East Region
Tip-off: 7:10pm, TBS (Brian Anderson/Steve Smith/Dana Jacobson)
Game to watch: Villanova vs. NC State
I think Villanova is very, very good, and the way the Big East has played so far certainly suggests that their record is not just a function of playing in a weaker conference. Offensively, they can absolutely put on a show and are right up there with Wisconsin, Duke, and Notre Dame in just about every stat you can think of. I have the Wildcats making the finals in all of my brackets; I think they are that good.
But then there is the Wolfpack, a team that has played a tough schedule and only fared okay against it. Still, they have enough firepower to go off at any time, with wins over Duke, Louisville, and UNC and near misses in their other games against the latter two as well as Notre Dame. Do I expect NC State to win this? No, not at all. But can they keep it close and make it interesting well into the second half? I certainly think they have the horses to do it. Worst case scenario, a Villanova blowout speeds up the game so we can get onto Notre Dame v. Butler afterwards much sooner.
Late Evening Games:
4 Georgetown Hoyas vs. 5 Utah Utes - East Region
Tip-off: 7:45pm (approximate), CBS (Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner/Rachel Nichols)
4 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks - West Region
Tip-off: 8:40pm (approximate), TNT (Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas/Jamie Erdahl)
3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. 6 Butler Bulldogs - Midwest Region
Tip-off: 9:40pm (approximate), TBS (Brian Anderson/Steve Smith/Dana Jacobson)
Game to Watch: All of them
I can certainly understand CBS and friends wanting to load up prime time with the 4-5 and 3-6 match-ups on their schedule, because all of them look great on paper. Georgetown, one of the tournament's most over-seeded teams, and Utah, everyone's favorite team to pick against in the first round, can each earn a lot of respect nationally by earning a spot in the Sweet 16. Luckily for us, this game should be close to wrapping up by the time the Irish tip off.
UNC and Arkansas both barely survived upset bids by Harvard and Wofford, respectively. Oddly, I think both have the potential to give Wisconsin a game in the Sweet 16 anyway. These are two of the most efficient and fastest-paced offensive teams in the country, so it should be a fun watch.
Then, Notre Dame and Butler have a showdown for Hoosier state bragging rights. In an odd sense, despite winning 30 games and a league championship, this might be the biggest game of the season (career?) for Mike Brey to validate in the minds of many what has, other than this little tournament, been an outstanding tenure. Can he do it against a program with such recent tournament success? Will anybody be awake to actually see it? Storylines abound.