*All listed times are eastern
(8) Saint Joseph's vs. (9) Cincinnati
If you kept up with the conference tournaments, you know this is one of the most difficult games to choose in the first round. On one side, you have the streaking Hawks from St. Joe's who, thanks to DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles, are coming off wins over Dayton and VCU in the Atlantic-10 tournament. In the A-10 title game the two combined for 56 points in the victory. On the other side, you have the Bearcats from Cincinnati who are coming off a four-overtime thriller versus UCONN in which Troy Caupain put up 37 points in defeat. Both teams play excellent defense and clearly have star-power, but this one will come down to which team can play its style of basketball. The Hawks commit the fewest turnovers per possession in the nation, while the Bearcats are one of the best in the country at forcing turnovers. Whoever wins the turnover battle will likely win this star-studded matchup.
Game time: Friday, 9:57 p.m., truTV
Looking forward: Look for the winner of this game to slow the pace down and limit transition buckets to possibly knock off the Ducks.
(7) Wisconsin vs. (10) Pittsburgh
When you think of Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, words like "slow-paced," and "defensive grind," come to mind. But this year, only one of those phrases rings true. Defense has been lacking for both teams this season, which is a large reason why both high-profile programs are seeded lower than we are accustomed to seeing. So instead of the grind-it-out style of play, we will likely see a back-and-forth offensive display. One might call it a refreshing change of pace.
Game time: Friday, 6:50 p.m., TNT
(6) Seton Hall vs. (11) Gonzaga
Explosive backcourt versus dominant frontcourt. Who wins? The Pirates and Zags will have that answer for us Thursday. For Seton Hall, Isaiah Whitehead is one of the hottest guards in the country, scoring 20 points or more in seven consecutive games (25.2 ppg over span). During his tear, Whitehead has helped lead the Pirates to wins over Xavier and Villanova en route to winning the Big East Conference Tournament. For Gonzaga, the two near seven-footers in Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis power the Zags' engine, combining to score 48 percent of the Zags points this season. This star-studded battle to close out the Thursday slate of games will likely become a back-and-forth affair that you will not want to miss.
Game time: Thursday, 9:57 p.m., truTV
(5) Indiana vs. (12) Chattanooga
Yogi Ferrell is a sitting firecracker, capable of going off any given night. Chattanooga, on the other hand, is the epitome of a balanced attack. While the Mocs leading scorer averages just 12 points per game, they have nine players averaging more than six. Indiana's Achilles heal has been committing turnovers, while Chattanooga feasts off of them. If the Hoosiers are reckless with the ball, the Mocs balanced attack could take this one down to the wire.
Game time: Thursday, 7:10 p.m., CBS
(4) Iowa State vs. (13) Iona
This has the makings of possibly being the highest scoring first round game in the tournament. Both teams only go around six or seven players deep, but that does not stop either team from getting out and running. Iowa State forward Georges Niang and point guard Monte Morris are two of the best at their position in the country and are surrounded by excellent shooters. On the other side, A.J. English is one of the best pure scorers in the country for Iona. He averages 22 ppg and has two 40-plus point games to his name this year, one more than Buddy Hield. Look for the scoreboard operator to have his hands full in this one.
Game time: Thursday, 2 p.m., TBS
(3) Texas A&M vs. (14) Green Bay
When Danuel House decides to take over a game, the Aggies are one of the most exciting teams in the nation to watch. If Green Bay is able to rattle A&M by pushing the pace like they have all season, fifth most possessions a game in the nation, then it might force the Aggies to lean more heavily on House and its other guards to keep up. If the Phoenix can force turnovers and get out in transition, we might be in store for quite the matchup.
Game time: Friday, 7:20 p.m., TBS
(2) Oklahoma vs. (15) Cal State-Bakersfield
Bakersfield has one of the best defenses in the countries, but they have never seen anyone nearly as talented as Buddy Hield. Maybe, just maybe, they can slow down Oklahoma's offense enough to can hang around for a while to keep this one interesting.
Game time: Friday, 4:00 p.m., TNT
(1) North Carolina vs. (16) Florida Gulf Coast
This has to be one of the most high-profile one versus 16-seed matchups in tournament history. Rarely does a 16-seed garner the national eye the way Florida Gulf Coast has, but when you were the first 15-seed in tournament history to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, in 2013, the attention is understandable. Maybe the Eagles can pull out a little bit more tournament magic and give North Carolina a little bit of a scare.
Game time: Thursday, 7:20 p.m., TBS
(6) Notre Dame vs. (11) Michigan
(6) Texas vs. (11) Northern Iowa
(6) Arizona vs. (11) Wichita St.
(5) Maryland vs. (12) South Dakota St.
(4) California vs. (13) Hawaii