The first day of the NCAA Tournament has finally arrived!
We’ve waited a long time for this day, but all the pomp and circumstance and the festivities are about to begin. In just a few short minutes, the Oklahoma Sooners and Rhode Island Rams will get us started. But don’t you worry: There will be Big East action going on today.
Here’s a look at a few storylines for both the conference and around the country.
BIG EAST STORYLINES
CAN THE SENIORS FOR SETON HALL GET AN ELUSIVE TOURNEY WIN?
Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo have all had celebrated careers with the Seton Hall Pirates. They’ve won over 80 games together and captured the Big East Tournament Championship back in 2016. But the one thing that’s eluded this group is an NCAA Tournament victory. They lost to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in 2016 and then the Arkansas Razorbacks a year ago.
Expectations were lofty for the Pirates this year, and although they finished third in the regular season standings, it was always about the Tournament for them. They will have one more shot against the N.C. State Wolfpack Thursday afternoon in Wichita. If they come up empty-handed, it would certainly be a sour way to end what was an historic run for them and the program.
CAN VILLANOVA AVOI-- YEAH, OKAY.
The Villanova Wildcats open their run in the East Region against the Radford Highlanders. The Highlanders got here by beating the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds in Dayton in Tuesday’s First Four action. The Wildcats and Highlanders are going to be tangling in Pittsburgh as part of the nightcap of the Thursday slate. ‘Nova will likely win and will likely win big. For their sake, let’s hope. That ~~dreaded~~ Round of 32 awaits them.
WILL THE FIGHTING TRAE YOUNGS GET BACK ON TRACK?
The Oklahoma Sooners (controversially) made the field of 68. This despite the fact that the Sooners lost 11 of their final 15 games. Trae Young, one of the top freshmen in the country, went from being a spectacle to watch to turning into a player who tried to do too much and committed many a turnover along the way.
Whatever the outcome, OU will be getting this thing over with right at the start of the day. They’ll play Rhody in Pittsburgh on CBS, and it will be intriguing to see what they have cracked up. If Young can conjure up the magic he had at the beginning of the year, then Oklahoma could be poised for a big run. If he can’t, well, you don’t have to look too far back to find out what could happen.
CAN GONZAGA GET OFF TO A HOT START AGAIN?
Hey, yeah, that’s right: The Gonzaga Bulldogs are in the NCAA Tournament. Again. The Zags are a year removed from their National Runner Up standing after losing to the North Carolina Tar Heels (pffft, imagine losing to UNC in a Title Game. The Big East can’t relate, right? REMINDER: The statute of limitations is 1983-onward). They’ve flown under the radar this year (Amazing what happens when the rest of the country rightfully lets you off the hook and doesn’t chide you for “coming up short”) but they are a serious threat in the West Region again. They will start against the UNC Greensboro Spartans of the SoCon, who’ve only lost one game since the calendar turned to February. We’ll see how things play out in Boise at venerable (*checks notes*) Taco Bell Arena.
HOW WILL MICHIGAN FARE AFTER SO MUCH TIME OFF?
The white-hot Michigan Wolverines see the floor for the first time since March 4 on Thursday night. The Wolverines will be playing the Montana Grizzlies out in Wichita. Michigan, of course, won the Big Ten Tournament and have been sensational for the past few weeks. But the long layoff may (or may not) have an effect on them. We’ll ignore that it hardly affected Gonzaga last year and other mid-majors of the past, of course. But it will be intriguing to watch.