3 games to watch in Week 1 of NCAA Tournament

The United States is in the grip of March Madness again. While most observers will be preoccupied with the binary win-loss factor of these tournament matchups and how each affects their bracket, those looking to watch some potentially-competitive matchups that offer possible underdog victors can tune in to these three games, all of which take place on Thursday. Each game boasts a strong, power conference team against a potential NCAA Tournament Cinderella.

East Regional: No. 4 Michigan State (26-8) vs. No. 13 Delaware (25-9)

The Big Ten tournament champion Spartans haven’t been ousted by a mid-major program since 2006, when George Mason topped them and later advanced to the Final Four. The Blue Hens, who won the Colonial Athletic Association championship, may not duplicate that feat, but their high-scoring trio of Devon Saddler (19.7 ppg), Davon Usher (19.4) and Jarvis Threatt (18.1) power a productive offense. Coach Tom Izzo will have Michigan State focused, but that isn’t always enough come tournament time.

West Regional: No. 5 Oklahoma (23-9) vs. No. 12 North Dakota State (25-6)

The Bison return to the tournament for just the second time after earning the Summit League’s automatic bid, and they might be the best threat to pull off the famed 5-12 upset this year. It helps that they’re the nation’s best shooting team (.509 FG%). The Sooners, a worthy Big 12 squad, have a high-octane offense and some solid wins under their belts. Expect an offensive slugfest, but if it comes down to a final shot, don’t be surprised if N.D. State’s Taylor Braun (.441 3PT%) gets to play the hero role.

South Regional: No. 6 Ohio State (25-9) vs. No. 11 Dayton (23-10)

Once upon a time, the Buckeyes were the No. 3 ranked team in the country and winners of the first 15 games. They’ve gone 10-9 since, and would appear to be ripe for an early exit from the Big Dance. Although their opponent Dayton went through a similar midseason lull to the one Ohio State experienced, the Atlantic 10 school has won 10 of its last 12 and hold wins over fellow tournament teams Saint Louis, Massachusetts, Gonzaga and George Washington. Devin Oliver (12.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, .391 3PT%) and the Flyers appear to have a great chance to play again on Saturday.