March Madness 2017 Viewing Guide: Thursday’s Action

March Madness is back, and after last year’s crazy tournament and crazier title game, sports fans can only hope for some of the magic we saw from Villanova, North Carolina, and company. A national title rematch is potentially on the cards, with both teams earning a No. 1 seed in 2017, but in the tournament, anything can happen. You may remember our tournament viewing guides from last year, where Impact’s Kyle Turk (who also contributed to this post) missed the score of the championship game by a single point. Either way, here’s our take on the games you should be watching this afternoon. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the weekend for ongoing NCAA tournament coverage.

Key

* You should probably clear your schedule for this one.
# Best game in its time slot (i.e. Noon, 12:30, 1 PM games)
! Give this game second-screen consideration.

 

Thursday Afternoon

! 12:15, CBS: No. 5 Notre Dame (25-9) vs. No. 12 Princeton (23-6)

# 12:40, truTV: No.  5 Virginia (22-10) vs. No. 12 UNC Wilmington (29-5)

Why watch: The UNC-Wilmington Eagles are back again, and they are ready for an upset this time. After coming so close last year in upsetting Duke, Wilmington now sets their sights on Virginia.  UNCW has a high-flying, high-scoring offense where they spread four players out beyond the arc and leave one in the middle. This strategy has been fruitful this year leading the Eagles to average 85.2 PPG. They have even managed to rebound well in this system averaging 38.6 RPG which is a little better compared to Virginia’s 36.2 RPG. The likes of C.J. Bryce (17.6 PPG) and Chris Flemmings (15.8 PPG) will have the green light in this game, it is just a matter of whether or not Virginia can stop them. And that is what Virginia is best at. Their defense has been the shining ray of light for the Cavaliers all season, with their most impressive defensive showing coming against UNC when they held the Tar Heels to 43 points in the game.  Virginia boasts the number one defense in the whole of division one by keeping their opponents to 55.6 PPG. But the glaring issue with Virginia is their lack of offense. Only London Perrantes managed to average double-digit scoring on the season for Virginia. This is very worrying, especially during tournament time when you need to be able to score to advance.  

Prediction: 70-62 UNCW

1:30, TNT: No. 4 Butler (23-8) vs. No. 13 Winthrop (26-6)

2:00, TBS: No. 1 Gonzaga (32-1) vs. No. 16 South Dakota State (18-16)

2:45, CBS: No. 4 West Virginia (26-8) vs. No. 13 Bucknell (26-8)

# 3:10, truTV: No. 4 Florida  (24-8) vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State (27-7)

4:00, TNT: No. 5 Minnesota (24-9) vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee (30-4)

4:30, TBS: No. 8 Northwestern (23-11) vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt (19-15)

Thursday Evening

* 6:50, TNT, No. 6 Maryland (24-8) vs. No. 11 Xavier (21-13)

Why watch: This could very well be Melo Trimble’s last hoorah for Maryland with the prospect of him leaving for the NBA looming. And if Trimble wants to make this tournament one to remember he is going to need the help from the players surrounding him. That means Maryland freshman Justin Jackson (10.4 PPG) and fellow freshman Kevin Heurter (9 PPG) are going to need to help out Trimble. But make no mistake, Melo Trimble has the ability to take control of a game and be a one-man show.  Standing in Maryland’s way is a tricky Xavier team. This is the same team that beat Butler (who is a four seed in the tournament) in the Big East tournament, but also lost star player Edmond Sumner. Sumner’s absence has allowed for guard Trevon Bluiett to step up by averaging 18.1 PPG and really carry the Xavier offense. Neither team shoots it incredibly well from beyond the arc, so expect a lot of pick-and-roll action. If that is the case then there is the possibility that the game could see a lot of fouls which may slow the game down.  But also be on the lookout for which player will make the biggest shot at their team’s most crucial point (see Trimble vs Michigan State on March 4).

Prediction: 78-70 Maryland

7:10, CBS: No. 1 Villanova (31-3) vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s (19-15)

* # 7:20, TBS: No. 7 Saint Mary’s (28-4) vs. No. 10 VCU (26-8)

! 7:27, truTV: No. 4 Purdue (25-7) vs. No. 13 Vermont (29-5)

Why watch: Vermont has not lost a game since mid-December. The Catamounts boast the longest men’s division one winning streak at 21 games. They hit a little bit of a stumbling block in their conference title game against Albany, but that should not deter from a possible upset. Vermont can play. They shoot an impressive 49.6% from the floor as a team and freshman forward Anthony Lamb can ball. The Vermont forward averaged 12.6 PPG and shot 40.4% from behind the arc on the season. That Catamounts are going to need help from transfer forward Payton Henson (11.4 PPG) and junior guard Trae Bell-Haynes (11.1 PPG) to step up. But Vermont will have a tough time against a very physical Purdue team led by the double-double machine that is Caleb Swanigan who averaged 18.9 PPG and 12.6 RPG during the season. Swanigan is not the only player that Vermont is going to have to deal with down low either.  Seven-foot-two center Isaac Haas is a bruiser down low and demands just as much attention as Swanigan does down low. This should leave plenty of space for the likes of Vincent and Carsen Edwards for Purdue to get their shots off.  If there is one worry for Purdue, it is the fact that they were handed a loss in the first Big 10 tournament game they played against Michigan.  

Prediction: 66-64 Vermont

9:20, TNT: No. 3 Florida State (25-8) vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast (26-7)

# 9:40, CBS: No. 8 Wisconsin (25-9) vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech (22-10)

9:50, TBS: No. 2 Arizona (30-4) vs. No. 15 North Dakota (22-9)

9:57, truTV: No. 5 Iowa State (23-10) vs. No. 12 Nevada (28-6)