2018 March Madness viewing guide: Friday

By Kevin Raju

During most seasons, the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament would coincide with Selection Sunday for March Madness. This year, the tournament was held a week before Selection Sunday so that it could be held at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Thus, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue had about two weeks of rest before their first game in the NCAA tournament.

Here’s a schedule for all games and description for some games. I could tell you which ones to watch over others, but the truth is that every game is worth watching for favorite teams or for sleeper teams that can pull upsets. However, some games have special bearing on the entire tournament.

South

1 Virginia (31-2) vs 16 UMBC (24-10) @ 9:20 p.m. EST on TNT

I like this matchup of conference tournament champions. Virginia won the ACC tournament this year while the University of Maryland-Baltimore County won the America East tournament. Virginia also won the ACC regular season and looks to complete a triple route of championships with the NCAA championship. Virginia will be playing without DeAndre Hunter (ACC Sixth Man of the Year recipient). Look for Kyle Guy and Devon Hall to form a strong backcourt focused on playmaking and contesting shots. On UMBC, look for Jairus Lyles to make game changing shots. Jairus is a graduate student who led them to the tournament by hitting a game-winning 3 pointer against Vermont in the America East championship to seal their automatic bid. Virginia’s playing style here could determine how well they could run the rest of the tournament.

8 Creighton (21-11) vs 9 Kansas State (22-11) @ 6:50 p.m. EST on TNT

7 Nevada (27-7) vs 10 Texas (19-14) @ 4:30 p.m. EST on TBS

Perhaps this game will serve as one of many bracket-busters throughout this tournament. What I like about this game is that both teams have opposite aspects towards one another. Nevada’s tallest player is between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8 while Texas features 6-foot-9 forward Dylan Osetkowski and the highly touted 7-foot center Mo Bamba who is expected to be a first round pick for the NBA draft. Nevada is 21st in the country for 3 point percentage at 39.4 percent while Texas shoots the 3 at 31.5 percent (tied for 207th in the country). Nevada is running a top 10 offense while Texas runs a top 10 defense. Bamba could be a force that could affect the Longhorns’ chances for a deep run. Look for Texas to play in honor of guard Andrew Jones who is continuing to get treatment for leukemia.  

2 Cincinnati (30-4) vs 15 Georgia State (24-10) @ 2:00 p.m. EST on TBS

East

5 West Virginia (24-10) vs 12 Murray State (26-5) @ 4:00 p.m. EST on TNT

4 Wichita State (25-7) vs 13 Marshall (24-10) @ 1:30 p.m. EST on TNT

7 Arkansas (23-11) vs 10 Butler (20-13) @ 3:10 p.m. EST on truTV

For Butler, this will be LaVall Jordan’s first time in the tournament as Butler’s head coach. Before this season, Chris Holtmann announced he was leaving the Bulldogs in favor of Ohio State. The story behind this game is that this is one of those 7 seed vs 10 seed matchups that could become a game changing upset in the bracket challenge. If you’re looking for a game that looks for all around play from the players without well-known stars, then this game will be worth watching.

2 Purdue (28-6) vs 15 CSU Fullerton (20-11) @ 12:40 p.m. EST on truTV

This game features the Big Ten’s Purdue with a variety of star players who will open the first of a couple tournament games at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Purdue was a challenging opponent in the B1G regular season with names like Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias and Carsen Edwards. Should Purdue win, there is a chance they may play in-state rival Butler. However, the string of recent losses has brought questions like whether or not Purdue can keep up with competitive teams. Fullerton has worked through a long stretch of losing seasons and a handful of head coaches to make their first tournament in a decade.

West

1 Xavier (28-5) vs 16 Texas Southern @ 7:20 p.m. EST on TBS

8 Missouri (20-12) vs 9 Florida State (20-11) @ 9:50 p.m. EST on TBS

For both Missouri and Florida State, this season was a rebuilding season. Florida State ended the 2016-17 season with departures from many players, including drafted players like Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon. Florida State’s 2018 class aimed to replace those players to have a better chance for a deep run during the postseason. Missouri hired Cuonzo Martin from Cal as their new head coach. Later, he hired Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach which then brought his son Michael Porter Jr., a top prospect for the NBA draft. Porter Jr. missed the entire regular season due to an injury against Iowa State on November 10. After surgery, his return could play a role in Missouri’s chances against Florida State. With a 3-point percentage of 42.5 percent, Kassius Robertson happens to be one of Missouri’s best players. The same can be said for Jordan Barnett (41.4 percent) but Barnett was recently arrested for suspicion of DWI which led to suspension for this game by Coach Martin.

7 Texas A&M (20-12) vs 10 Providence (21-13) @ 12:15 p.m. EST on CBS

Like Arkansas vs Butler, this matchup has the potential to be another bracket buster. Both teams have experience against top ranked teams within their league. The Aggies’ Robert Williams returned to A&M for his sophomore year when he was expected to go to the NBA Draft instead. While the Aggies can beat ranked teams, unranked teams still give them trouble. Tyler Davis, a junior at the center position, leads the team with 14.4 rebounds and 8.8 points per game. Meanwhile, Providence is fresh out of the Big East tournament after a loss in OT to Villanova for the championship. Like the Aggies, Providence has beaten top teams like Villanova and Xavier in the regular season, but has lost to other unranked teams. Last year, they lost to USC in the first round and are looking to go further than the first round. However, the Aggies boast a roster with skilled players and experience over more ranked teams. The last time the Aggies were in the tournament was in 2016 where they beat Northern Iowa in double-OT, 92-88 before losing to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.

2 North Carolina (25-10) vs 15 Lipscomb (23-9) @ 2:45 p.m. EST on CBS

Midwest

3 MSU (29-4) vs 14 Bucknell (25-9) @ 7:10 p.m. EST on CBS **

This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. There’s a lot that I could say about this game, but if you’ve watched MSU basketball this year, you’ll know a lot about what the Spartans need to do. Before we get to the Spartans, here are a couple of quick facts about their opponent. This is Bucknell’s second consecutive appearance in the tournament (in 2017, they lost to West Virginia in the first round). Bucknell had a winning streak of 10 games in conference play before a loss to Lehigh, but then had an 8 game win streak at the end which culminated in the Patriot League championship victory over Colgate (83-54) to secure an automatic bid to the tournament. Meanwhile, the Spartans are off a second loss to Michigan from the Big Ten Tournament. There is a lot of room for the Spartans to improve in order for them to remain a potential final four team. Perhaps this game will serve as a test to see what the Spartans have learned from previous victories and losses as well as if they’re ready for further challenges down the tournament.

 

4 Auburn (25-7) vs 13 College of Charleston (26-7) @ 7:27 p.m. EST on truTV

6 TCU (21-11) vs 11 Syracuse @ 9:40 p.m. EST on CBS

 

5 Clemson (23-9) vs 12 New Mexico State (28-5) @ 9:47 p.m. EST on truTV

To anyone looking at this matchup, this is a game of stepping-stone teams. In recent years, Clemson has been known for being a top college football team. This year, the basketball team improved to fourth in the ACC this year. On the flipside, New Mexico State is the WAC tournament champion with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. A popular trend throughout recent years is a 12 seed upset over a 5 seed. It seems that this year, a popular upset spreading throughout the bracket challenge is New Mexico State over Clemson. Last year, the 5-12 upset belonged to Middle Tennessee over Minnesota. If you’re into 5-12 upset games, then this game might get you off your seat.