After months of games, the NCAA Tournament finally tips off on Thursday with the first volley of first-round games. Here are four games to watch, one from each region, and three are 7-10 games; the No. 7 seed has won 60% of the time, so there is the chance for an upset. The winners will of course go on to the second round, which runs on Saturday and Sunday.
(11) Dayton vs. (6) Ohio State – South, 12:15 PM ET
Odds: Ohio State -6
These two in-state rivals have surprisingly met just once, with the Buckeyes beating the Flyers 74-63 in the 2008 Tournament. Ohio State just couldn’t get it together this season as you never knew which team was going to show up, but they do have experience led by point guard Aaron Craft and you can’t put a value on that at this time of year. The Flyers have played three ranked teams this season, winning twice and losing by one in the other. They won’t be afraid of OSU, who is favored by six points.
(10) Brigham Young vs. (7) Oregon – West, 3:10 PM ET
Odds: Oregon -5
This should be a high-scoring game as BYU is third in the NCAA in points per game, while Oregon is 11th, so defense should be a key down the stretch. These two met in December, with the Ducks pulling out a 100-96 victory in overtime, and Oregon has now won three of four between the two since 1997. The Ducks ended the season wins in eight of their last nine, while BYU won six of their last seven. Something has to give in what should be an explosive game, and Oregon is favored by five on the college basketball odds.
(10) Saint Joseph’s vs. (7) Connecticut – East, 6:55 PM ET
Odds: UConn -4
Saint Joseph’s beat VCU to win the Atlantic-10 Tournament and show they are a force to be reckoned with, and they are a team that works hard and is quite efficient shooting the ball. UConn has been all over the place this season, but they did manage to split a four-game stretch against ranked teams late in the season, so they could simply be coming together at the right time. This will be the first meeting for these two programs, with UConn favored by four points.
(10) Arizona State vs. (7) Texas – Midwest, 9:40 PME T
Odds: Texas -1.5
The Sun Devils beat their rivals from Arizona in double overtime on Valentine’s Day, but they have lost three straight coming into the Tournament. The Longhorns held their own in a very tough Big 12, but they may have peaked in January, when they won four in a row over ranked opponents. They’re tough on the glass, ranking fourth in the country in rebounds per game and that is where they may have an edge, but they were up and down as the season wore on. The Longhorns are slight 1.5-point college basketball betting favorites and they beat the Sun Devils 88-71 in their lone meeting, but that was back in 1999.