Editors Note: Antony Dinero finished the college basketball regular season as the No. 1 handicapper (+6,301). Dont miss out on all of his postseason picks, which include expert analysis. Click to win!
Make sure you've got all the glitches worked out of your picture-in-picture.
If you don't have it, have your computer handy and keep a game streaming. In this day and age, there's no excuse for missing a great moment in the NCAA Tournament. Appreciate that you no longer have to suffer through a period where there's only one game on and cut-ins come too late, if at all, forcing you to watch after already having seen a score or heard about a dramatic finish. Oh, the humanity.
Fortunately, technology has come around, because with opening round games now part of the mix, there are even more quality matchups to look forward to in a 68-team field.
Here are the Top 10 matchups to keep an eye on before the weekend rolls around. The offerings are so good that UConn/Iowa State didn't make the cut.
10) No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 N.C. State (Opening Line N.C. State -1.5)
Steve Fisher has no Fab Five, Glen Rice or even Kawhi Leonard to throw out there, but his Aztecs still finished as co-champions of a Mountain West conference that's never been stronger. Versatile scorers Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley are capable of flourishing in the ACC, so N.C. State gets no break in this opener. After nearly toppling UNC in the ACC semis, the Pack's confidence has never been higher. N.C. State will have to utilize its size inside, but SDSU has chopped down bigger trees than C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell. Expect a nail-biter.
9) No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 Saint Louis (Opening Line Memphis -3.5)
This rivalry dates back to pre-CUSA, when the two regularly hooked up in the oldest of the old school, Metro Conference. If Rick Majerus has his way, the programs will have higher-profile meetings down the road, as he's gone on record saying he expect to turn the Billikens into a perennial Top-10 team. Memphis has been at that level over the last decade and has the talent to make a real run in this tournament. Will Barton and Joe Jackson are elite level players and Wesley Witherspoon is shockingly playing like one. Majerus hopes to sabotage those hopes with stingy defense and a solid half court attack led by gritty forward Brian Conklin, whose job inside could be made easier if Tigers center Tarik Black's forearm is of any hindrance.
|Tommy Amaker and Harvard hope to make some noise in the opening round. (Getty Images)
8) No. 4 Vanderbilt vs. No. 13 Harvard (Opening Line Vanderbilt -6.5)
Kevin Stallings was emotional following his team's upset of Kentucky in the SEC Tournament final, but I'm more curious as to what expletive came out from under his breath when this pairing was announced. For Vandy's trouble of moving up a few seed lines, it earns a date with the smartest team in the field, a capable Harvard squad that spent its early days serving as Jeremy Lin's supporting cast and has since grown into the Ivy League's biggest puncher. The Crimson own wins over NCAA qualifier FSU as well as NIT-bound schools St. Joseph's and UCF. They aren't small, as Kyle Casey, Keith Wright and freshman Steve Moundou-Missi can all really play. The Commodores better not celebrate that first SEC title too long or they're destined for a short life span. Fortunately for Vandy, Stallings knows how challenging Tommy Amaker's Harvard team will be.
7) No. 8 Creighton vs. No. 9 Alabama (Opening Line Alabama -1.5)
Somewhere, Tony Mitchell will be somewhere watching with conflicted emotions. The athletic wingman suspended by head coach Michael Grant in February would love to be out there with his Crimson Tide teammates, but if he were, he'd have to deal with Doug McDermott. Creighton's 6-foot-8 star forward is a matchup nightmare due to his excellent footwork and supreme skill, leading his father's team to a Missouri Valley Tournament title. As the lynchpin of a veteran Blue Jays squad that has burly senior Gregory Echenique to throw JaMychal Green, don't sleep on the MVC squad being able to hang right with one of the SEC's most athletic squads. Since it won't be Mitchell, undersized freshman Levi Randolph will see a lot of McDermott, offering no grace period in his first postseason game.
