NCAA Tournament Live Updates: Let the bracket breaking begin as the Men’s March Madness begins

The first full day of the men’s NCAA tournament begins Thursday with 16 games in the round of 64. The first four games on Tuesday and Wednesday technically started the tournament, with No. 11 Pittsburgh, No. 16 Texas A&M- Corpus Christi, No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson and No. 11 Arizona State advanced to the first round.

The first game on Thursday starts at 12:15 p.m. ET between No. 9 West Virginia and No. 8 Maryland (CBS), and the action doesn’t end until around midnight with No. 15 UNC Asheville and No. 2 UCLA at 10:05 p.m. ET (truTV).

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General view of the March Madness logo at UD Arena.

Alabama clear favorite in the southern region

The South region is loaded. It starts at the top with the highest overall finish, but if Alabama is to reach its first Final Four in program history, it must battle its way through a string of successful programs, including four programs with national championship banners hanging in their home arenas.

Two of the three most recent NCAA champions are here, Baylor and Virginia. A ’90s powerhouse, Arizona is back in the title hunt. Then there’s Maryland, which took down the nets earlier this century and hopes to make noise as one of the many Big Ten representatives in the field.

– Eddie Timanos

Defending champion Kansas leads the West Region

Good news for the Jayhawks – they won’t have to play Texas again until the Final Four. Even better news – Kansas head coach Bill Self is expected to rejoin the team. He was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, where he checked in last week with chest tightness and balance issues. According to doctors, Self had two stents inserted to treat blocked arteries in his heart.

No. 2 seed UCLA enters the tournament with injury woes. Had UCLA not lost defensive genius Jaylen Clark to injury in the regular-season Finals, the Bruins would have had a decent shot at No. 1 and a way into the Final Four.

– Josh Peter

Purdue #1 in the East, but many contenders are emerging

Purdue is looking to advance to the Final Four for the first time under coach Matt Painter and for the first time as a program since 1980. The Boilermakers are built around 7-foot-4 junior center Zach Edey, favorite for National Player of the Year.

The East Region is not short of star power: Purdue will be joined by No. 2 Marquette, No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Tennessee, followed by No. 5 Duke and No. 6 Kentucky.

– Paul Meyerberg

Texas A&M and Penn State have little time to recover

How can you not like a regional group where Texas – if the seeding stands – meets Texas A&M in the second round and makes its way to Houston, and Texas is playing for a spot in a Final Four being held in Houston ?

The best first-round matchup in the Midwest?

The Texas A&M-Penn State game pairs teams that have had great runs and outstanding guard play this past weekend; but both played on Sunday and have to come back and play on Thursday. (It also matches the fashion-forward splendor of Aggie’s trainer Buzz Williams and his suit vests versus casual quarter-zip Micah Shrewsberry.)

—Steve Berkowitz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: March Madness live updates: NCAA tournament bracket concludes with Round 1

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