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NCAA: Day One

Sam Werner | Thursday, March 19, 2009

No matter what the Super Bowl may claim, the best sports day of the year is really two days. Today and tomorrow. The first round of the NCAA Tournament. Even though Notre Dame didn’t get invited to this year’s Big Dance, my fridge is stacked and I have enough snacks on hand to last me all 12 hours of college basketball goodness. I know Douglas Farmer did a March Madness rundown yesterday, but let’s take a look at the most interesting games of Day One:

u12:20 p.m. (9) Butler vs. (8) LSU – Ah, the classic 8/9 matchup to open up the tournament. Bulldogs against Tigers. Midmajor vs. weak major. There’s a legitimate chance the Horizon League was almost as good as the SEC this year, and Butler’s loss in the conference tournament hurt them more than it should have. Pick: Butler

u2:30 p.m. (12) Northern Iowa vs. (5) Purdue – All the pieces are in place for the textbook 5/12 upset. The Panthers have come excruciatingly close to pulling a first-round shocker before, losing by five or less each year between 2004 and 2006, all as double-digit seeds. Purdue is good, no doubt, but it remains to be seen how the Big Ten stacks up in the tournament. Pick: Northern Iowa

u5:00 p.m. (13) Mississippi State vs. (4) Washington – Two schools coming out of week conferences – even President Obama said the Pac-10 was down this year. Both teams, though, are coming in red-hot. The Bulldogs are only here because of their run through the SEC tournament, and the Huskies have only lost three games in the past two months. Expect the Bulldogs to make it interesting, but come up just short. Pick: Washington

u9:50 p.m. (11) VCU vs. (6) UCLA – Even President Barack “Chalk” Obama picked this upset (if you don’t get that last joke, go check out Obama’s picks on ESPN). VCU upset Duke in the first round two years ago, and the Rams might have another one in them this year. The Bruins have to travel across the country, and a sluggish start will cost them. Pick: VCU

u9:55 p.m. (12) Western Kentucky vs. (5) Illinois – The last game of the day could end up being the best. The Hilltoppers return almost the entire lineup from a team that stunned fifth-seeded Drake in the first round last year on a buzzer-beating Ty Rogers three-pointer and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. And, when in doubt, just remember, the Big Ten is terrible. Pick: Western Kentucky

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your TV viewing schedule for today’s slate. Remember, all the games are on CBS. Games are also available streaming on CBS’s Web site, but I’d never endorse neglecting academics and watching games during class.