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2015 NCAA Tournament: Thursday Round of 64 Preview and Predictions

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The field of 64 hasn’t even started, and already we have a full dose of March Madness.

From Albany’s wild shot to get into the NCAA Tournament on Saturday to a 94-90 Ole Miss win in the First Four, we hope college hoops has given us only an appetizer of what’s to come.

With three No. 3 vs. No. 14 games kicking things off and the fourth finishing the opening day, this Tournament could set the tone for upsets right from the start.

Here’s what you’ll need to know to get through the first day of round of 64 action.

No. 14 Northeastern vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

TV: 12:15 p.m., CBS

Site: Pittsburgh (Midwest Region)

Preview: Notre Dame has been bounced by a double-digit seed in each of its last four trips to the NCAA Tournament, including three times in the first round. This wouldn’t seem to be one of those times. Northeastern, which ranks 170th nationally in defensive efficiency, is going to have a tough time guarding Jerian Grant.

Prediction: Notre Dame 80-68

No. 14 UAB vs. No. 3 Iowa State

TV: 12:40 p.m., truTV

Site: Louisville, Ky. (South Region)

Preview: The first day of the field of 64 starts with another 3-14 game between a high-powered, up-tempo offensive team against a sub-100 defensive team. UAB’s best hope will be to slow the pace. The Blazers rank 218th in possession length while Iowa State ranks second.

Prediction: Iowa State 78-65

No. 14 Georgia State vs. No. 3 Baylor

TV: 1:30 p.m., TBS

Site: Jacksonville, Fla. (West Region)

Preview: Georgia State’s hopes to upset Baylor may rest in the health of point guard Ryan Harrow. The Kentucky transfer has played six minutes in the last two games while nursing a hamstring injury. The best pro prospect on the floor may be Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter, a 6-6 guard who averages 19.8 points per game. The Panthers will need to get him going against a Baylor team that hasn’t lost in the first weekend in its last four trips to the Tourney going back to 2008. Baylor plays a zone defense, but the Panthers’ 3-point shooting (31.9 percent, ranked 272nd nationally) may be ill-suited for the upset.

Prediction: Baylor 65-59

No. 15 Texas Southern vs. No. 2 Arizona

TV: 2:10 p.m., TNT

Site: Portland, Ore. (West Region)

Preview: Texas Southern is the second-lowest ranked team on KenPom.com in the field, but the Tigers have two high-major wins on their ledger this season (Michigan State and Kansas State) and have lost only twice in the new year. Arizona, ranked third nationally in defensive efficiency and 11th in offensive efficiency, shouldn’t have much trouble.

Prediction: Arizona 67-50

No. 11 Texas vs. No. 6 Butler

TV: 2:45 p.m., CBS

Site: Pittsburgh (Midwest Region)

Preview: Texas will have a major size advantage with Jonathan Holmes, Myles Turner and Cameron Ridley in the frontcourt against a Butler team with one regular taller than 6-foot-7. The 3-point shooting of Butler guards Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow, who shoot a combined 40 percent from long range, will be key. Texas is plenty talented, but the Longhorns found a way to lose 13 games this season.

Prediction: Butler 72-68

No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 6 SMU

TV: 3:10 p.m., truTV

Site: Louisville, Ky. (South Region)

Preview: Larry Brown is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988, and he’ll face one of two teams he took to the Final Four. UCLA was the most controversial pick in the bracket, and it’s easy to see why. To win its first NCAA game since 1988, the Mustangs will have to beat a team that ranks 76th in defensive efficiency, ranks 241st in free throw rate and has no depth to speak of.

Prediction: SMU 71-62

No. 11 Ole Miss vs. No. 6 Xavier

TV: 4:10 p.m., TBS

Site: Jacksonville, Fla. (West Region)

Preview: Ole Miss went from one of the last teams in the field to one of the must-watch teams. The Rebels scored 62 points in the second half of a 94-90 win over BYU in First Four. The must-watch matchup will be the 5-10 dynamo Stefan Moody and 6-10 center Matt Stainbrook.

