Daily Word: The Madness begins
Every day, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Which No. 5 seed or better in action on Thursday should be most concerned?
Eamonn Brennan: A lot of people are saying Cincinnati, which is kind of crazy to me. I really like Harvard, but I have no idea how they plan to score against Justin Jackson & Co. Oklahoma is the right answer, I'd say -- young offensive-oriented teams tend to be vulnerable come tourney time. But Saint Louis worries me, too.
C.L. Brown: Saint Louis should, but not because it has lost four of its past five games. NC State features one of the tournament's best individual talents in T.J. Warren. He's on a roll and the Billikens will need an inspired effort to stop him.
2. Of all the players in action on Day 1, who will be the leading scorer at night's end?
Brennan: Louisville's Russ Smith. Manhattan is a physical, aggressive defensive team willing to trade fouls for tons of turnovers, but they also turn it over a lot on the offensive end. Which means a lot of fast play, a lot of fouls, and a lot of easy run-outs for Smith.
Brown: I'll go with the same game as Andy but on the opposing side. BYU's Tyler Haws scored more than 30 points in seven games this season, including a high of 48 versus Portland. With Kyle Collinsworth out, Haws will need to pick up more of the scoring void.
3. What name -- school or player -- that the country doesn't know yet might they know about by the time play winds down on Thursday?
Katz: North Dakota State's Taylor Braun. The Bison will upset Oklahoma, and Braun should have a major role in the result. Fargo has had quite a year after the football team won the national championship. The winning continues.
Brennan: If -- and this is a big if -- Saint Joseph's can hang with UConn on the perimeter, forward Halil Kanacevic's work on the low block might constitute a high-profile introduction. Kanicevic had 46 points and 43 rebounds in the Hawks' A-10 tourney title run. He's playing really well, and no one has ever heard of him.
Brown: A lot of eyes will be on Michigan State-Delaware, based on those who have picked the Spartans as a title favorite. I don't expect the Blue Hens to win, but Davon Usher has a chance to make an impression. Usher, who has scored 25 points or more on nine occasions, needs just 17 to set a school single-season scoring record.
The Latest Dish
In late February, Saint Louis had won 19 straight games and looked like a lock to roll to its second straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title, a goal the Billikens would eventually achieve but not without making it interesting.
They closed the regular season by losing three of their final four games before falling to St. Bonaventure -- which went 6-10 in conference play -- in the A-10 tournament. Now Jim Crews' team is charged with facing a surging NC State team coming off a First Four win over Xavier.
Games To Watch
Cincinnati shot 37.9 percent from the field in its loss to UConn. Harvard, which won the Ivy League, hasn't played since March 8.
The Cougars are out for revenge after falling to Oregon on Dec. 21. Both teams hit rough patches, but have combined to win 14 of their past 16 games.
The Hawks are a popular upset pick after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament to play their way into the field. UConn has lost just twice this month, both times to Louisville.
Louisville is the favorite to win the Midwest Region, according to ESPN Tournament Challenge users, and the Cardinals' first test comes against the Manhattan Jaspers, champions of the MAAC.