Well, Friday’s gotta be pretty chaotic, right?
Thursday brought 16 games, some interesting afternoon action, but not a lot of upsets.
In fact, it’s hard to argue there was even one upset. The biggest by seed was No. 12 Middle Tennessee over No. 5 Minnesota, but the Blue Raiders —— were favored in that one. The only other game with a double-digit seed winning was No. 11 Xavier over No. 6 Maryland, but that was probably the most popular double-digit seed pick of the tournament not including Wichita State over Dayton.
The 11-over-6 is even more reliable than the 12-over-5. Xavier’s definitive win over Maryland means an 11 seed has beaten a 6 seed every year for 13 YEARS. The 11s want to know why the 12s get all the pub.
The day’s biggest event was the wacky way Northwestern backed into its win over Vanderbilt. I still feel a little sick for Matthew Fisher-Davis,. Shout out to Purdue getting its first tournament win since 2010. And speaking of 2010, that was the last time the WCC sent two teams to the second round. Now it will happen again, with Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
So that leaves Friday open for some surprises. Pretty much has to. The tournament, like the universe, balances itself out. As we look to the next 16 games, here’s what you want to keep an eye on.
Ten things to watch for on Friday
1. It’s a day for the bluebloods. The six programs with the most wins in NCAA Tournament history all play on Friday: Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and Louisville. Throw in Michigan State and you’ve got seven of the top nine. (Nos. 7 and 8, Indiana and Syracuse, are not in the field.)
2. Most exciting matchups: The games I’m looking forward to most: Michigan-Oklahoma State (12:15 p.m. ET, CBS), Dayton-Wichita State (7:10 p.m. ET, CBS) and Miami-Michigan State (approx. 9:20 p.m. ET, TNT). I have a good feeling all of those games are going to be great.
3. Best bets: Here’s what SportsLine says should be the best plays for Friday’s action.
4. Michigan’s story continues? The Wolverines’ plane scare prompted a Big Ten championship run. Along with the Northwestern appearance (and win), it’s the most momentous story of this tourney’s start. Will it continue, or will Oklahoma State show up and ball out? The Cowboys have the No. 1 offense in college basketball.
5. Josh Jackson saga: Kansas will play with yet more drama as backdrop. On Thursday, the details of an affidavit were released concerning an incident involving KU star freshman Josh Jackson. In mid-December,. The Jayhawks’ season has been successful on the court and a mess off it.
6. Top-seed scares: Gonzaga started slow, then pulled away. Villanova did the same. Will we get any threats on Kansas, UNC, Kentucky or Louisville?
7. Duke watch: No team is as interesting as Duke. The Blue Devils are coming off four wins in four days, which had never been done in the ACC tournament. Expectations are for the Blue Devils to beat Troy by north of 20 points. At least mine are. But let’s see if Harry Giles takes another step and if Jayson Tatum has a huge moment.
8. UCLA watch: No team is as fun to watch as UCLA. Kent State is the first obstacle. What will LaVar Ball say tomorrow? He’s going to have to be interviewed mid-game, right? The nation is eager to see the Bruins go, go, go.
9. Baylor snakebitten? The Bears are trying to dodge three straight first-round losses. Two years ago, Georgia State got them. Last year it was Yale. Now New Mexico State goes for the glory.
10. Close games: Thursday was solid, but didn’t have a buzzer-beater, lacked big-time upsets and was down from recent years’ Thursday production. So expect Friday to give us at least a couple big moments. If anything, the fact that Thursday was so unusually ordinary might lead to a few higher-seeded teams not having their guard up.