Must-see TV: NCAA tournament tips off first-round play Thursday

Mar. 20—Full field Here's the field of 68 teams that were included in the men's tournament: No. 1 seeds: Connecticut, Houston, Purdue and North Carolina. No. 2 seeds: Marquette, Tennessee, Arizona and Iowa State. No. 3 seeds: Illinois, Baylor, Creighton and Kentucky. No. 4 seeds: Duke, Kansas, Alabama and Auburn. No. 5 seeds: San Diego State, Saint Mary's, Gonzaga and Wisconsin. No. 6 seeds: Texas Tech, South Carolina, Clemson and Brigham Young. No. 7 seeds: Washington State, Dayton, Texas and Florida. No. 8 seeds: Nebraska, Utah State, Mississippi State and Florida Atlantic. No. 9 seeds: Northwestern, Michigan State, Texas Christian and Texas A&M. No. 10 seeds: Colorado and Boise State (play each other Wednesday night), Colorado State, Virginia (lost to CSU Tuesday night), Nevada and Drake. No. 11 seeds: Duquesne, New Mexico, Oregon and North Carolina State. No. 12 seeds: James Madison, McNeese State, Grand Canyon and Alabama-Birmingham. No. 13 seeds: Yale, College of Charleston, Samford and Vermont. No. 14 seeds: Oakland, Akron, Colgate and Morehead State. No. 15 seeds: South Dakota State, Long Beach State, Saint Peter's and Western Kentucky. No. 16 seeds: Longwood, Grambling and Montana State (play each other Wednesday night), Wagner, Howard (lost to Wagner Tuesday night) and Stetson.

March Madness has begun. The First Four games are done and the 64 teams are officially set.

For local fans, there's a bit of excitement in the fact that Cam Martin and the Boise State Broncos were included in the 68-team field as a part of the First Four games.

Unfortunately, Lacy Stokes and the Bears of Missouri State were seconds away from clinching a berth into the women's NCAA tournament when they lost on a buzzer beater in the Missouri Valley Conference championship last weekend.

Those are two former Lions that had productive seasons at the Division I level this year.

As for the field of play in the men's bracket, I will give you some must-see games of the first round along with my upset picks of the round. Next, I will give my championship matchup along with my Final Four teams and four more I think could make it.


SDSU vs. UAB on Friday at 12:45 on TNT: I'm not very excited about many matchups in the East Region in Round 1. I think the biggest matchup of that region will end up being No. 5 San Diego State against No. 12 Alabama-Birmingham. This will be a game between an efficient defense in the Aztecs and an efficient offense in the Blazers.

Alabama vs. Charleston on Friday at 6:35 on truTV: This is one of four matchups to keep an eye on in the first round of the West Region. No. 4 Alabama and No. 13 College of Charleston are two teams that typically shoot it well, score well but don't play a ton of defense. Look for a lot of points here.

Clemson vs. New Mexico on Friday at 2:10 on truTV: No. 11 New Mexico is coming off a big run to a Mountain West Conference championship. No. 6 Clemson is hanging on to a 9-0 start that saw them earn a top-15 national ranking.

Baylor vs. Colgate on Friday at 11:40 a.m. on truTV: The No. 3 Bears are a dominant Big 12 team but No. 14 Colgate has made the tournament four years in a row now and will be ready for any contest.

Others to watch: No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 James Madison; No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Colorado/Boise State; No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 Texas Christian; No. 5 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 McNeese State; No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Colorado State.


I'm picking seven upsets in the first round. If Boise State happens to defeat Colorado later tonight (Wednesday), I will only take six upsets. The end result of the Boise State-Colorado game won't be available until after press time. I'm not considering a No. 9 seed over a No. 8 seed as a true upset for this exercise.

Here are my upsets:

—No. 12 UAB over No. 5 San Diego State. The Blazers will outlast a tough Aztec defense.

—No. 13 Charleston over No. 4 Alabama. The Crimson Tide drew a tough first-round matchup. I think they will get caught in a shootout here and not be able to keep pace.

—No. 11 New Mexico over No. 6 Clemson. Clemson isn't as good as that six seed shows. UNM will continue to ride its hot streak to a tournament win.

—No. 13 Samford over No. 4 Kansas. KU is unhealthy. Samford is a good shooting team, and I don't think the Jayhawks can slow down the attack without being at full strength.

—No. 12 McNeese State over No. 5 Gonzaga. The Bulldogs aren't the typical Bulldogs you're used to. Take the Cowboys to pull off this upset. It's a team with a 30-3 record and they're rolling right now.

—No. 10 Colorado over No. 7 Florida. Colorado reached the Pac-12 championship. Florida reached the SEC championship. Both teams lost and this will be a dogfight to try to earn an NCAA tourney win.

—No. 12 James Madison over No. 5 Wisconsin. The Badgers are another team that I believe was seeded too high. And this is a tough draw getting the Dukes. I think JMU can steal this one.


I'm really boring. I'm taking the two teams ranked at the top of the NCAA Evaluation Tool to play in the championship. That is No. 1 seed Connecticut (2nd in NET) and No. 1 Houston (1st in NET).

I'll pick the Cougars to edge the Huskies out this year.

My Final Four teams will include McNeese State with a Cinderella run as a 12th seed and fifth-seeded St. Mary's.

My four other teams that I believe have the best shot at the Final Four are Iowa State, North Carolina, Creighton and Kentucky.