The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is exceptional for two reasons - upsets and sheer volume. It's the weekend where there are two to four games going on at once basically all the time, and you can turn your head from one great game to another to another. It's truly madness, and that makes it great.
But let's also acknowledge that the first weekend comes with a lot of games that are dogs, and frankly, we spend most of it losing a few good teams to upsets, but primarily losing a lot of bad teams to inevitability. Good teams can get away with mistakes in the first weekend and survive. That all stops tonight.
The best basketball of the NCAA Tournament - from a combined perspective of volume, talent, and drama - comes on the second weekend, and it reaches a peak in the Sweet 16, where there are basically no easy outs left and no easy routes to the championship available. You want to keep going? You'd better play a very good game, and you'll have to do it against a very good team.
Tonight features former Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall, next-door neighbor North Carolina, in-conference rival Kentucky, as well as a game between Arizona and Xavier that really doesn't relate to the Gamecocks in any way, shape, or form. I tried.
Thursday, March 23
Midwest Region: No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 7 Wichita State Shockers, 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS (Marv Albert, Chris Webber, Len Elmore and Lewis Johnson)
West Region: No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels, 7:47 p.m. ET, TBS (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Rachel Nichols)
Midwest Region: No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers, approx. 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS (Marv Albert, Chris Webber, Len Elmore and Lewis Johnson)
West Region: No. 2 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 6 Xavier Musketeers, approx. 10:15 p.m. ET, TBS (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Rachel Nichols)