No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s
WHERE/WHEN: Raleigh, N.C./7:10 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Mount St. Mary’s enjoyed its moment in the sun Tuesday night, when it beat Coppin State in the play-in game. This should be one-sided from the tipoff. It’s worth watching to see if North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington is on from 3-point range. He is UNC’s only truly reliable 3-point shooter, and his performance ultimately will determine how far the Heels advance in this tournament.
RECORD VS. FIELD: North Carolina 9-1, Mount St. Mary’s 2-3.
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 American
WHERE/WHEN: Birmingham, Ala./12:15 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The Vols are at their best when they’re forcing tempo and creating turnovers, and American has more turnovers than assists this season. The only way this stays close is if American slows the game and keeps it in the high 50s or low 60s. American has some good 3-point shooters most notably guard Garrison Carr but the Eagles lack top-flight athletes and likely are going to get hammered on the boards.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Tennessee 12-4, American 1-2.
No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 14 Boise State
WHERE/WHEN: Birmingham, Ala./9:40 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Louisville is a sleeper Final Four team for some, and the Cardinals certainly have the talent to make it that far. The Cards are athletic and have a plethora of good shooters. They also have a solid low-post scorer in David Padgett and a good all-around talent in Terrence Williams. Boise gets a majority of its points from its big men, a rarity for a mid-major program. Reggie Larry is a double-double threat, and he also can hit from outside. The Broncos as a team are good 3-point shooters, and they’ll need to hit their shots from beyond the arc to keep this interesting.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Louisville 9-5, Boise State 2-2.
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Saint Joseph’s
WHERE/WHEN: Birmingham, Ala./7:10 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The upset hopes of St. Joe’s depend on perimeter shooting. Pat Calathes, Darrin Govens and Robert Ferguson will get some open looks, and they need to convert. Calathes, especially, needs a big game offensively. OU, on the other hand, will look to pound it inside. Star freshman Blake Griffin is the one guy St. Joe’s might not be able to handle. The Hawks have a lack of depth up front, so foul trouble could be huge in this one.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Oklahoma 7-8, St. Joe’s 5-4.
No. 7 Butler vs. No. 10 South Alabama
WHERE/WHEN: Birmingham, Ala./2:45 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Butler and its fans thinks it’s underseeded. To compound matters, the Bulldogs are playing another mid-major team that might be underseeded in its home state. Butler is a well-coached, fundamentally sound team that does not make mistakes. The Bulldogs are not athletic, but they are good from 3-point range and better than you think on defense. South Alabama is an athletic group that can light it up from 3-point range. Senior guard Demetric Bennett is a big-time scorer.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Butler 0-1, South Alabama 4-1.
No. 8 Indiana vs. No. 9 Arkansas
WHERE/WHEN: Raleigh, N.C./9:40 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Indiana appears to be the most underseeded team in the field. At the same time, the Hoosiers are not the same team they were when before Kelvin Sampson stepped down. Will IU be out to prove a point, or will the Hoosiers pack it in? Arkansas has some talent, but the Hogs don’t always show it. IU has one of the nation’s best inside-outside duos in D.J. White and Eric Gordon, and the Hogs don’t have anyone who can match up with those guys. But Arkansas does have more depth and more quickness.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Indiana 4-5, Arkansas 6-6.
No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 16 UT Arlington
WHERE/WHEN: Little Rock, Ark./9:55 p.m.
THE BUZZ: UT Arlington wins with defense, but the Mavericks haven’t played anybody with anything remotely close to Memphis’ firepower. UTA is physical and will bang away, but Memphis has too many athletes. The Mavericks’ only hope in keeping this close is that sophomore guard Rog’er Guignard is on fire from the outside. UTA, by the way, is the only team in the field that did not play another team in the field.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Memphis 8-1, UT Arlington 0-0.
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 15 Austin Peay
WHERE/WHEN: Little Rock, Ark./3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Texas is a No. 2 seed because of its backcourt, but the Longhorns’ big guys could have a big day against a very small Austin Peay frontcourt. Austin Peay has four competent 3-point shooters, and the Governors need to be hot from the perimeter or this could get ugly. Austin Peay thrives on creating turnovers, but Texas’ guards handle the ball well. One thing to watch: APSU gets to the line a lot. The Governors have made 593 free throws, only seven fewer than their opponents have attempted.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Texas 12-4, Austin Peay 2-2.
No. 7 Miami vs. No. 10 Saint Mary’s
WHERE/WHEN: Little Rock, Ark./12:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Saint Mary’s has a legit frontcourt start in Diamon Simpson, and the Gaels also have some guards who can knock down 3-pointers. Saint Mary’s has good athletes and those guys generally play good defense. Miami needs to be hot from the perimeter because its big guys aren’t that good offensively. Guard Jack McClinton has great range and a quick release. Saint Mary’s center Omar Samhan — a 6-11, 265-pound sophomore — is the wild card. If he gets into double figures against Miami, the Gaels are in great shape.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Miami 3-4, Saint Mary’s 5-5.
