Thursday Madness Picks

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Thursday, March 19.

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Binghamton at Duke, 9:40PM ET

The reality of the moment finally hit Binghamton's players just before Wednesday's practice when they stepped out of the tunnel and gazed up at the ACC banners in the rafters. Then, when Minnesota coach Tubby Smith walked past, guard Malik Alvin couldn't contain a wide grin.

After that ``Hoosiers'' moment, the Bearcats took the court, trying their hardest to look like they've been here before.

They haven't.

``We're just trying to take everything in,'' guard Emanuel Mayben said. ``It's all of our first times, so we're just trying to enjoy the moment and, at the same time, be prepared for what we've got in store tomorrow.''

NCAA Free Pick: Duke  View Game Matchup | Best Line: -21.5 SPORTSBETTING.COM

Minnesota at Texas, 7:10PM ET

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Tubby Smith spent most of the past decade at a place where NCAA tournament bids were an every-year requirement and the expectation was to contend for a national championship.

The goals are a little more modest this time around.

Smith is back in the tournament for the first time since leaving Kentucky, guiding Minnesota to its first NCAA appearance in four years. And Smith - in his second season with the Golden Gophers - is savoring the moment as his team prepares to face Texas in the first round of the East Regional on Thursday.

``You know, it doesn't get any better,'' Smith said Wednesday. ``The excitement around it, and your juices get flowing, your energy level is up.

``I think this ... sends a message to our players and to our team that we're building. We're moving in the right direction, that they can see the progress we're making in the program.''

NCAA Free Pick: Texas View Game Matchup | Best Line: -4.5 SPORTSBETTING.COM

VA Commonwealth at UCLA, 9:50PM ET

All those national championships and that storied tradition doesn't make UCLA a safe bet for upset-minded prognosticators.

Even President Barack Obama picked Virginia Commonwealth University to beat the Bruins in his bracket.

When sixth-seeded UCLA (25-8) meets 11th-seeded VCU (24-9) in the opening round of the East Regional on Thursday, history won't matter much. Perhaps that's why so many people think the Rams will pull off an early upset in the NCAA tournament.

``It doesn't really matter what people think of us,'' Bruins forward Josh Shipp said Wednesday. ``We believe in each other. We know what we each are capable of, what this team is capable of. For the outsiders, they don't believe. That's good for them. But for us, we know.''

VCU players were aware they were the President's choice in this matchup. They don't want to let Obama down.

NCAA Free Pick: VA Commonwealth View Game Matchup | Best Line: +7.5 SPORTSBETTING.COM

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Posted: 3/19/09 1:04PM ET

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