Friday NCAA Tournament Preview

We went 14-2 in Thursday’s preview (thanks Arizona and South Dakota St). Here is our preview and predictions for Friday’s 16 games.

(10) Providence vs. (7) Texas A&M 12:15 p.m. CBS 

Hopefully, for Friars fans, Providence has recovered from a grueling Big East tournament that saw them play 3OT games in 3 days, before eventually bowing out to the tourney champ Villanova. Meanwhile, the Aggies have a lockdown defense that’s the 12th best in the country (Adj D). However, Texas A&M is also a classic Jekyll and Hyde team. One day good, one day atrocious. The key will be on the boards, and the Aggies are 5th in the country in rips/gm. Lockdown D and lots of rips? Give us the Aggies (-2.5).

(15) CSU Fullerton vs. (2) Purdue 12:40 p.m. truTV 

After a great year, the Boilermakers come into the tournament poised to make a deep run. Led by the play of the Flying Edwards brothers, aka Carsen and Vincent, aka they’re not really related, with the post play down low of Isaac Haas, aka Big Country, aka he’s really tall, aka he’s also not related to either of the Edwards. Purdue loves to shoot the 3, and they’re the 2nd best team in the country at it (3PT%). That coupled with Haas down low doesn’t bode well for the Titans, who had to win the Big West tourney just to get in. They do have three guys who can score: Kyle Allman (19.4 pts/gm), Khalil Ahmad (15.3 pts/gm), & Jackson Rowe (12.2 pts/gm). But it won’t be enough vs the Boilermakers.

PS – We just found out that Isaac Haas’ favorite band is 3 Doors Down… This changes everything. Cal State Fullerton by 50.

(13) Marshall vs. (4) Wichita State 1:30 p.m. TNT 

Wichita St started the year as the 7th ranked team in the nation and had dreams of a run in the Tournament. However, an up and down run in the middle of the year temporarily derailed those dreams. And it’s mostly because of their defense. Normally, stout and suffocating, they only rank 109th in the country. However, they actually rank 4th in the country in Adjusted Offense. These are not your pappy’s Shockers. If they are to march on, they better get back on defense and guard the 3, as Marshall, who had to win Conference USA just to make the Dance, is one of the fastest paced teams in the land (6th in Adjust Tempo) and shot the 7th most 3-pointers. The Shockers are always an experienced team, seemingly always having guys that have somehow played college b-ball for 8+ years. Wichita St (-12.5) seems like a lot for a team that was uneven at times this year. Seems like the Thundering Herd can keep it close with the Shockers ultimately moving on.

(15) Georgia State vs. (2) Cincinnati 2 p.m. TBS 

For March success, it’s imperative to have good guard play. And the Georgia St Panthers have just that in D’Marcus Simonds. The 6’3″ 200 lb guard avgs 21.1 pts/gm. On top of that, he’s not afraid to mix it up with the big boys down low, as he avgs 5.8 rips/gm to go along with 4.5 dimes/gm. The only problem is that the Panthers need about 6 additional Simonds-es, possibly with all of them on the court at the same time to try and combat Cincinnati’s fire blanket defense. Led by head coach Mick Cronin, who could also double for comic book supervillain Lex Luthor, the Bearcats have lockdown defenders all over the floor. They’ll be able to tell you what cologne you’re wearing. It will be too much for the Panthers, as Cincy rolls.

(15) Lipscomb vs. (2) UNC 2:45 p.m. CBS 

The Tar Heels have the most losses ever by a number 2 seed. However, it’s hard to say that they didn’t deserve it. They had the most difficult schedule in the nation, coupled with the most Quadrant I wins of any other team. Led by Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, & Luke Maye, North Carolina had the best rebounding margin in the ACC, despite being a relatively undersized team. UNC is looking to make an unprecedented run to the Finals for a third year in a row, after losing to Villanova two years ago then beating Gonzaga last year. With improved post play by Garrison Brooks & Sterling Manley, the Tar Heels might be peaking at the right time. Lipscomb isn’t a strong team by any stretch of the imagination. However, they are good at pushing the ball…exactly what the Tar Heels love to do. Doing exactly what another team wants you to do when you’re less talented and less of a complete team is no bueno, as they say in other countries. The Tar Heels by 18.

(10) Butler vs. (7) Arkansas 3:10 p.m. truTV

The Razorbacks’ F Daniel Gafford only has a few games left in college. But not because he’s a senior. Rather, the 6’11” freshman will be an NBA lottery pick. He avgs 11.9 pts/gm, 6.2 rips/gm, & 2.1 blocks/gm. He’s raw, but his athleticism and ability to protect the rim has scouts at the next level salivating. Gafford coupled with star senior guard Jaylan Barford who avgs 18.0 pts/gm has Arkansas fans dreaming of the second weekend. (Note- It’s fine as an adult, but imagine having a last name like BARFord as a kid. Doubtful he was ever made fun of for it. o_O) Butler, on the other had, stumbled down the stretch, going 3-6 to close out the regular season and Big East tournament. However, the Bulldogs have had some big time wins this year, including W’s over Ohio St and Villanova. Despite being the lower seed (10 vs 7), Butler is the slight favorite (-1.5). Sounds perfect to us. The Bulldogs by 9.

