2019 NCAA Tournament Watch Guide, Day 1: The Reigning Champs And Ja Morant Are At The Forefront

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From Selection Sunday until Thursday morning, the anticipation is off the charts for the NCAA Tournament. Games have been analyzed from every angle and, if nothing else, every bracket is full with definitive selections that are sure to go wrong.

Then, the ball is tipped, and the madness begins.

That will take place on Thursday morning and, to prepare you for the madness, we’ve laid out a handy watch guide for the beauty that is opening day. As always, let’s enjoy the basketball action together. All times listed are EST.

Game of the Day: No. 6 Villanova vs. No. 11 St. Mary’s (7:20 pm ET, TBS)

There are games with closer point spreads but, quite honestly, this might be the biggest toss-up of the day. Villanova has the name recognition and, of course, the Wildcats are the reigning champs. This is a much different team than the one the claimed the ultimate glory in 2018, though, and Jay Wright’s team has been vulnerable at times, especially when their three-point shots aren’t falling.

In contrast, St. Mary’s flew under the radar throughout the season until they beat Gonzaga for the WCC title. Even after that triumph, much of the attention was on the “failure” of the favorite, but the Gaels went out and took the championship. St. Mary’s enters this game as only a one-point KenPom underdog and, if they execute in even 80 percent of the way they did against the Zags, they’re good enough to win in front of a prime time audience.

Watch these games, too

No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 Minnesota (12:15 pm ET, CBS): The obvious angle is Richard Pitino coaching against the team that fired his father, which will bring in some casual fans. The biggest draw, though, is a competitive game and the fact that this is the first action of the tournament. It’ll only be happening by itself for 25 minutes, but it’s a beautiful 25 minutes.

No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 12 Murray State (4:30 pm ET, TBS): If you want to watch a top-three draft prospect in Ja Morant, this might be your only chance. To be fair to the Racers, Murray State is very capable of pulling the upset, but Morant is worth the price of admission on his own. We do have to mention, however, that Markus Howard is more than able to throw haymakers in his own right.

No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 10 Seton Hall (9:40 pm ET, CBS): This might not be the casual fan’s dream because there isn’t a gigantic name involved. However, Wofford is a heck of a story after 20 straight wins and Seton Hall is a frisky team that owns a win over Kentucky earlier this year. This projects to be a close-fought battle.

Upset alert

No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Yale (12:40 pm ET, TruTV): If LSU shows up and plays to their capability, they will hold serve and win this game. However, the Tigers are operating without head coach Will Wade and that could level the playing field in a hurry. Yale is a tremendously talented team in their own right, particularly on the offensive end. The Bulldogs will have to play at 100 miles an hour in order to pull off what would be a big-time upset, but they are capable of doing it.

No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Northeastern (4:00 pm ET, TNT): With Kansas living the charmed life of a “blue blood” program, you would think they would be bigger favorites in a 4-13 game. The Jayhawks have been disappointing since injuries struck mid-season, however, and Northeastern is capable of threatening as a result. Even in their weakened state, Bill Self’s team should be able to win but this isn’t your typical David-versus-Goliath scenario.