After a whirlwind Day 1 of the tournament, Friday’s action seems to be primed for more close finishes, upsets, and memorable March Madness moments. Both Michigan schools are in action, and East Lansing natives will hope to see green on this St. Patrick’s Day. Before the Spartans play their first matchup of the tournament, here’s why you should watch the other games today.
|*||You should probably clear your schedule for this one.|
|#||Best game in its time slot (i.e. Noon, 12:30, 1 PM games)|
|!||Give this game second-screen consideration.|
* # 12:15, CBS: No. 7 Michigan (24-11) vs. No. Oklahoma State (20-12)
Why watch: Michigan has already had a memorable March. Starting off their plane nearly crashed at Detroit Metro Airport on their way out to the Big 10 tournament in Indianapolis. After that they went ahead and won the Big 10 tourney. Normally a streaky shooting team that relies heavily on the three-point shot, the Wolverines are one of the hottest teams in the country led by senior guard Derrick Walton (14.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG). But they come up against an Oklahoma State team that is very similar to their own. The Cowboys score 85.6 PPG and have played the second toughest schedule in the country according to KenPom rankings. But if Oklahoma State has one weakness it would be their defense, which allows 75 PPG and ranks 302nd in division one. So expect a high scoring affair to start off Friday’s festivities.
Prediction: 82-78 Michigan
12:40, truTV: No. 3 Baylor (25-7) vs. No. 14 New Mexico State (28-5)
! 1:30, TNT: No. 8 Arkansas (25-9) vs. No. 9 Seton Hall (21-11)
2:00, TBS: No. 3 Oregon (29-5) vs. No. 14 Iona (22-12)
2:45, CBS: No. 2 Louisville (24-8) vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State (20-14)
! 3:10, truTV: No. 6 SMU (30-4) vs. No. 11 USC (25-9)
Why watch: The SMU Mustangs were ineligible to participate in the NCAA tournament last season so they will be using that as motivation to make sure that they reach at least the second weekend in this year’s tourney. SMU’s starting five is long and athletic, led by Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye (18.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 43.1 3FG%). Their defense is also ranked third in the country. And the possible matchup with in-state rivals Bayler in the round of 32 will spur the Mustangs on to perform at an even higher level. If there is a weakness in this SMU team it would have to be their depth. The highest scorer outside of their starting five only averages 4.4 points. So if USC can manage to get any of SMU’s starting five in foul trouble then they may have a chance. USC will also have to continue to knock down threes and force plenty of turnover like the did against Providence in one of the four play in games this past Wednesday. However the Trojans can not go down 15 points like they did against Providence. If they do, then there will not be a way back into the contest against SMU.
Prediction: 78-64 SMU
4:00, TNT: No. 1 UNC (27-7) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern (23-11)
# 4:30, TBS: No. 6 Creighton (25-9) vs. No. 11 Rhode Island (24-9)
Why watch: The Creighton Blue Jays were one of the best teams in the Big East during the beginning of the year. Then star guard Maurice Watson went down for the season with an ACL tear. Since then there has been a slight drop-off, but Creighton still finished the year 25-9 in large part to the outstanding play of freshman center Justin Patton (13.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG). Their opponent, the Rhode Island Rams, have won eight straight games and claimed the Atlantic 10 championship along the way. Rhode Island held opponents to 65.8 PPG and 40.6% shooting from the field during the regular season. The Rams will feel confident based on their current form and will also look to continue their defensive dominance to knock off the higher seeded Blue Jays and advance to the round of 32.
Prediction: 68-64 Rhode Island
6:50, TNT: No. 1 Kansas (28-4) vs. No. 16 UC Davis (23-12)
* 7:10, CBS: No. 7 Dayton (24-7) vs. No. 10 Wichita State (30-4)
Why Watch: Wichita State is criminally under-ranked at as 10 seed. They are beating opponents by almost 20 points a game. And one might bring up the fact that they play in the Missouri Valley Conference. However, the last time their margin of victory was that large was during the 2013/14 season, which is when they went 34-0 during the regular season. Now Dayton is not a bad team. They had the second best offense in the Atlantic 10 and were the two seed in their conference tourney before being bounced by Davidson in the quarterfinals. Backcourt duo Charles Cooke and Scoochie (great first name) Smith average nearly 30 points between the two of them (Cooke 16.2 PPG, Smith 13.5 PPG). It is just the case that they are playing the wrong team at the wrong time.
Prediction: 82-65 Wichita State
7:20, TBS: No. 2 Duke (27-8) vs. No. 15 Troy (22-14)
7:27, truTV: No. 6 Cincinnati (29-5) vs. No. 11 Kansas State (21-13)
# 9:20, TNT: No. 8 Miami (Fla.) (21-11) vs. No. 9 Michigan State (19-14)
Why Watch: Well here we are Spartan fans. For the twentieth year in a row, Michigan State is dancing. This year certainly has had its ups and downs, and one can hope that playing such a tough schedule at the beginning of the year will pay off in the tourney. It is important for the fantastic freshman duo of MIles Bridges and NIck Ward to continue producing, but it is probably even more important for the likes of Alvin Ellis III, Josh Langford and Matt McQuaid to carry the load when needed. This Miami team should not be overlooked. Head coach Jim Larranaga took the eleventh seeded George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. And guess the team that they played in the first round? Michigan State. Now this does not mean Miami will make it to the Final Four or let alone win. Miami plays good team defense and shares the ball on offense. Plus both teams are in a slump heading into the game, losing three of their last four. So the winner will likely be the team that gets off the block first.
Prediction: 69-66 Michigan State
9:40, CBS: No. 2 Kentucky (29-5) vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky (24-10)
! 9:50, TBS: No. 7 South Carolina (22-10) vs. No. 10 Marquette (19-12)
Why watch: This game will be a clash of styles. South Carolina is a hard-nosed, grind-it-out type of team. They do not shoot the ball well, only 41.6% from the field, but they will try to out-hustle any team they face. The Gamecocks force the fifth most turnovers in the country and are second in the country holding teams to 21.9% shooting from three. And that stat does not bode well for Marquette, who set a school record in three-point attempts with 312. But South Carolina finished the season by going 3-9 and Marquette will try to take advantage of the Gamecocks’ poor run of games.
Prediction: 76-70 Marquette
9:57, truTV: No. 3 UCLA (29-4) vs. No. 14 Kent State (22-13)