College Sports

NCAA Tournament Starts Tonight

By Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com
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Marcus Morris of the Kansas Jayhawks dunks the ball against the Texas Longhorns during the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament championship game at Sprint Center on March 12, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Marcus Morris of the Kansas Jayhawks dunks the ball against the Texas Longhorns during the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game at Sprint Center on March 12, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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DAYTON, Ohio (CBS SPORTS) — The NCAA tournament starts tonight on TruTV.

So the answer to your first question is 246.

You want to see Texas-San Antonio vs. Alabama State and Clemson vs. UAB, tune to channel 246 on DirecTV. That’s Two. Four. Six. I’ve said those numbers 194,000 times over the past three days, and I’m prepared to say them another 40,000 or 50,000 between now and tip-off. I might forget my parents’ birthdays, where I put my wallet, where I parked my car (every time I park my car) and lots of other important things. But I will never forget for the rest of my life that TruTV is channel 246 on DirecTV, and I hope you never forget, too. So go ahead and spend a few seconds etching that into your memory.

Got it?

Good.

Now let’s get ready for March Madness.

You ask the questions, I’ll provide the answers.

Can any of the First Four teams win a game once they’re in the main bracket?
Not the 16 seeds. Those automatic qualifiers are automatic losers come Thursday and Friday against No. 1 Pittsburgh and No. 1 Ohio State. But the winner of Clemson-UAB and the winner of USC-VCU can absolutely win a second game because the UAB-Clemson winner plays West Virginia and the USC-VCU winner plays Georgetown, and West Virginia and Georgetown have shown, at various times, that they’re capable of losing to almost anybody. In fact, I’ll take the USC-VCU winner over Georgetown — especially if the winner is USC because I became a fan of Nikola Vucevic during a trip to California a few weeks back, and I think he’s good enough to punish Georgetown’s interior players. A dominant performance from Vucevic combined with a shaky effort from Chris Wright in his presumed return to the Georgetown lineup would put Kevin O’Neill into this weekend’s third round, which would be quite an achievement considering he spent last weekend suspended by his athletic director over an incident with an Arizona fan at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Enough with the First Four. What about the Final Four? You sticking with Wisconsin?
There’s no going back now. My Wisconsin-to-the-Final-Four pick made headlines, and I’ve converted at least one Twitter follower over the past 24 hours. Is it risky? Yes. Could Belmont catch the Badgers on Thursday? Sure. But I wanted to take a chance in at least one regional, and the Southeast regional seemed like the place to do it. The No. 1 seed in the Southeast is Pittsburgh, and I’ve liked Pitt all season. But I just watched the Panthers lose in the quarterfinals of their league tournament to a team that finished in the bottom half of the Big East, so Pitt is clearly beatable. Beyond that, the No. 2 seed is a Florida team I’ve long believed is good and solid but not great. The No. 3 seed is a diminished BYU team. The No. 5 seed is a Kansas State team that closed strong but was unranked much of the season. So why not take the fourth-seeded Badgers with a great coach (Bo Ryan) and two great players (Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer)? Again, I know it’s risky. (And I know they scored 33 points in their last game.) But projecting Butler and Michigan State to make the Final Four would’ve been deemed similarly risky last Selection Sunday, and you remember how that unfolded, right?

Any storylines you like from Thursday or Friday games?
The Xavier-Marquette game features two coaches in Chris Mack and Buzz Williams who will likely have huge offers arriving soon from other schools, which is always tough for fans because they know every win could enhance the odds of their coach leaving. Meantime, UNLV-Illinois has the Rebels’ Lon Kruger coaching against a school he once coached, and Memphis-Arizona has the Tigers’ Josh Pastner coaching against a school he once attended … and against a player he nearly signed.

That player is Derrick Williams.

He’s a CBSSports.com First Team All-American.

“We had him!” Pastner told me Monday while revisiting the recruiting battle between Arizona and Memphis that took place after USC let Williams out of his national letter of intent when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned. “The screensaver on his phone was the Memphis logo when he came on his visit, and I thought we were getting him. I told our guys, ‘We cannot let him leave here without committing.'”

But Williams had already promised his mother he’d visit Arizona, regardless.

So he left Memphis without committing and visited the Tucson campus.

Williams then opted to remain closer to his California home.

“Why in the heck would USC release him within the conference?” Pastner said with a laugh. “I don’t know. I blame everything on USC. … But Sean [Miller] has done a great job with him. I voted him National Player of the Year.”
So you really don’t think the Big East will have a Final Four representative?

I do not. What’s more is that I just realized my bracket doesn’t even have a Big East team in the Elite Eight. My Elite Eight has three Big Ten schools (Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin), two ACC schools (Duke, North Carolina) and one each from the Big 12 (Kansas), SEC (Florida) and Mountain West (San Diego State). The discouraging thing is that each of the 11 Big East representatives must lose their first, second or third game for me to be right, which seems unlikely just because. But what’s encouraging is that I completed my bracket off the top of my head five minutes after I saw it, and seven of my Elite Eight schools are among the eight most likely teams to win the national championship, according to Sportsbook.com.

The lone exception?

Wisconsin.

But we’ve been over that already.

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