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Thursday, March 17, 2016

2016 NCAA Tournament viewing guide for Thursday

NCAA tournament viewing guide: What to watch and skip on Thursday

12:15 p.m. — No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 UNC Wilmington (CBS) 
12: 30 p.m. — No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Butler (Tru TV)
1:30 pm. — No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Connecticut (TNT)
2 p.m. — No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 13 Iona (TBS)
Must-see: If you like turnstile defense and transition offense, Iona-Iowa State is the opening-round game for you. The Gaels and Cyclones both boast high-scoring, fast-paced offenses replete with shooters eager to let it fly. Iowa State lost to 14th-seeded UAB in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last season, so the Cyclones could get a little tight if A.J. English and the Gaels can build a first-half lead.
Must-skip: There are no duds in this quartet, but Colorado-UConn has rock fight potential. Both teams boast top 20 defenses and the Huskies are one of the NCAA tournament's slowest-paced teams. Versatile UConn wing Daniel Hamilton and skilled Colorado back-to-the-basket scorer Josh Scott are worth checking out ... but maybe only for a few minutes if the score is close late in the second half.
Potential upsets: Three times in the past decade, Duke has fallen in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. UNC Wilmington has the athleticism to challenge the Blue Devils' porous defense, but Seahawks may not defend well enough themselves to topple the defending champs. The Iona-Iowa State game is probably the slightly better bet. The more talented roster typically wins a clash of two teams who play a similar style, however, Iona is much deeper than Iowa State, which could be relevant in a fast-paced game played at altitude in Denver.
Player to watch: How about the guy trying to unseat Ben Simmons as the No. 1 pick in this June's NBA Draft? Mike Krzyzewski formally acknowledged that forward Brandon Ingram will turn pro this spring, so the NCAA tournament represents the final chance to see the precocious freshman in a Duke uniform. Ingram is averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds as a co-star to Grayson Allen.   
2:45 p.m. -- No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 Yale (CBS) 
3:10 p.m. -- No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Hampton (Tru TV)
4 pm. -- No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Austin Peay (TNT)
4:30 p.m. -- No. 5 Purdue vs. No. 12 Arkansas Little Rock (TBS)
Must-see: Controversy has cast a shadow over Yale's first NCAA tournament appearance since 1962. Players and coaches have had to field frequent questions about dismissed former captain Jack Montague, who has disputed claims that he assaulted a woman on campus. The specter of that scandal won't help Yale's upset hopes, but the Bulldogs have some big advantages against Baylor. They rebound well enough to diminish the Bears' edge on the offensive glass, they're a good enough shooting team to pose problems for Baylor's zone and they're playing in Providence less than 90 minutes from campus. 
Must-skip: Hampton thrives attacking the rim and playing at a breakneck tempo. Virginia plays at a methodical pace, controls tempo better than any team in the country and is known for walling off the paint and forcing contested jumpers. Does that sound like a recipe for a 1-16 upset — or even a competitive game? Nope. Hampton might be fortunate if it breaks 45 points.
Potential upsets: If minimizing the number of possessions in a game is key for an underdog, then Arkansas Little Rock certainly has that in its favor against Purdue. The Trojans (29-4) were 345th in tempo this season. Arkansas Little Rock won at San Diego State and Tulsa this season, but the key to springing an even bigger upset will be forcing turnovers and neutralizing Purdue's massive size advantage. A compact man-to-man might make it difficult for the Boilermakers to feed the post unless their wings can hit jumpers and force the Trojans to defend beyond the 3-point arc.
Player to watch: Purdue center A.J. Hammons' evolution from immature and untrustworthy to one of the nation's top big men has been a catalyst for the Boilermakers' ascension this season. Hammons reentered Purdue's starting five three games into Big Ten play and has played to his full potential, averaging 14.9 points and 8.0 rebounds and earning BIg Ten defensive player of the year honors.
6:50 p.m. -- No. 3 Miami vs. No. 14 Buffalo (TNT)
7:10 p.m. -- No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 12 Chattanooga (CBS)
7:15 pm. -- No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast (TBS)
7:27 p.m. -- No. 3 Utah vs. No. 14 Fresno State (Tru-TV)
Must-see: The best of a bleak lineup by far is Indiana-Chattanooga. The Hoosiers undoubtedly have one eye on a potential Round of 32 showdown with regional rival Kentucky, but they have to survive a dangerous mid-major first. The Mocs, coached by former Florida assistant Matt McCall, are 29-5 despite losing their league's preseason player of the year to an ankle injury a couple months ago.
Must-skip: The high-flying, swashbuckling, alley-ooping days of Andy Enfield's Dunk City teams are long gone at Florida Gulf Coast. Joe Dooley's Eagles are 244th in tempo and middle of the road nationally in offensive efficiency. They are the strongest of the No. 16 seeds yet there's no reason to believe they have another big upset in them as they've yet to beat a top 150 team this season.
Potential upsets: Hard to imagine either Fresno State or Buffalo toppling No. 3 seeds, so the challenge of planting a flag for the underdogs during this time slot and keeping us all entertained likely falls to Chattanooga. The Mocs only have two players who average double figures, but they can stay with Indiana if they're able to force turnovers and consistently get to the foul line.
Player to watch: It's a shame the Mountain West was so mediocre this season because Fresno State's Marvelle Harris probably deserved more attention nationally. The high-scoring guard is a tough shot maker — as evidenced by some of the deep threes at the shot clock buzzer he sank in Saturday's Mountain West title game against San Diego State. Fresno State will need a plethora more big shots like that to stay competitive against the Utes.
9:20 p.m. -- No. 6. Arizona vs. No. 11 Wichita State (TNT) 
9:40 p.m. -- No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Stony Brook (CBS)
9:50 pm. -- No. 8 USC vs. No. 9 Providence (TNT)
9:57 p.m. -- No. 6 Seton Hall vs. No. 11 Gonzaga (Tru-TV)
Must-see: Two teams with championship-level will if not championship-level talent will be on display Thursday in Providence when Arizona and Wichita State meet in a first-round game with round of 32 quality. Arizona might be able to beat up the smaller Shockers on the boards, but can the Wildcats' guards take care of the ball and initiate offense against the Shockers' formidable perimeter defense? That may be where this game is won and lost.
Must-skip: This is a time slot to have multiple screens available or a remote control handy at all times because these are some of the most compelling games of the opening round. Kentucky-Stony Brook has the most blowout potential, but the Seawolves are still a dangerous No. 13 seed with one of the best mid-major players in the country.
Potential upsets: The Seton Hall-Gonzaga game is an intriguing clash of styles. It will be the Pirates backcourt duo of Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington against the Zags' frontcourt tandem of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. The key could be whether Gonzaga's guards can effectively feed Sabonis in the post and whether Whitehead and Carrington can score attacking the rim.
Player to watch: Maybe the most dominant player at a small-conference program this season, Stony Brook's Jameel Warney dragged the hard-luck Seawolves to their first NCAA bid after numerous previous near misses. The 6-foot-8 Warney averaged 19.8 points and 10.7 rebounds and scored 43 points on 22 shots in the America East title game. He's enjoyed success against high-major competition in the past, but it will be fascinating to see if it will translate against length and talent of Kentucky's caliber.

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