(12) Murray State vs. (5) West Virginia 4:00 p.m. TNT

With a nickname like the Racers, one would think Murray St would play at breakneck speed, a la UNLV during the Jerry Tarkanian years. However, surpisingly, the Racers are only 217th in the country in Adjusted Tempo. While Press Virginia (Get it? That’s what they call West Virginia because they always do a full court press, lol. What a country!) is still very good on the defensive side of the ball, they’re not in the top 20 in Adjusted Defense, as they often are. Yet, they are one of the better offenses in the nation. So Murray State’s deliberate pace, may actually work to their advantage by taking the air out of the ball, and limiting the Mountaineers’ touches. The spread, WV (-10.5), is too much in this match-up. We’ll take the Racers (+10.5), while Jevon Carter and company do just enough to get the Fighting Huggy Bears into the next round.

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

“Para bailar Mo Bamba, para bailar Mo Bamba se necesita una poca de gracia.” We’re not even sure how Ritchie Valens knew about Mo Bamba when he wrote the song La Bamba in 1958, considering Mo wasn’t born until decades later. But some mysteries are better left unsolved. Speaking of mysteries (Wow! What a segue!), how much will the Longhorns be able to count on Bamba (10.4 rips/gm, 3.7 blocks/gm), as he played limited minutes in the Big 12 tourney, coming back from an injury? They are a different team when he’s on the floor and playing effectively. Nevada sports the MWC player of the year in Caleb Martin (19.1 pts/gm), as well as his brother, Cody Martin (13.6 pts/gm). You may remember the Martin brothers transferring from one Wolfpack (NC State) to another (Nevada). Texas is the youngest team in the Tournament, and experience often wins out in March. Nevada wins by 3.

(9) Kansas State vs. (8) Creighton 6:50 p.m. TNT 

Typical 8/9 toss up game. Creighton averages a ridiculous 84.3 PPG and have beaten the mighty Villanova in the last month. Kansas State is battle tested having survived the rugged Big12 gauntlet. Both teams have the depth and experience to advance, but we are going with Creighton led by former Wildcats guard Marcus Foster.

(14) Bucknell vs. (3) Michigan State 7:10 p.m. CBS

Michigan State has not played in over two weeks, but don’t expect much rust from this group. Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, and Jaren Jackson Jr have had Sparty in the national title conversation all year with their outstanding play. Bucknell started the season 4-7, and finished it on a ridiculous 21-2 run. This is no gimmie for Sparty, but they should win by double digits. 

(16) Texas Southern vs. (1) Xavier 7:15 p.m. TBS 

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

No #16 has ever beaten a #1 seed. No #1 seed has ever lost to a #16 seed. Xavier is a #1 seed. Texas Southern is a #16 seed. There is a lot of math adding up here. The Musketeers may be the worst #1 seed in the field, but history is not made here. Xavier wins by a landslide. 

(13) Charleston vs. (4) Auburn 7:27 p.m. truTV 

By far the biggest surprise this season has been the Auburn Tigers success behind used-to-be-lame-duck Bruce Pearl. They started the season embroiled in scandal and finished tied with Tennessee for the top SEC record. Charleston comes in red hot having won 14 of their last 15 games. Auburn better bring their A game otherwise this could be an upset. We like Auburn in a nail biter.  

(16) UMBC vs. (1) Virginia 9:20 p.m. TNT 

Virginia is the overall number one seed, and the top defensive team in the country. They famously held Pittsburgh to 7 first half points earlier this season. The UMBC Retrievers may have trouble breaking 35 in this game. Virginia beats them by 25+.

(11) Syracuse vs. (6) TCU 9:30 p.m. CBS 

Syracuse won an emotional game vs Arizona St on Wednesday where three of there starters played 37+ minutes. TCU is the reigning NIT champs and are looking to continue their historical postseason tear. Even without star guard Jaylen Fisher ,we like the Horned Frogs to win YUGE after the Orange run out of gas in the 2H.

(9) Florida State vs. (8) Missouri 9:50 p.m. TBS

Missouri has their top player back in Michael Porter Jr. He was a bit rusty in the lone SEC tournament game he played, but another full week of practice should shake off some of the rust. For the Seminoles, they enter the tourney on a bit of a cold streak. Their lackluster performance in the 1H vs Louisville in the ACC Tournament nearly put them on the bubble to even make the tourney. The Seminoles did cut a 26 point deficit in that game to just 6, but were unable to get any closer. We like the Seminoles here to squeak out a win just based on having more continuity, as this team has played with the same lineups all season.

(12) New Mexico State vs. (5) Clemson 9:57 p.m. truTV

Clemson has had a great season, but suffered a major loss when Donte Grantham went down with a season ending injury in late January. At the time the Tigers were 16-3, but finished just 7-6 after that injury. Clemson has the guards to make a deep tourney run in Gabe “Devojo” Devoe and Marquise Reed, but it has been 7 years since Clemson has made the tournament and it seems they are just happy to be here. New Mexico St has not won a tournament game since 1993, but have made the tournament 6 out of the last 7 years. The Aggies are hungry, and the excitement of just making the tournament has worn off on this veteran group. Aggies upset Clemson in a close game that comes down to the wire.