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NCAA Tournament Friday Games Preview and Open Thread

You’re hungover from St. Patrick’s Day. How is your bracket doing? To shreds, you say? Karen from accounting’s bracket? She’s winning?

NCAA Basketball: First Four-Notre Dame at Rutgers
Keep on dancing!
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, day 1 of the tournament is in the books. I’m sure like me, you all still have a perfect bracket. “Work” thru your hangover and then prepare yourself for day 2.

All times are Eastern. Previews are all the work of BoilerUp89 unless the other “writers” get around to chiming in. I’m putting this together Wednesday night, so ignore that we’ve already learned that I was wrong on which conferences were any good and which ones were terrible.

If you are wondering why I’m talking about three point shooting for these games so much—it’s the great equalizer. The best way for teams at a talent disadvantage to pull an upset. And the first round has a lot of games with one team at a massive talent disadvantage.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 16 Wright State at Purdue
Purdue Pete is hungry. At least he got that contracting job.
Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

12:15 PM [7] Ohio State Buckeyes vs. [10] Loyola (Chicago) Ramblers

CBS South Region Pittsburgh, PA

Her bracket is doing better than yours
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

This is one of the more difficult games for me to pick and I wouldn’t be shocked if either team made an Elite 8 run. Don’t get me wrong, Villanova is better than both of these teams, but their style of play is vulnerable to upsets and when they haven’t won the tournament, they’ve had issues getting to the 2nd weekend before.

Ohio State has EJ Liddell. He’s surrounded by some guys who can sometimes shoot three pointers but who are inconsistent. Perhaps more importantly, Kyle Young and Zed Key are game time decisions. Speaking of which, now that I know that, time to change my pick to Loyola.

Loyola comes into the tournament hoping to claim a Big Ten scalp for the second consecutive year. While Loyola isn’t as good as they were last season, they still have Sister Jean cheering them on. More importantly they have 6 seniors and 3 juniors that get playing time. Lucas Williamson is going to lead the guards for the Ramblers but Braden Norris is going to log a lot of minutes as well and he’s an efficient scorer as well. The real question is can the Ramblers keep the rebounding battle somewhat close? If they can, I like their odds.


Ohio State or Loyola?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    (6 votes)
  • 76%
    Sister Jean
    (20 votes)
26 votes total Vote Now

12:40 PM [2] Auburn Tigers vs. [15] Jacksonville State Gamecocks

truTV Midwest Region Greenville, SC

Auburn v Arkansas
Bruce Pearl coming to give Illini fans a hug
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

If I had to pick one 2 seed to get upset in the opening round it would be Auburn. Because 1) Auburn is coached by corrupt jackass an overrated guy named Bruce Pearl, 2) Auburn didn’t play in last year’s tournament - they were ineligible because the had an assistant take the fall for Pearl, 3) Auburn escaped their close games against poor teams this year at an unsustainable rate, and 4) Auburn is a poor shooting team and could shoot themselves out of a game.

Unfortunately for Illini fans of a certain age and good upstanding “writers”, Jacksonville State isn’t the team to beat Auburn. They couldn’t even win their conference tournament, but had to back into an automatic spot when Bellarmine won the Atlantic Sun tournament. The Gamecocks are also careless with the basketball and most importantly rank 356th (out of 358) in free throw defense. We all know that if your team can’t stop opponents from hitting their free throws at a good clip, you are doomed.

The Gamecocks have been a decent shooting team this year and kept it close against Bama, but their best win all year was against Liberty.


Auburn of Jacksonville State?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Bruce Pearl is a cheater
    (25 votes)
  • 7%
    (2 votes)
27 votes total Vote Now

1:45 PM [3] Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. [14] Montana State Bobcats

TNT West Region San Diego, CA

NCAA Basketball: Big Sky Conference Championship
That moment when you break a 26 year drought.
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech is once again the number 1 defense in the land. Glad Red Raider fans threw a shit fit over Chris Beard leaving. He sure blew up their program on the way out the door.

The Red Raiders are another in a long list of poor shooting teams that may the tournament. But they at least know it and take most of their shots inside the 3 point arc. They do allow their opponents to shoot a ridiculous amount of three pointers though so if Montana State gets hot from behind the arc, the Raiders aren’t going to run them off the 3 point line.

Texas Tech represents a major jump up in competition for Montana State who played just two top 100 teams all season (Colorado and South Dakota State—both losses). The Bobcats from Bozeman have relied heavily on getting to the free throw line and preventing their opponents from doing so. That’s not a strategy that translates to beating higher levels of competition especially in a competition where the refs forget they can call fouls.

Nevertheless, they will try to get their first ever NCAA tournament win in their first game in 26 years.