6) No. 6 UNLV vs. No. 11 Colorado (Opening Line UNLV -4.5)
The Mountain West has been thumping its chest that it had a much better year than the Pac-12, an argument that has been magnified by Colorado State getting an at-large bid ahead of regular season champ Washington. The Buffs won the conference tourney in their first year after arriving from the Big 12 thanks to double-double machine Andre Roberson and freshman swingman Spencer Dinwiddie, but will have to be on their toes to keep from getting hammered by the highly-regarded Runnin' Rebels. If UNLV gets rolling, it could deliver another black eye to the Pac-12 in a season filled with them. If it shoots itself in the foot with turnovers and missed free throws, they might wind up as one of the tournament's biggest disappointments. Mix in the conference drama and you've got great television.
5) No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 12 Long Beach State (Opening Line New Mexico -5)
Casper Ware opened the eyes of many pros who were trying to stay sharp out in L.A. summer leagues during the NBA lockout. Clearly, his confidence took off, since he rode the momentum to his second Big West Player of the Year award and often dwarfed opposing guards. So, yeah, Kendall Williams and Demetrius Walker need to be concerned. All of the Lobos should be, because second-leading scorer Larry Anderson is coming back after sitting out the conference tournament and Dan Monson is certainly capable of finding a few weaknesses in the Mountain West champs. Considering the Beach has battled Kansas, North Carolina, San Diego State, Louisville, Xavier, Pitt and Kansas State, this moment won't be too big for them.
4) No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Xavier (Opening Line Notre Dame -2.5)
At one point this season, Xavier looked like a Final Four team. In short spurts, they exhibited similar brilliance in the A-10 Tournament, but couldn't handle Andrew Nicholson in the final. Notre Dame, the ultimate overachievers, again took off after losing its leading scorer, coming together following the early-season loss of Tim Abromaitis. It will be hard to guess who shows up here, but two of the oldest Catholic universities in the country are certain to put on a great show. Watching Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons square off against younger up-and-comers Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant is worth the price of admission alone.
3) No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Texas (Opening Line Cincinnati -2.5)
The Bearcats reached the Big East Tournament final and have been far more consistent offensively down the stretch, winning nine of their last 12. Will having to wait until Friday to get into the mix quell that momentum? Texas is certainly formidable and carries in a healthy cogniscience of its mortality since it nearly missed the dance altogether. The Longhorns, among the last teams in, pack a lethal go-to scorer in J'Covan Brown and plenty of big bodies up front that can bang with Yancey Gates, so this game should be extremely competitive.
2) No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia (Opening Line West Virginia -1)
No need to ask where the beef is. Robert Sacre doesn't see the likes of Deniz Kilicli very often and neither are into the feeling out thing. Look for them to bang their husky 6-10 frames into one another like sumo wrestlers from the jump. It will be up to talented sophomore Elias Harris to keep the Big East's scorer and rebounder, Kevin Jones, from giving the Mountaineers a pulse. It's worth noting that tape of them going up against one another in such a huge game will be must-watch material for every NBA scouting department. Bob Huggins and Mark Few, too? This might not be one of the crispest games of the early rounds, but could be one of the most hotly-contested. The coaches demand it.
1) No. 5 Wichita State vs. No. 12 VCU (Opening Line Wichita State -5.5)
With people openly wondering who steps up as this tournament's Butler or VCU, Wichita State gets to volunteer by beating last year's surprise Final Four crasher. Shaka Smart lost a few key pieces, but has reloaded with a deep team that throws the kitchen sink at you nightly, pressuring and defending while thriving from the perimeter. The Shockers are similar, only that they have gotten even more out of that recipe this season than the reloading Rams have. There's a reason Wichita State, with Toure' Murry potentially serving as the 2012 Joey Rodriguez, is the highest-rated mid-major in the field. VCU, which played in the First Four last year and was almost left out, could care less what the committee thinks. The Rams won their way via the Colonial Athletic tournament and have their sights set on shocking the world again. This game is what the NCAAs are all about. Broaden your horizons.