The best postseason tournament in all of sports has arrived. Sure, it technically arrived a couple days ago in what CBS and the NCAA has labeled, "Round One," but let's be serious, this is the beginning. Throughout the tournament, we will be posting Open Threads with our games of interest highlighted, and welcome all to stop in, say hello and share your thoughts with us as the day's action progresses.
#9 Old Dominion vs. #8 Butler - 12:40PM, TruTV
Southeast Region - Washington
Last year's national runner up, the Butler Bulldogs will clash with the Old Dominion Monarchs in just the second game of the afternoon; yet one I've got tabbed as one of the most exciting today. Both teams enter the NCAA Tournament on nine-game winning streaks and both teams are coming off winning their respective league championships. Butler, fresh off a historic run to the NCAA title game is a much different team than last year, yet still capable of winning a couple in the dance. Despite entering the afternoon as the "underdog" as the #9 seed, the Monarchs are actually an overwhelming favorite among pundits and Vegas; I've even seen the letters, "ODU" grace the sweet sixteen of many analysts' brackets.
Prediction: Old Dominion 67, Butler 65
#10 Penn St. vs. #7 Temple - 2:10PM, TNT
West Region - Tucson
From December through the first week of February, the Nittany Lions looks like they were auditioning for nothing more than an NIT bid. However, losing to just Wisconsin and Ohio State over the last month of the season, including a Big Ten championship appearance, helped solidify their at-large standing as a #10 seed to face the Temple Owls. The Owls have put together another impressive season, losing just twice in conference play, going undefeated (against the A10) since January 22, before falling in the conference semi's to eventual champion, Richmond. If you like appreciate defense, you can't miss this one.
Prediction: Temple 68, Penn State 60
#14 Bucknell vs. #3 Connecticut - 7:20PM, TNT
West Region - Washington
The Kemba Walker show continues. How much stamina will The Connecticut Kemba's display after their historic 5-wins in 5-days at the Garden last week? Honestly, I don't expect UConn to struggle with Bucknell, but how early will they put them away? Will it be a game at the half? The Bisons have only lost once since December 22 and you can expect them to throw the kitchen sink Walker's way, forcing his teammates beat them. Good luck, they won't be the first time to try that and fail and probably won't be the last.
Prediction: Connecticut 84, Bucknell 66
#11 Gonzaga vs. #6 St. John's - 9:45PM, CBS
Southeast Region - Denver
Steve Lavin and his fresh white Air Force ones are back in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for Lavin and the Storm, they will have to do so without their best rebounder and one of their most important pieces, senior, D.J. Kennedy who tore his ACL last week in a BET loss to Syracuse. Kennedy also led the Red Storm in steals per game and was one of their better 3-point threats. Over the last month, St. John's lost to only Seton Hall as they compiled an epic run to end conference play. The words, "Johnnies, Steve Lavin and Sweet Sixteen" were commonplace throughout the college basketball world, but the devastating loss of Kennedy leaves just about everyone unsure of what they will deliver tonight. Their opponent the Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of the NCAA Tournament's original Cinderella's, yet started the season extremely slow, stumbling to a 4-5 start to the season. Doing what seasoned tournament teams do, the 'Zags turned it on at the end of the season winning nine-straight including the WCC 'ship over St. Mary's to secure an automatic bid.
Prediction: Gonzaga 73, St. John's 70
Enjoy the tournament folks. Discuss it with us here as I try to go 4-0 with my safe (sans Gonzaga) Day One predictions.