Thursday's NCAA Tournament Games to Watch

March 15th, 2012

With CHN's Greg Mengelt handling previews and predictions for every game the daily preview will look a little different for the NCAA tournament, with the focus being the game of the day in each region. Below are the games on Thursday's slate that you should make time for, and with four networks (CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV) showing every game in its entirety, there's no excuse (besides a lack of TVs or laptops) for you to not have a multiple TV/computer setup in your home. Enjoy the games. 

Albuquerque: (4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Montana
2:10 PM EST; TNT

Many have gone with the Grizzlies in this one, citing the Badgers' reliance on the 3-pointer and the quality of Montana guards Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar. Those are indeed good reasons to go with Wayne Tinkle's team to win, not to metion Derek Selvig insde. However keep in mind that Bo Ryan is 9-1 at Wisconsin in opening games in the NCAA tournament, having won five straight.

They'll be prepared for what Montana looks to throw at them, and with an experienced leader in point guard Jordan Taylor Wisconsin will be tough to knock off. Cherry will draw that defensive assignment, and the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year is capable of getting the job done. The winner gets the winner of the Vanderbilt/Harvard matchup on Saturday, with the winner of this four-team pod off to Boston for next week's East Regional. 

Rest of the day in Albuquerque
(5) Vanderbilt vs. (12) Harvard; 4:40 PM EST (TNT)
(3) Baylor vs. (14) South Dakota State; 7:27 PM EST (truTV)
(6) UNLV vs. (11) Colorado; 9:57 PM EST (truTV) 

Louisville: (8) Iowa State vs. (9) Connecticut
9:20 PM EST; TBS

Many have jumped to the conclusion that the Huskies will take on Kentucky on Saturday, and that's a very dangerous position to take especially if the UConn players take the same approach. At 6-9, 270 Iowa State's Royce White is the kind of player that UConn hasn't seen this season, as he runs the point and is just as good at distributing as he is at scoring himself. Roscoe Smith will iikely get the call defensively but he doesn't have the physical strength of White. 

Just as important for the Huskies will be the play of their big men, led by Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi. Outside of White the Huskies have a clear edge in the paint, but that's only as effective as they make it. How well UConn defends the three will also be important as the Cyclones are a very good perimeter shooting team. Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen can both knock down shots, and Chris Babb will have the task of guarding Jeremy Lamb. This one's going to go down to the wire. 

Rest of the day in Louisville
(6) Murray State vs. (11) Colorado State, 12:15 PM EST (CBS)
(3) Marquette vs. (14) BYU, 2:45 PM EST (CBS)
(1) Kentucky vs. (16) Western Kentucky (TBS)

Pittsburgh: (7) Gonzaga vs. (10) West Virginia
7:20 PM EST; TNT

Arguably the most overrated aspect of this game is the fact that Pittsburgh is 90 minutes away from Morgantown. Sure the Mountaineers will likely enjoy an advantage when considering the crowd but it isn't as if natives of the Steel City are lining up to cheer on WVU. Gonzaga should (and likely will) be more concerned with senior foward Kevin Jones, who led the Big East in both scoring and rebounding this season. Elias Harris and Robert Sacre' need to bring it from an effort standpoint if they're to slow Jones down.  

The other key aspect of this matchup is the decision-making of West Virginia's guards, most notably Truck Bryant. If the senior's struggling in this regard then the freshmen are likely to follow suit. Kevin Pangos has been one of the best freshman guards in the country for Gonzaga, and classmate Gary Bell Jr. is also capable of breaking out. Keeping WVU off the boards is the one thing Gonzaga has to do in order to win, but that's definitely possible. 

Rest of the day in Pittsburgh
(8) Kansas State vs. (9) Southern Miss, 12:40 PM EST (truTV)
(1) Syracuse vs. (16) UNC Asheville, 3:10 PM EST (truTV)
(2) Ohio State vs. (15) Loyola (MD), 9:50 PM EST (TNT)

Portland: (5) Wichita State vs. (12) VCU
7:15 PM EST; CBS

There weren't too many people thrilled with this matchup, especially if you're a fan of the mid-major. Both the Shockers and Rams have the potential to reach New Orleans, but after this battle only one of them will remain in the field. VCU is going to throw their "havoc" system at Wichita State throughout, and if the Shockers are unable to handle that pressure it could be a long night in Portland. Joe Ragland was very good this season for WSU and they've got other solid options on the perimeter as well. 

There are two keys for VCU: Bradford Burgess plays well, and D.J. Haley and Juvonte Reddic can combine to perform well against All-MVC center Garrett Stutz. Gregg Marshall's Shockers have enough talent and depth to handle the VCU pressure with a minimal number of turnovers, and if they can the dynamic of the game will change. Both head coaches will be hot names on the open job market during the offseason but that's of little concern to either team at this point in the season. 

Rest of the day in Portland
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Davidson, 1:40 PM EST (TBS)
(5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach State, 3:10 PM EST (TBS)
(4) Indiana vs. (13) New Mexico State, 9:45 PM EST (CBS)