Sports Forecast for Thursday, March 19, 2015 – March Madness Edition

We’re interrupting our normal daily sports forecasts to concentrate on March Madness, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and American cultural obsession. We’ll run you through the games each day and give you a little flavor for each one.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #14 Northeastern Huskies vs. #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS.

Hooooray!! March Madness is here! Let’s get this thing started! Time to settle in on your coach or your bar stool or duck down in your cubicle and get your illicitly streaming phone or tablet going! Unless you’re a Notre Dame fan, you’re all going to be rooting for Northeastern here. The best part of March Madness is the madness — the upsets, so that’s what we want to see!

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #14 UAB Blazers vs. #3 Iowa State Cyclones, 12:40 p.m. ET on TRU.

Okay, the first half of the Northeastern vs. Notre Dame game is over. Let’s switch over to the start of this game. What? What is TRU? Do I even get that channel? Ah, thank god for Sports Illustrated’s guide to finding TRU. Great, here we are. Hmmmm…. UAB’s name is “Blazers” and their mascot is a dragon? Who wants to bet that the dragon was added in later to bowdlerize the original meaning of the nickname. No, don’t look it up, that’s what bar bets are for.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #14 Georgia State Panthers vs. #3 Baylor Bears, 1:40 p.m. ET on TBS.

Okay, the first two games aren’t going to satisfy the country’s itch for an upset, so maybe this one will. Why the heck did the tournament decide to start with three #14 vs #3 matchups anyway? I’m guessing those are always the lowest rated games, so why not put them during the day when most people are at least supposed to be working anyway, but it does make for a bit of an inauspicious start to the tournament. Patience. Patience and more popcorn. Let’s go Georgia State! This would be a great upset story — their coach tore his achilles tendon while celebrating the win that put them into the tournament. He was hugging his son, a player on the team. Also, that guy Kevin Ware who broke his leg so terribly when he was on Louisville and they were in the Final Four a couple years ago is on this team.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #15 Texas Southern Tigers vs. #2 Arizona Wildcats, 2:10 p.m. ET on TNT.

Okay, so this is unlikely to be a competitive game, but it does give all of us a chance to actually see Arizona. Unless you’re on the West Coast or are a real college basketball junkie, you probably haven’t seen the Wildcats play yet this year and they’re supposed to be one of the two or three teams that could give Kentucky a run for their money. Are they really that good?

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #11 Texas Longhorns vs. #6 Butler Bulldogs, 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS.

Here we go! Two hours and thirty minutes since the tournament began and we’ve got what should be a real, competitive game. Not only is a 11 vs. 6 closer on paper than the earlier games but Texas is an unusually talented 11 seed. They’re one of those teams that, if they could put their shit together and play well for a week or two, could make a deep run. Butler, the team that’s used to playing the role of the underdog, is the overdog in this matchup and it should be interesting to see how they react.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #11 UCLA Bruins vs. #6 SMU Mustangs, 3:10 p.m. ET on TRU.

UCLA was once the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team of men’s basketball. They won everything all the time. Nowadays? Not so much. SMU is a different story. They’re coached by the 74 year-old peripatetic coach, Larry Brown, who is still the only coach to ever win an NCAA championship and an NBA one. Many people felt they should have gotten into the tournament last year, so they’re a bit of a sentimental favorite this time around, now that they’ve made it.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #10 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #7 VCU Rams, 4:10 p.m. ET on TBS.

Glurb. So much basketball. I gotta go do something else. But wait, this could be a good game. And after this one, there’s a quick break for an early dinner before the next one comes on. I’ll stick it out. Plus, there’s some built in interest here. The favorite in this game is VCU, a team from a small conference, and the underdog is Ohio State, a big school from a big conference. If you need a tie-breaker to figure out who to root for, VCU’s coach is named Shaka Smart!

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #16 Lafayette Leopards vs. #1 Villanova Wildcats, 6:50 p.m. ET on TBS.

“You’ve had your dinner,” the March Madness gods chortle, “now get back to the TV!” You meekly obey and watch poor Lafayette’s ritual slaughter at the hands of Villanova.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #9 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #8 Cincinnati Bearcats, 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS.

Now we’re cooking with gas. The second of four games all starting within 40 minutes. An 8 vs. 9 game is always a toss-up in terms of predicting what is going to happen and usually it’s a close game too. It’s hard to get too excited about either of these moderately successful teams in big, power conferences, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Cincinnati. They just seem like a tough team most of the time.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #13 Harvard vs. #4 North Carolina, 7:20 p.m. ET on TNT.

This is Harvard’s fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in a row. They’ve won their first game the last two years, upsetting higher ranked teams both times. This has a lot of people anticipating this game and hoping that Harvard can make it three in a row and show up the North Carolina basketball royalty. After a few minutes, you’ll realize this isn’t going to happen. Luckily, there’s lots of other games to watch.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #12 Stephen F. Austin vs. #5 Utah Runnin’ Utes, 7:27 p.m. ET on TRU.

This is another highly anticipated upset possibility. Two things play into that. First of all, there’s the tournament truism that a 12 always beats a 5. Also, Stephen F. Austin did it just last year when they beat number 5 seed VCU as a number 12 seed. Don’t buy into it. According to virtually all of the expert rankings out there, Utah is closer to a top ten team this year than the 20-24th best team their seed would suggest. They should be able to handle Stephen F. Austin.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #9 LSU Tigers vs. #8 North Carolina State Wolfpack, 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS.

Entering the home stretch for day one of the tournament. Only three games left. This is a sneaky good game. LSU has a couple of solid NBA prospects on their team, which is surprisingly something a lot of these teams can’t say, and North Carolina State actually beat Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina this year, so you know they can put on a show.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #16 Hampton Pirates vs. #1 Kentucky Wildcats, 9:40 p.m. ET on CBS.

One day a 16 seed will beat a 1 seed. It won’t be today. One day Kentucky might lose but also, not today. I find it interesting that CBS would even want to show this game but I guess Kentucky is the biggest star of this tournament and even showing them in a blowout will get great ratings.

NCAA Men’s Basketball – #13 Eastern Washington Eagles vs. #4 Georgetown Hoyas, 9:57 p.m. ET on TRU.

And now, finally, the game we’ve all been waiting for. This is one of the most popular choices for a big upset in round one. Somewhere between 15-20% of everyone who’s filled in a bracket thinks that the Eastern Washington Eagles are going to beat the Georgetown Hoyas. Why is this? Well, for one thing, a lot of people felt that Georgetown should really have been seeded lower than they were — that they made a better 5 or 6 seed than a 4 seed. Also, Georgetown has been a disappointing tournament team over the last few years. In fact, they haven’t made it past the first week of games since 2007.

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