No. 8 Mississippi State vs. No. 9 Oregon
WHERE/WHEN: Little Rock, Ark./7:25 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Given their talent levels, both teams underachieved a bit this season. Mississippi State has one of the nation’s best all-around players in Jamont Gordon, a 6-4, 220-pound point guard who is a matchup nightmare. The Bulldogs play tough, physical defense and will look to knock around the finesse-oriented Ducks. Oregon has some good offensive talent, but the Ducks often are lackadaisical on defense. They need big games from point guard Tajuan Porter and forward Maarty Leunen. If Leunen is hot from the perimeter, it will cause problems for Mississippi State’s defense.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Mississippi State 3-7. Oregon 5-9.
No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 15 UMBC
WHERE/WHEN: Raleigh, N.C./2:55 p.m.
THE BUZZ: UMBC can shoot the 3-pointer. It has four guys who are competent from beyond the arc, led by Ray Barbosa. The Retrievers take good care of the ball and shouldn’t be bothered by the Hoyas’ pressure. That said, UMBC is small up front and Georgetown should control the boards. Plus, the Hoyas are one of the nation’s best defensive teams. UMBC won’t have seen anything close to the Hoyas’ defensive prowess on the perimeter. Still, this could be interesting for a half or so.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Georgetown 9-4, UMBC 1-1.
No. 4 Vanderbilt vs. No. 13 Siena
WHERE/WHEN: Tampa/7:20 p.m.
THE BUZZ: How well either plays defense will be the key. Vanderbilt has one of the nation’s top players in swingman Shan Foster, a big-time scorer with great range. Freshman center A.J. Ogilvy is a skilled low-post scorer. Vandy is difficult to defend when Foster is on because it opens room underneath for Ogilvy. Siena has three potential go-to-scorers in guard Kenny Hasbrouck, swingman Edwin Ubiles and forward Alex Franklin. Franklin is the only Saint who is consistent in the low post, but he’s only 6 feet 5. If he is productive against Vandy, Siena could pull the upset.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Vanderbilt 7-4, Siena 2-3.
No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 12 Villanova
WHERE/WHEN: Tampa/9:50 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The Wildcats are the lowest-seeded at-large team in the field, and they wouldn’t be in the tournament had their defense not gotten better in the second half of the Big East season. Villanova is good from 3-point range. Clemson has five guys averaging in double figures, headed by swingman K.C. Rivers. The Tigers play a tough pressure defense and can score in bunches in transition. Clemson is a solid 3-point shooting team but struggles when it has to play a halfcourt game and when it goes to the line. The big question in this one: Will Clemson’s defense take its toll on Villanova’s backcourt?
RECORD VS. FIELD: Clemson 4-5, Villanova 5-7.
No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 Davidson
WHERE/WHEN: Raleigh, N.C./12:25 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This has the potential to be the best game of the first round. Gonzaga is everyone’s favorite mid-major program, and the Zags are better defensively than they’ve been the past few seasons. On the other hand, they’re not as explosive offensively. Point guard Jeremy Pargo is the key guy. When he’s getting into the lane consistently, this is a tough offense to shut down. Davidson has one of the nation’s best shooters in guard Stephen Curry, who has tremendous range. Both teams want to push the pace and both have good depth.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Gonzaga 7-6, Davidson 1-3.
No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 13 San Diego
WHERE/WHEN: Tampa/3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: San Diego’s chances for an upset depend on point guard Brandon Johnson turning in a monster game. He and Gyno Pomare are a nice outside-inside duo. Johnson is a good 3-point shooter and is almost always going to have the ball in his hands. But he plays a ton of minutes and easily could wear down against the Huskies. UConn should get big games from center Hasheem Thabeet and forward Jeff Adrien, and the Huskies also should be able to take advantage of the Toreros’ lack of depth.
RECORD VS. FIELD: UConn 6-6, San Diego 4-7.
No. 5 Drake vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky
WHERE/WHEN: Tampa/12:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Drake has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises. The Bulldogs shoot the 3-ball well and generally avoid turnovers. They lack size and bulk, but that shouldn’t matter in this one. What does matter is keeping Western Kentucky swingman Courtney Lee somewhat under wraps. Lee is an explosive scorer with 3-point range. Western wants to run, but Drake likely will want to control the pace a bit. Drake is more athletic than it looks and is not going to beat itself.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Drake 1-1, Western Kentucky 0-4.