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NCAA Tournament 2016: 10 Things to Watch on Day 1

10 things to watch on the opening day of the tournament.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Big East storylines

1. How will Seton Hall handle success?

Seton Hall has gone on an unbelievable run over the last month of the season, winning 12 of their final 14 games, including their memorable upset of Villanova in the final. However, now the Pirates have the target on them. For the first time all year, this team of mostly sophomores has been pegged as a favorite, and expected to make a push for the Sweet 16. That can be a lot to handle for a young team that had struggled mightily over their first season and a half as a group. Gonzaga is a very formidable opponent, so if Seton Hall gets off to a lackadaisical start the Pirates could be in danger of being upset.

2. Fast Tempo Battle in Raleigh

It has taken Andy Enfield a few years to plant his impression on the USC program, but the former Florida Gulf Coast coach has his Trojans playing high flying basketball. USC is 20th in the country in possessions per game, and 36th in adjusted offensive efficiency. USC can shoot and get to the rim, but they also are poor on the defensive side. Providence does not always look to pick up the pace, but they've shown they can be effective in transition with their athletes. If Providence is able to close down on the USC shooters, the Friars should be able to advance to the next round. Either way, look for the winner of this one to put up at least 80 points.

3. Will Butler get back into form?

The Bulldogs have had a strange season. They started off strong, but then struggled for most of January and February. After seeming to get back on track towards the end on the season, Butler lost in a non competitive game against Providence in the Big East Tournament. Roosevelt Jones and Kelan Martin have produced all year, but the team will need leading scorer Kellan Dunham to continue his run of hot shooting if they want to make a run in March.

4. A chance to face the top conferences

The Big East gets a chance to face teams from two conferences that many have pegged as the deepest in the nation this year, in USC and Texas Tech. The Pac 12 and Big 12 each sent seven teams to the tournament, so it will be interesting to see how the the Big East middle tier stacks up to that of the other two conferences. All three Big East teams playing on Thursday have a chance to make major statements for the conference. While Seton Hall's opponent is not necessarily from a power conference, the Hall still faces a perennial tournament team with plenty of talent and a great coach. Under Mark Few, the Zags now have made the NCAA Tournament 18 straight years, and have won their first round game each of the last 7 years.


5. Can Kris Dunn have his moment?

Kris Dunn had a phenomenal season. He won his second straight Big East Player of the Year award while leading Providence to the NCAA Tournament yet again. However, it seems like Dunn's play has been underwhelming of late. Dunn is coming off a 1-8 shooting performance in the Big East Tournament against Villanova, and had games of 8 and 2 points down the stretch. Success in the NCAA Tournament is often determined by guard play, and Dunn is in a tremendous situation against USC to show why he is one of the most highly decorated guards in the nation.


National storylines

1. Can Wichita go on another run?

The Shockers were very impressive in their play-in game victory over Vanderbilt, showing why many thought they were criminally under-seeded. Wichita State has a great defense, a senior point guard with plenty of tournament experience, and plenty of guys who can make outside shots. They have a difficult matchup in Arizona on deck, but this Wildcats team is nowhere near as good as in years past. We might be in the middle of another magical Wichita run.

2. Upset Alert

The first day alway has an upset or two that bust everyone's brackets, and this year presents a few candidates as usual. Duke faces a very feisty UNC Wilmington team in the first game of the day,  Indiana has a difficult matchup against fellow high flying team Chattanooga. Iowa St, who has had their tournament struggles, matches up against a veteran Iona team that won a difficult MAAC Tournament, and Purdue may be due for a letdown against Little Rock after they felt just short in the Big Ten Tournament. Also, let's not forget Ivy League Champion Yale, who faces Baylor after earning their first tournament bid since 1957.

3. Will UConn do it again?

Kevin Ollie has UConn in the exact position they were in during their last two National Championship years. The Huskies won their conference tournament after another mediocre season. The only difference with this UConn team is they do not have a Shabazz Napier or Kemba Walker. Daniel Hamilton is a fine player, but he alone is not enough to carry the team in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies will have their hands full in the first round with a very strong Colorado team, so don't expect another miracle in Storrs this year.

4. Top seeds should take care of business

Number one overall seed Kansas should have no trouble with Austin Peay, who was only one game over .500 on the season. Virginia matches up with in state foe Hampton, but the Cavaliers' defense should be too much for the MEAC squad to handle. The only number one seed that may have difficulty is North Carolina, who faces a very good Florida Gulf Coast team. The Eagles showed in the play in game that they can rebound and defend. Ultimately the Heels should have no trouble, but it would not be surprising to see FGCU hang around for a half.

5. Will Kentucky make a statement?

Coach Cal was not happy with the Cats receiving a 4 seed, so it will be interesting to see how his squad plays in the first round. Kentucky faces a good Stony Brook team, but at their best Kentucky is simply too much for the Seawolves to handle. Big Blue Nation is hoping for a second round matchup with Indiana in Des Moines, and their team should take care of business on Thursday.