Thursday, March 15, 2012

03/15 (First Thursday) Quickie

Last chance to join the Quickish readers group of the Tournament Challenge. Do it now!

I've said this for going on 10 years now: The first Thursday (and Friday) of the Tournament are the most sanctified sports days of the year. I call today "First Thursday," and I think everyone should know what I'm talking about: The first Thursday of the Tournament, when 16 games - running from noon until after midnight - keeps you entertained and enthralled. Let's get to it:

Picks in bold.

12:15: (6) Murray State vs. (11) Colorado State (CBS)
12:40: (8) Kansas State vs. (9) Southern Miss (TRU)
1:40: (4) Louisville vs. (13) Davidson (TBS)
2:10: (4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Montana (TNT)

Tastes a bit chalky. Hopefully, that means we'll get upsets.

2:45: (3) Marquette vs. (14) BYU (TBS)
3:10: (1) Syracuse vs. (16) UNC-Asheville (TRU)
4:10: (5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach St (TBS)
4:40: (5) Vanderbilt vs. (12) Harvard (TNT)

The afternoon finishes a bit more interesting: With a game already under its belt, BYU might be confident enough to spring a surprise on Marquette. Meanwhile, let's see how Syracuse responds to not having Fab Melo. And with two 5-12 games, you know something interesting is going to happen.

6:50: (1) Kentucky vs. (16) Western Kentucky (TBS)
7:15: (5) Wichita State vs. (12) VCU (TBS)
7:20 (7) Gonzaga vs. (10) West Virginia (TNT)
7:27 (3) Baylor vs. (14) South Dakota State (TRU)

Wichita State vs. VCU is the best game of the first round. Don't call WVU over Gonzaga an upset; the game is in the Eers' backyard, Pittsburgh. Anyone NOT want to see SoDak State beat Baylor?

9:20 (8) Iowa State vs. (9) UConn (TBS)
9:45 (4) Indiana vs. (13) New Mexico State (CBS)
9:50 (2) Ohio State vs. (15) Loyola (TNT)
9:57 (6) UNLV vs. (11) Colorado (TRU)

Indiana returns to the Tournament in what feels like forever. The defending champs could very well go down. UNLV looks to put the final nail in the worst season ever by a major college conference.

So, if you discount West Virginia as an upset and recognize that picking a 9 over an 8 is not an upset, then I have zero upsets today. It's possible that's how it will play out, but you have to hope for at least a few -- and, in the absence of that, close games with buzzer-beating finishes. Wow: That Wichita-VCU game is just amazing -- it's perhaps the best first-round match-up I can remember. Here's hoping it lives up to the potential.

Oh, and it's the NBA Trading Deadline: Dwight Howard said he was staying, then going, then staying. Let's assume he stays -- if I'm the Nets, I'm trying to trade Deron Williams for whatever I can get, because that guy is as good as gone in July.

Oh, and Peyton Manning is still out there, and apparently the Titans owner not only offered him the starting QB job basically sight unseen, but he gave him a lifetime-contract offer, with a lucrative job in the front office (and maybe a piece of the team?) after his career ends.

Yet another reason I love my wife: On her resume, under "Interests," right at the top... "March Madness."

She finished her bracket last night, as usual relying on "Four Factors" advanced metrics like offensive rebounding percentage. My kids filled out their brackets. I filled out a bracket for our two-week-old baby. I have my bracket ready to go. Add your bracket to the Quickish group.

It feels like a holiday. Maybe that's because it IS a holiday.

-- D.S.

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