Oh, we have PLENTY coming for you in the next few hours. Loads and loads of content here at the blog and everywhere on the site. It's a frenzy right now, with everyone getting their words and voices out there.
But mind if I take a look ahead already? Here are five games you need to be watching come Thursday and Friday.
George Mason (8) vs. Villanova (9), Friday, 2:10, TNT: The 8/9 game in the East pits 26-6 Mason against the free-falling Wildcats, who are 21-11. Beyond the tactics and strategy, it's the familiarity of the George Mason brand with the car-wreck, rubbernecking appeal of Villanova. The Wildcats have gone 5-10 in their past 15, while Mason is 16-1 down the stretch. Many are going to like GMU to win, including me, and so expect a late push on Wednesday in favor of Villanova.
Winner of this game gets Ohio State. If you want as much TV urgency as possible, you want Mason to do it. Look out if GMU can challenge OSU some time over the weekend. A delectable one in Cleveland on Friday.
UNLV (8) vs. Illinois (9), Friday, 9:20, TBS: I'm picking two of the 8/9 games, though I could easily take three (Butler-ODU is a basketball purist's delight). Here, we've got a storyline that writers and TV guys absolutely love and embrace: the coach going against his former team. In this case, it's Vegas coach Lon Kruger facing the school that never fully embraced him. The argument could be had for the other way around as well, but let's move on.
Vegas always finds itself in the 8/9 or 7/10 tilts. That's just what it does. This one's probably the toughest 8/9 to pick. Does Illinois' season die on the spot in in Tulsa on Friday?
Vanderbilt (5) vs. Richmond (12), Thursday, 4:10, TBS: Lots and lots of folks are gonna have this as their 12-over-five pick, and I can't blame them. Before I get to gushing on this game (which I'll be seeing in Denver), let's pause to realize that Richmond was probably not getting in the field if it didn't win the A-10 tournament Sunday. We get this skin-of-their-teeth close calls with auto bids from the committee every other year, it seems, and it's asinine. Richmond's a 10 in my mind. Vandy's slotted perfectly. Now, last season, Richmond ran into Saint Mary's in a great 7/10 matchup that went to the Gaels. Vanderbilt's not played well, largely, under Kevin Stallings in the NCAA tournament.
There's a lot of talent on the floor in this one, with Vanderbilt's John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor going against Kevin Anderson and 6-10 Justin Harper of the Spiders. Absolutely in love with this game. It's happening Thursday in Denver.
St. John's (6) vs. Gonzaga (11), Thursday, 9:45, CBS: What will happen in another good one Thursday in Denver? Gonzaga's had a history of underachieving in the NCAA tournament. It doesn't seem like that on the surface, but anyone who's followed the sport knows just how frustrating the Zags have been in March for the better part of the past decade. Now it gets to face a senior-laden team with no tournament experience whatsoever. Why's this game must-watch? Because I can make the argument it's the most unpredictable of any game outside the 8/9s.
St. John's doesn't have D.J. Kennedy for the rest of the season due to an ACL injury he suffered in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. So, without him, that's why this team's vulnerable. Something to remember: Steve Lavin was incredibly successful in the first weekend when he coached at UCLA years back.
Texas (4) vs. Oakland (13), Friday, 12:15, CBS: Texas gets to play in Tulsa. Now, it may not appear to be on the surface, but this is a GREAT matchup, people. Oakland's Keith Benson is a future pro with great ability and low-post savvy. He's more than just that though: he can score with the best of the big boys. And now, he'll be in a battle in the paint with Tristan Thompson.
The funny thing about this game is both teams got the short end of the stick with the matchup. I've got no problem with Oakland as a 13, but it couldn't have asked for a more difficult four to play than Texas. And how is Texas a four, anyway? It gets shafted, and in the process, has to face the most competent 13 in the field, though Morehead State could have something to say about that.
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