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March Madness games are coming to Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — The men’s NCAA tournament is coming to Portland this week. Starting Thursday, some of the top basketball programs in the country will compete at Moda Center in first- and second-round games.

Eight teams will compete in four first-round games Thursday in Portland, including No. 1 seed Gonzaga. Other teams competing in Portland this week are UCLA, Saint Mary’s, Boise State, Memphis, Wyoming or Indiana (depending on Tuesday’s play-in game result), Akron and Georgia State.

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Here’s a look at the schedule:

NCAA men’s tournament in Portland

First-round games

Thursday’s games

At Moda Center, Portland, Ore.

(8) Boise State vs. (9) Memphis, 10:45 a.m., TNT

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Georgia State, 1:15 p.m., TNT

(5) Saint Mary’s vs. (12) Wyoming/Indiana, 4:20 p.m., TBS

(4) UCLA vs. (13) Akron, 6:50 p.m., TBS

Winners will play in second-round games Saturday

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The event is expected to provide an economic boost for businesses in Portland.

Oregon State University is the college host of the games scheduled to be played in Portland this coming week. Scott Barnes, vice president and director of athletics at OSU, said the timing couldn’t be better to welcome fans to Portland.

RELATED: March Madness: Get your printable bracket here

“When you think about the number of teams that come in and their travel parties, not just the actual team with the bands [and] the cheerleaders but their fan base, the economic impact is substantial,” Barnes said.

With mask requirements now off, it’s the first time in three seasons that March Madness games will welcome arenas full of fans to cheer on their teams.

State sports promoter Sports Oregon said the teams alone will fill more than 3,100 rooms at seven designated host hotels from the Lloyd District to downtown.

Brandon Bowden runs Spirit of 77, an eatery and bar located near Moda Center. He said the tournament will bring them a huge amount of much-needed business over just a few days.

“It’s a big deal to Portland right now,” Bowden said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot of things are coming to Portland, convention-wise, so something like this is important for a business like ours that relies on big events to come into town.”

Azar Indulgences, a chocolate and gift shop inside The Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland, is looking forward to selling more treats and gifts to visitors. Christine Azar said things have already been picking up.

“We’ve had a lot of foot traffic downtown, a lot more people attending the shows, concerts, things like that,” Azar said. “So things are, I don’t want to say back to normal, but on their way there.”

Portland has had its challenges and some business is gone for good but the business of college basketball will help, at least for a few days.

“These are the sorts of events that really galvanize the city and attract visitors from all over the country, so hosting the NCAA championship is good for the city, it’s good for the state and certainly for Oregon State University,” Barnes said.

So far, the games haven’t sold out. There are still tickets available for the first two sessions but sales are expected to pick up.

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