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2017 NCAA Tournament First Round — Thursday Afternoon Viewing Guide

The best two days of the annual American sports calendar are about to tip off. I’ve broken down this afternoon’s eight games by watchability and site.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Orlando Practice Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Not near a TV? You can stream each game on NCAA March Madness Live.

Games In Order Of Likely Watchability (by window)

Princeton vs. Notre Dame, 12:15 p.m. (CBS)
UNC Wilmington vs. Virginia, 12:40 p.m. (TruTV)
Winthrop vs. Butler, 1:30 p.m. (TNT)
South Dakota State vs. Gonzaga, 2 p.m. (TBS)

Vanderbilt vs. Northwestern, approx. 4:30 p.m. (TBS)
Middle Tennessee vs. Minnesota, approx. 4 p.m. (TNT)
ETSU vs. Florida, approx. 3:10 p.m. (TruTV)
Bucknell vs. West Virginia, approx. 2:45 p.m. (CBS)

CBS and Turner have loaded this window with 5-vs.-12 and 4-vs.-13 games that are likely to be competitive because of some of the marquee names scheduled to play in the evening.

Buffalo — West Region

CBS will air both games with Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Jim Spanarkel (commentary), and Allie LaForce (reporting) on the call.

No. 12 Princeton Tigers (23-6)* vs. No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-9), 12:15 p.m.
No. 13 Bucknell Bison (26-8)* vs. No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers (26-8), approx. 2:45 p.m.

Bucknell last won a tournament game as a nine seed (!!!) in 2006, a year after defeating Kansas in an epic 14-over 3 upset, while Princeton’s last win came as a five seed (even more !!!!!!) in 1998 when Bill Carmody coached the Tigers. The odds will be against both today, as Notre Dame has a third straight Elite Eight appearance in its sights and West Virginia wants a first round win after losing to Stephen F. Austin as a three seed in 2016.

Orlando — East Region

TruTV will air both games with Ian Eagle, Steve Lavin, and Evan Washburn on the call.

No. 12 UNCW Seahawks (29-5)* vs. No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers (22-10), 12:40 p.m.
No. 13 ETSU Buccaneers (27-7)* vs. No. 4 Florida Gators (24-8), approx. 3:10 p.m.

Of all of the pods anchored by a four seed, this looks like the one that could feature a 12-vs.-13 second round game on Saturday. However, Florida will be playing a quasi-home game, and the Gators typically roll in those in the NCAAs. Plus, UF did play the majority of its non-conference schedules in semi-home environments like they’ll experience in Orlando. In the early game, UNCW will look to do even better than in last season’s first round matchup with Duke, when the Seahawks ran out of gas late. The challenge will be getting C.J. Bryce and Devontae Cacok (78.9% from the field this season) enough shots against Virginia’s defense.

Milwaukee — South Region

TNT will air both games with Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski and Debbie Antonelli, and Lisa Byington on the call.

No. 13 Winthrop Eagles (26-6)* vs. No. 4 Butler Bulldogs (23-8), 1:30 p.m.
No. 12 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (30-4)* vs. No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers (24-9), approx. 4 p.m.

The late game in Milwaukee is the upset pick du jour, though Minnesota will likely have a significant crowd advantage in its neighboring state. In the first tip of the afternoon, Keon Johnson and Winthrop will look to stun a Butler squad that doesn’t want to lose three in a row to end its season prematurely.

Salt Lake City — West Region

TBS will air both games with Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, and Jamie Erdahl on the call.

No. 16 South Dakota State Jackrabbits (18-16)* vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (32-1)*, 2 p.m.
No. 9 Vanderbilt Commodores (19-15) vs. No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats (23-11), approx. 4:30 p.m.

Mike Daum scored 37 in the Summit League final to push South Dakota State to their showdown with Gonzaga. He may need to repeat that performance and then some to pull off the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history. Later, Northwestern plays its first tourney game against a Vandy squad that’s the first 15-loss outfit to earn an at-large.

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