SPORTING ALERT – Defending champion Duke start the defense of the NCAA Tournament national title against the 13th-seeded UNC Wilmington at Dunkin Donuts Center in Rhode Island.
The Blue Devils (23-10), who many have dismissed as possible title contenders for this season, have been very inconsistent this year, and are even listed among the teams you cannot trust heading into the national tournament.
The returning champs are among the best teams offensively, but their lack of depth and poor defensive attributes make this ACC ball club very vulnerable. They enter the NCAA Tournament seeded fourth in the West Region.
Grayson Allen will be the main offensive threat for Duke when it lines up against UNC Wilmington — as he averages 21.6 points, 3.6 assists and shooting 46.7 percent from the floor this campaign.
It will also be a big tournament for freshman Brandon Ingram, who can make his case for the No. 1 pick with a series of impressive performances.
Ingram is averaging 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds this term.
Meanwhile, UNC-Wilmington will be making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 and the Colonial Athletic Conference champion believes it can spring an upset on Thursday.
The Seahawks (25-7) enter this competition ranked as the 13th seed with Chris Flemmings averaging 16.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.
Despite their relatively poor form this season, Duke is expected to see off UNC Wilmington and move into the second round where its real battle will begin.
Also tipping off on Thursday are No. 1 seeds Kansas, Virginia and North Carolina.
The Jayhawks (30-4) are the top seed in the South Region and will tip-off against No. 16 seed Austin Peay in the first round at Wells Fargo Arena, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Meanwhile, Cavaliers (26-7), the top boys in the Midwest Region, open against the 16th seeded Hampton at PNC Arena in North Carolina, while the Tar Heels (28-6), who are No. 1 in the East Region, will square off against No. 16 seed Florida Gulf Coast, also at PNC Arena.
All three top seeds enter Thursday’s fixtures as fully listed favorites — given that a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed since the NCAA Tournament field expanded.
NCAA Tournament – March Madness Fixture
Thursday, March 17
No. 13 UNC Wilmington No. 4 Duke 12:15 PM CBS – WEST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 9 Butler v No. 8 Texas Tech 12:40 PM truTV PNC – MIDWEST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 9 Connecticut v No. 8 Colorado 1:30 PM TNT – SOUTH REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 13 Iona v No. 4 Iowa State 2:00 PM TBS – MIDWEST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 12 Yale v No. 5 Baylor 2:45 PM CBS – WEST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 16 Hampton v No. 1 Virginia 3:10 PM truTV – MIDWEST REGION – 1ST ROUND.
No. 16 Austin Peay v No. 1 Kansas 4:00 PM TNT – SOUTH REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock No. 5 Purdue 4:30 PM TBS – MIDWEST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 14 Buffalo v No. 3 Miami 6:50 PM TNT – SOUTH REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 12 Chattanooga v No. 5 Indiana 7:10 PM CBS – EAST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast v No. 1 North Carolina 7:20 PM TBS – EAST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 14 Fresno State v No. 3 Utah 7:27 PM truTV – MIDWEST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 11 Wichita State v No. 6 Arizona 9:20 PM TNT – SOUTH REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 13 Stony Brook v No. 4 Kentucky 9:40 PM CBS – EAST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 9 Providence v No. 8 USC 9:50 PM TBS – EAST REGION – 1ST ROUND
No. 11 Gonzaga v No. 6 Seton Hall 9:57 PM truTV – MIDWEST REGION – 1ST ROUND