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NCAA men’s Tournament first round


SPOKANE, Wash. — Good morning from the Spokane Arena, where we’re all getting an early start on madness. By 9 a.m. local time, they were already cranking Tom Petty Full Moon Fever-era tunes at David’s Pizza, in advance of today’s quartet of games. Is this the chaos pod in the chaos season for men’s basketball?

Yes, as everyone knows, there was sufficient weirdness elsewhere on Thursday. But this is a site featuring two No. 4 vs. No. 13 games and two No. 5 vs. No. 12 games. These are the O.G. upset setups, basically. And three of the four lower-seeded teams were ranked inside the KenPom.com top 100 as of Thursday. The possibility of competitive, tension-filled games is strong to quite strong.

Even the one team outside of that range, UAB, finds itself in a bit of a mirror-image matchup with San Diego State to kickstart the day, which could mean that the margin stays close enough to make things interesting.

“Everybody on the floor is dangerous offensively, which is rare,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said Thursday. “Usually, there’s one or two guys you key on. If you don’t pay attention to everyone out there, anyone on that floor is capable of putting up 20, 25 points. They’re the No. 22 ranked offensive rebounding team in the country. Everybody knows we’ve struggled sometimes rebounding the ball, and so we have to make sure we play defense at a high level and finish with a rebound.”

Here’s guessing the most entertaining game of the day here is Alabama-Charleston, though, with both sides happy to rev the tempo and play turnstile defense. “Offensively, they’re one of the better teams in the country,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said Thursday. “They play fast, they shoot a lot of 3s, they run a lot of five-out stuff, got very talented players. So we’re going to be ready to go.”

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