Prediction: Ole Miss 76-71

No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 7 VCU

TV: 4:40 p.m., TNT

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Site: Portland, Ore. (West Region)

Preview: One of the nation’s best freshmen and prettiest passers, D’Angelo Russell, takes on VCU’s havoc defense in a first-round game. That makes this one of the most intriguing matchups of the first day of the Tournament. VCU’s defense is weakened without Briante Weber, but this is still a tough draw for an Ohio State team that picked up few wins over top teams this season.

Prediction: Ohio State 64-60

No. 16 Lafayette vs. No. 1 Villanova

TV: 6:50 p.m., TBS

Site: Pittsburgh (East Region)

Preview: Villanova ranks fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency. Lafayette ranks 337th. See you in the second round, Wildcats.

Prediction: Villanova 85-60

No. 9 Purdue vs. No. 8 Cincinnati

TV: 7:10 p.m., CBS

Site: Louisville, Ky. (Midwest Region)

Preview: An 8-9 game that includes only three guys averaging double figures this season. Winner gets Kentucky. They can’t all be classics.

Prediction: Purdue 65-59

No. 13 Harvard vs. No. 4 North Carolina

TV: 7:20 p.m., TNT

Site: Jacksonville, Fla. (West Region)

Preview: Harvard was a preseason top 25 team with guys like Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers returning to an Ivy team that has won first-round games in each of the last two Tournaments. The Crimson, though, might not be able to keep up with North Carolina’s offensive track meet.

Prediction: North Carolina 80-70

No. 12 Stephen F. Austin vs. No. 5 Utah

TV: 7:27 p.m., truTV

Site: Portland, Ore. (South Region)

Preview: This will be a heck of a 12-5 matchup. The Lumberjacks have lost once since Nov. 24 while Utah hasn’t defeated a team in the field since Jan. 4 — and that team was UCLA. Stephen F. Austin moves the ball as well as any team in the country, ranking fourth in assists per field goals made while Utah is an elite defensive team on the perimeter.

Prediction: Stephen F. Austin 67-65

No. 9 LSU vs. No. 8 NC State

TV: 9:20 p.m., TBS

Site: Pittsburgh (East Region)

Preview: Who knows what we’re going to get out of this game. The seasons for both teams were marked by inconsistency. There’s plenty of talent on both rosters, but these teams combined for 23 losses. Between LSU’s end-of-game mishaps and NC State point guard Cat Barber’s hot-and-cold game, this could be a wild one.

Prediction: NC State 69-66

No. 16 Hampton vs. No. 1 Kentucky

TV: 9:40 p.m., CBS

Site: Louisville, Ky. (Midwest Region)

Preview: At least Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr. is a good sport about the mismatch that’s on its way. The Pirates entered the MEAC Tournament 12-17 and has one regular taller than 6-7. This won’t be pretty.

Prediction: Kentucky 87-50

No. 12 Wofford vs. No. 5 Arkansas

TV: 9:50 p.m., TNT

Site: Jacksonville, Fla. (West Region)

Preview: This will be a battle of tempo — Arkansas presses and runs at the 11th-fastest tempo while Wofford is a methodical team ranked 316th in tempo. The question is how Wofford’s undersized lineup will find a way to stop Arkansas’ forward Bobby Portis.

Prediction: Arkansas 67-60

No. 13 Eastern Washington vs. No. 4 Georgetown

TV: 9:57 p.m., truTV

Site: Portland, Ore. (South Region)

Preview: Georgetown has lost to a double-digit seed in each of its five trips to the NCAA Tournament since the 2007 Final Four. Now the Hoyas have to face a dynamic offensive team led by Tyler Harvey (22.9 points per game). Eastern Washington can’t guard at all, so this might end up being a shot-for-shot game between Harvey and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

Prediction: Eastern Washington 78-76