The best day in college sports kicked off with a bang as Tyson Walker and the No. 9-seeded Michigan State Spartans cruised to an impressive 69-51 victory over No. 8-seeded Mississippi State.

College basketball fans will be treated to 16 games today, including the No. 1-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels currently taking on No. 16 seed Wagner in the West Region.

Also in action: Creighton is taking on Akron and Arizona is going up against Long Beach State.

Catch up on all the action from Day 1 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament here:

(9) Michigan State 69, (8) Mississippi State 51

Tom Izzo has said it many times before: The reason he believes this Michigan State team can overcome its maddening inconsistency to make a postseason run is because of his three lead guards: Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard and Jaden Akins. High-level guards win games in the NCAA Tournament, and Izzo trusts his trio to always give the Spartans a chance, regardless of the opponent.

It’s a message Izzo is likely to repeat once, twice or maybe even three times during his postgame news conference following Thursday’s 69-51 win over eighth-seeded Mississippi State. All three of Izzo’s veteran backcourt players turned in excellent performances against an opponent that was noticeably overmatched on that part of the roster. There were long stretches when Bulldogs freshman Josh Hubbard, who poured in better than 17 points per game this season, seemed to be playing one against three.

The Spartans got 19 points and three 3-pointers from Walker, who led all scorers. They got eight points and eight assists from Hoggard, who battled through some turnover problems to spark Michigan State in transition. And they got 15 points and seven rebounds from Akins, who hadn’t scored that many since a win over Penn State on Feb. 14.

Izzo’s three guards combined to shoot 7-for-16 from beyond the arc for a team that only averages 6.4 made 3-pointers per game. The potency from 3-point range bodes well for Michigan State ahead of a second-round matchup between the winner of No. 1 North Carolina and No. 16 Wagner, which defeated Howard in the First Four earlier this week. Should the Tar Heels advance, the Spartans will likely need another hot-shooting effort in the second round given the style of basketball North Carolina plays. They entered the tournament having made nearly 60 fewer 3-pointers than the Tar Heels this season.

– Michael Cohen

(11) Duquesne 71, (6) BYU 67

(3) Creighton vs. (14) Akron
Live now!

(2) Arizona vs. (15) Long Beach State
Live now!

(1) North Carolina vs. (16) Wagner
Live now!

(3) Illinois vs. (14) Morehead State
3:10 p.m. (truTV)

(6) South Carolina vs. (11) Oregon
4 p.m. (TNT)

(7) Dayton vs. (10) Nevada
4:30 p.m. (TBS)

(7) Texas vs. (10) Colorado State
6:50 p.m. (TNT)

(3) Kentucky vs. (14) Oakland
7:10 p.m. (CBS)

(5) Gonzaga vs. (12) McNeese State
7:25 p.m. (TBS)

(2) Iowa State vs. (15) South Dakota State
7:35 p.m. (truTV)

(2) Tennessee vs. (15) Saint Peter’s
9:20 p.m. (TNT)

(6) Texas Tech vs. (11) NC State
9:40 p.m. (CBS)

(4) Kansas vs. (13) Samford
9:55 p.m. (TBS)

(7) Washington State vs. (10) Drake
10:05 p.m. (truTV)

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John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.

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