March Madness begins in earnest Thursday and Friday, with 32 college hoops games spread across four channels over two days. Here’s what to watch if you find yourself home “sick” from work (but well enough to deftly operate the remote control), organized by each day’s viewing window.
Best game: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Ohio State (1:40 p.m., TBS)
VCU’s Rams — famous for their unlikely Final Four run in 2011 — thrive on creating havoc with their frenetic defense. Any team that hopes to successfully navigate that defense must have a sure-handed point guard, and Ohio State has one in D’Angelo Russell, who is big, quick and soon to be a high NBA draft pick. But he’s also just a freshman; watching him battle VCU’s pressure should be a treat.
Upset special: Texas over Butler (11:45 a.m., CBS)
Many have questioned whether Texas deserved to make the tournament, but the Longhorns’ collection of superior athletes and future pros could present problems for skilled but small-ish Butler. Texas’ battles in the brutal Big 12 conference and a healthy Jonathan Holmes should help the Longhorns’ effort.
Best game: NC State vs. LSU (6:20 p.m., TBS)
In a battle between two good but inconsistent teams, tempo will be key. Led by talented offensive players Anthony Barber and Trevor Lacey, NC State wants to get up and down the court as quickly as possible. LSU’s strength is down low, where Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin form one of the best big-man tandems in the country. Whichever team controls the pace probably wins the game.
Upset special: Stephen F. Austin over Utah (4:27 p.m., TruTV)
This is everyone’s upset special. Utah is a solid team with an outstanding leader in point guard Delon Wright. But Coach Brad Underwood has built a winning atmosphere at Stephen F. Austin, which has won 28 of its last 29 games by relying on a bunch of players who can all handle the ball, pass and shoot.
Best game: Virginia vs. Belmont (12:10 p.m., TruTV)
Virginia has had an incredible season, going 29-3 and winning its second straight ACC regular season championship, thanks largely to the stingiest defense in the country. But the Cavaliers have struggled since dynamic guard Justin Anderson went down with a broken finger and then an appendectomy. If he’s not back at full strength Friday, look for Belmont’s brainy style of play and three-point shooting to give Virginia fits.
Upset special: Take your pick!
Wyoming and Northern Iowa both play tough, slow basketball, but the former’s athletes will pose a problem for the latter. Louisville’s late-season swoon might provide an opportunity for UC-Irvine and its 7-foot, 6-inch center, Mamadou N’Diaye. Belmont could feast on wounded Virginia. But the most likely shocker here is Buffalo, with its offensive firepower and strength on the glass, toppling West Virginia.
Best game: Providence vs. Boise State/Dayton (6:57 p.m., TruTV)
Providence’s opponent won’t be decided until tonight, when Boise State and Dayton battle at 9:10 p.m. on truTV. But whichever prevails could spell trouble for the Friars, as both are perimeter-oriented teams that move the ball well and can fill it up from outside. Providence is a tough squad led by do-it-all guard Kris Dunn, but not knowing who’ll they’ll play until tonight is a tricky situation to prep for.
Upset special: Albany over Oklahoma (4:27 p.m., TruTV)
Oklahoma has become a chic Final Four pick, but they’re also the kind of team that could lose unexpectedly. Waiting to pounce are the Albany Great Danes, who are coming off an emotional conference championship win thanks to Peter Hooley’s last-second shot. Hooley missed eight games earlier this season to be with in Australia with his mother, who died in January after a long battle against cancer.
WATCH ON TV
All games will be broadcast on KBNZ-CBS and the Turner Sports Networks (TNT, TBS and TruTV), with TBS carrying the Final Four games.
CBS: Channels 6 and 606 HD (all tiers)
TBS: Channels 16 and 616 HD (Essentials and Preferred tiers)
TNT: Channels 17 and 617 HD (Essentials and Preferred tiers)
TruTV: Channels 142 and 742 HD (Essentials and Preferred tiers)
WATCH ONLINE ON bendbroadband2go
Click here to access the NCAA’s one-stop shop for all online broadcasts. Everyone can enjoy a free three-hour trial, and all BendBroadband video customers can watch the CBS games for free. Essentials and Preferred tier customers can access games broadcast on TBS, TNT and TruTV using their BendBroadband email addresses and passwords. The content can be viewed via desktop, iOS, Android and Windows 8 phone and tablet apps.
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