Six games on the schedule in the Southwest bracket, including the top 3 seeds all taking the floor. No. 1 seed Kansas will face No. 16 Boston U, No. 2 seed Notre Dame will battle No. 15 Akron and No. 3 Purdue takes on No. 14 Saint Peter's. Could a bracket get busted with an upset today?
I was a bit surprised the Akron was seeded all the way down at No. 15. The MAC usually gets a bit more respect than that, and Akron did beat the best the MAC had to offer to win the MAC Tournament.
The challenge for the Zips is to contain Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough. The younger brother of former Tar Heel Tyler, Hansbrough is the vocal leader of the Irish.
The Zips do have some experience on their side - five of their players have played in 100+ games, and the maturity that comes from having been to the Tournament before.
"We learned a lot from that experience and I think this year that might show up in our maturity level and the way we're going to play," said Nikola Cvetinovic, the Zips' leading scorer and rebounder. "It's much more comfortable than two years ago."
MY PICK: Notre Dame - My heart wants Akron to win, but Notre Dame is deep and motivated after blowing a big lead in the Big East Tournament last week.
4:10PM et: (10) Florida St. Seminoles(21-10) Vs. (7) Texas A&M Aggies(24-8) - TBS
Teams in the NCAA Tournament find motivation everywhere. For Texas A&M, the motivation comes from a chance to play in the Sweet 16 in their home state of Texas.
The Sothwest Region will make a stop in San Antonio before the Final Four reaches Houston, something not lost on the Aggies.
"It's kind of in the back of your mind, use it as motivation," Aggies forward Nathan Walkup said. "Obviously, you can't look past your first or your second game. So that's our main focus. But in the back of your mind, hey, if we can come out of Chicago with two wins going back home to Texas, two hours away from campus, it would just be an awesome place to play."
Needless to say, Florida State would like nothing more than to ruin the Aggies' dreams of a Texas home-court advantage. Whether or not the Seminoles have their best player, Chris Singleton, remains a mystery in the hours before tip-off.
The team's leading scorer and rebounder, Singleton was injured in the first half against Virginia on Feb. 12. He had surgery two days later, and the Seminoles (21-10) have split six games in his absence.
MY PICK: Texas A&M - Even if Singleton does return, you have to wonder what kind of condition he will be in.
6:50PM et: (16)Boston University Terriers(21-13) Vs. (1) Kansas Jayhawks(32-2) - TBS
The third of the 1 v. 16 matchups today and probably the biggest mismatch, along with Ohio State. Kansas looks primed and ready for a deep Tourney run, especially after last season's disappointment. Last night, Kansas coaches reminded their team about the 2010 tourney defeat at the hands of Northern Iowa.
"It's a little reminder of if you don't show up, you're going to go home," Brady Morningstar said. "No one wants that. No one likes that feeling.
Boston University knows the story as well and wants to rewrite it, with them as Cinderella. Winners of 11 straight games, the Terriers feel they are perfect for the role.
"If you're going to beat anybody, it takes belief," Holland said. "I feel like we believe in each other. I think if you're going to do anything, even winning a game in this tournament, you have to have that belief in one another that you can win."
MY PICK: Kansas - Not only is Kansas talented, they are motivated as well.
Sometimes we forget that Purdue is this good without their best player, Robbie Hummel, who missed all season after re-injuring his knee during the preseason. After the loss, Big Ten Player of the Year JuJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore have combined to score 38.7 points per game - 53% of Purdue's offense this season.
"You know this is our last time playing in the NCAA tournament," said Johnson, the 6-foot-10 Big Ten Player of the Year who will be in an NBA uniform this time next year. "We're going to be playing with a lot of emotion and things like that."
St. Peter's won a total of 11 games from 2006-2008, but now find themselves back in the Tournament for the first time since 1995.
MY PICK: Purdue - The Boilermakers will struggle later in the Tournament, but they should advance pretty easily today.
Illinois went just 6-10 down the stretch, limping into the NCAA Tournament. A surprise, considering that Illinois is loaded with experienced seniors, like Mike Davis.
"It's do or die. It's our last game if we lose," Davis said Thursday, a day before facing No. 8-seeded UNLV. "I'm not ready for it to be over. I know they're not ready for it to be over. We want to make a little run here."
Former Illini coach Lon Kruger runs the show at UNLV and knows that, despite their struggles, Illinois is a dangerous opponent.
"Any team that has the ability to play as they did on occasion throughout the year, there is a lot of reason for concern," Kruger said. "No doubt. They have a lot of different weapons and a lot of guys that can make plays."
MY PICK: UNLV - Illinois has been too erratic the past 3 months to ignore - especially for a team with so much experience.
9:50PM et: (11)Virginia Commonwealth Rams(24-11) Vs. (6)Georgetown Hoyas(21-10)
UPSET ALERT! If there is a big upset to be had today this one is it. Georgetown has really struggled the past month or so and seem ripe for the picking.
The return of point guard Chris Wright will be a huge help to the Hoyas.
"Having him back in our lineup is really good," leading scorer Austin Freeman said Thursday. "Just to have his ability to penetrate, get to the basket, create his own shot and also be able to create shots for his teammates. It's going to be good to have that back in our lineup, and also have his voice back on court. He's one of our captains, one of our leaders."
VCU was one of the more controversial entries in the Tournament and want to validate their selection. They earned a shot at the Hoyas by beating USC on Wednesday.
MY PICK: Georgetown - I have been picking against all of the 'First Four' teams, and VCU really wasn't impressive in their win over USC