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2016 NCAA Tournament, First Round open thread: Let the madness descend

The greatest two days of college sports are finally here.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

You can be cynical about the NCAA Tournament. I am, often.

It bugs me that the NCAA makes so much money off of this, and the players whom we're actually tuning in to see make little except compensation in kind. It bugs me that this is the NCAA Tournament — the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, which the NCAA is now marketing heavily as NCAA March Madness, not the literally hundreds of other NCAA Tournaments that the organization puts on for athletes with the money it earns from these three weeks of 65 games of television inventory.

It has bugged me that courts are uniformly designed, though that is blessedly changing this year — not enough, by my sights, but some. It has bugged me that the NCAA decided by fiat that its First Four games were the First Round, though that also changed this year.

It bugs me that the NCAA Selection Committee will seemingly always be beholden to the archaic RPI, and keen to hand berths (and the value of them) to bigger, better-funded schools. It bugs me that the Final Four is seemingly forever bound to take roost in football stadia now, never to return to the basketball arenas that would make for far better viewing experiences than bird's-eye views.

And it bugs me that the Tournament so often coincides with my birthday, though it doesn't do that this year. (My birthday is Monday.) I like having my birthday truly off!

But despite all the annoying things: Nothing tops the NCAA Tournament for sustained and concentrated drama. With 32 games in two days, 48 in four, and 52 in six if we count the First Four, the odds are great that we'll have at least a handful of good finishes and upsets every year. With CBS and Turner putting generally good broadcasters on the air and only one Reggie Miller existing, the games are enjoyable experiences. With the Internet, everything is replayable, immortal, and so much bigger than it was before.

And with 67 teams entering the NCAA Tournament only to lose, the stakes are as high as anyone could want. With bracket pools (join ours!), things are at stake for us, too.

That's why I watch. That's why we watch. We always will, I think.

Here's to another year of madness. And here's your TV schedule for Thursday and Friday's first round games.

Thursday, March 17: First Round Games

12:15 p Providence West (4) Duke Blue Devils vs. (13) NC-Wilmington Seahawks Ian Eagle/Chris Webber/Len Elmore//Evan Washburn
12:40 p Raleigh Midwest (8) Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (9) Butler Bulldogs Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner//Lewis Johnson
1:30 p Des Moines South (8) Colorado Buffaloes vs. (9) Connecticut Huskies Jim Nantz/Grant Hill/Bill Raftery//Tracy Wolfson
2:00 p Denver Midwest (4) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (13) Iona Gaels Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas//Jamie Erdahl
After conc. I Providence West (5) Baylor Bears vs. (12) Yale Bulldogs Eagle/ Webber/Elmore//Washburn
After conc. I Raleigh Midwest (1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (16) Hampton Pirates Harlan/Miller/Bonner//Johnson
After conc. I Des Moines South (1) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (16) Austin Peay Governors Nantz/Hill/Raftery//Wolfson
After conc. I Denver Midwest (5) Purdue Boilermakers vs. (12) Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans Catalon/ Lappas// Erdahl
6:50 p Providence South (3) Miami-Florida Hurricanes vs. (14) Buffalo Bulls Eagle/ Webber/Elmore//Washburn
7:10 p Des Moines East (5) Indiana Hoosiers vs.(12) Chattanooga Mocs Nantz/Hill/Raftery//Wolfson
7:20 p Raleigh East (1) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (16) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Harlan/Miller/Bonner//Johnson
7:27 p Denver Midwest (3) Utah Utes vs. (14) Fresno State Bulldogs Catalon/ Lappas// Erdahl
After conc. III Providence South (6) Arizona Wildcats vs. (11) Wichita State Shockers Eagle/ Webber/Elmore//Washburn
After conc. III Des Moines East (4) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (13) Stony Brook Seawolves Nantz/Hill/Raftery//Wolfson
After conc. III Raleigh East (8) USC Trojans vs. (9) Providence Friars Harlan/Miller/Bonner//Johnson
After conc. III Denver Midwest (6) Seton Hall Pirates vs. (11) Gonzaga Bulldogs Catalon/ Lappas// Erdahl

Friday, March 18: Round of 64

12:15 p St. Louis Midwest (7) Dayton Flyers vs. (10) Syracuse Orange Brian Anderson/Steve Smith//Dana Jacobson
12:40 p Brooklyn South (2) Villanova Wildcats vs. (15) UNC-Asheville Bulldogs Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel//Allie LaForce
1:30 p Oklahoma City West (7) Oregon State Beavers vs. (10) Virginia Commonwealth Rams Carter Blackburn/ Mike Gminski//Jaime Maggio
2:00 p Spokane South (4) California Golden Bears vs. (13) Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Ros Gold-Onwude
After conc. I St. Louis Midwest (2) Michigan State Spartans vs. (15) Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Anderson/Smith//Jacobson
After conc. I Oklahoma City West (2) Oklahoma Sooners vs. (15) CS-Bakersfield Roadrunners Blackburn/Gminski//Maggio
After conc. I Brooklyn South (7) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (10) Temple Owls Lundquist/Spanarkel//LaForce
After conc. I Spokane South (5) Maryland Terrapins vs. (12) South Dakota State Jackrabbits Dedes/Gottlieb//Gold-Onwude
6:50 p St. Louis East (7) Wisconsin Badgers vs.(10) Pittsburgh Panthers Anderson/Smith//Jacobson
7:10 p Brooklyn East (3) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (14) Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks Lundquist/Spanarkel//LaForce
7:20 p Oklahoma City West (3) Texas A&M Aggies vs. (14) Green Bay Phoenix Blackburn/Gminski//Maggio
7:27 p Spokane West (1) Oregon Ducks vs. (16) Holy Cross Crusaders Dedes/Gottlieb//Gold-Onwude
After conc. III St. Louis East (2) Xavier Musketeers vs. (15) Weber State Wildcats Anderson/Smith//Jacobson
After conc. III Brooklyn East (6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs.(11) Michigan Wolverines Lundquist/Spanarkel//LaForce
After conc. III Oklahoma City West (6) Texas Longhorns vs.(11) Northern Iowa Panthers Blackburn/Gminski//Maggio
After conc. III Spokane West (8) Cincinnati Bearcats vs. (9) Saint Joseph's Hawks Dedes/Gottlieb//Gold-Onwude