BUFFALO, N.Y., March 17 (UPI) -- The NCAA Tournament begins in earnest Thursday with St. Joseph's, Duke and Gonzaga drawing much of the first-round attention.
St. Joseph's, which won 27 games in a row before falling in the Atlantic 10 tourney, carries a No. 1 seed into the event and will take on Liberty in Buffalo.
Duke, another top seed, will play Alabama State in Raleigh and Gonzaga, a popular underdog in recent years but a No. 2 seed this season, will face Valpraiso in Seattle.
Phil Martelli, St. Joseph's outspoken coach, has engaged in a verbal spat with CBS announcer Billy Packer, who says the Hawks do not deserve a No. 1 seed.
"The talk is done," Martelli said. "The talk is cheap. It's time to start playing. We'll be ready to play Thursday."
If St. Joseph's advances, it's possible Martelli could oppose Bob Knight, the third all-time winningest coach in college basketball history. Knight and Texas Tech (22-10) meet Charlotte (21-8).
Other attractions find Connecticut facing Vermont in Buffalo and Texas taking on Princeton in Denver.