Texas Tech or Montanta State?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    (21 votes)
  • 4%
    (1 vote)
22 votes total Vote Now

2 PM [3] Purdue Boilermakers vs. [14] Yale Bulldogs

TBS East Region Milwaukee, WI

Syndication: Journal-Courier
The most important component of Purdue’s potential tourney run
Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Special thanks to my twin for making sure I’m traveling during the first half of this game. Really appreciate that.

This season has been a pretty big disappointment for Purdue fans. I could go into reasons why, but this is the time of year to remain optimistic. So go read one of the Purdue propaganda blogs that lack impartiality if you are into that sort of thing.

The good news though is that I think Purdue can get past Yale. Although the Bulldog players are probably super smart and Azar Swain is going to take a lot of shots, Yale really struggled against most of the tournament teams they played this year (they kept it close against Vermont).

Head coach James Jones has pulled off an upset in the tournament before though. Back in 2016, Yale was the 12 seed and beat 5 seed Baylor when Makai Mason went off for 31 points. Mason later transferred to Baylor following the old adage of if you can beat them, join them also. For this year’s Yale team to repeat the upset trick, they are going to need to get Edey and Williams in high ball screen situations and get going downhill to score buckets near the rim. Oh, and not get called for a ton of fouls trying to guard Edey.


Purdue or Yale?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    I LIKE ... TRAINS!
    (29 votes)
  • 12%
    Why are you the way that you are? What... what gives you the right?
    (4 votes)
33 votes total Vote Now

2:45 PM [2] Villanova Wildcats vs. [15] Delaware Blue Hens

CBS South Region Pittsburgh, PA

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 09 CAA Championship - Delarware vs Hofstra, mascot
Put your feet up, lean back, and enjoy the games
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nova gets to play in their home state, but on the wrong side of it. The legions of Delaware fans similarly have to drive across the barren wasteland that is Pennsylvania.

The Blue Hens won the Colonial tournament as the 5 seed. Northwestern fans cry at the thought of long time fellow never-made-the-tournament club member William & Mary’s long drought continuing yet another year. But the Blue Hens made it and they did it behind the late season contributions of freshman Jyare Davis who scored in double digits of in their last 13 games after only doing it once the whole season prior to that stretch. They also have the talents of Jameer Nelson Jr. which makes me feel old.

Villanova on the other hand won the last two even year tournaments. Although they are a solid three point shooting team, they shoot a shit ton of them and play a slow tempo game. Limiting possessions and taking threes increases the range of possible outcomes. Sure, Villanova could run Delaware out of the gym. But all it would take is a handful more misses than usual and Delaware could be in the game late.


Villanova or Delaware?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Even year magic continues
    (21 votes)
  • 19%
    (5 votes)
26 votes total Vote Now

3:10 PM [7] USC Trojans vs. [10] Miami (FL) Hurricanes

truTV Midwest Region Greenville, SC

Washington v USC
Just hold on a second Mark Turgeon’s Agent. I don’t actually want the Maryland job.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Andy Enfield of USC was able to use the Maryland job to get himself a raise. I don’t watch a ton of Pac 12 basketball so I can’t really tell you whether USC is any good, or just the tallest of the midgets in the conference.

Meanwhile Jim Larranaga was able to turn an early January win over Duke into a tournament berth. The Hurricanes can’t rebound and are an atrocious defensive team. Their offense is solid, but that’s mainly because they don’t turn the ball over. Otherwise, they don’t do anything all that well.

USC is a great rebounding team so expect them to try and gain a large advantage there. They don’t cause turnovers anyway so Miami taking care of the ball more than most teams won’t bother them at all. The Trojans will play tough defense, prevent easy buckets, and pound the ball inside on offense. They will also hope to stay off the free throw line as they are downright awful at making the freebies.


Southern Cal or Miami?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    West coast
    (14 votes)
  • 39%
    East coast
    (9 votes)
23 votes total Vote Now

4:15 PM [6] Alabama Crimson Tide vs. [11] Notre Dame Fighting Irish

TNT West Region San Diego, CA

Notre Dame v Rutgers
I know how you feel Baker. Tip of the cap to you and old man Harper for the end of your college careers. You two terrorized us for years.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Big sigh. I had to change my bracket following the Rutgers loss. Because I have no faith in Notre Dame beating Alabama. Whereas Rutgers could (and did) beat anyone this season. This is the last of my previews for Round 1 and nobody is going to read this anyway. We all know you are skipping straight to the comment section. Okay, maybe a handful of the more educated readers will look at the pictures too.


Alabama or Notre Dame?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    annoying red football school
    (22 votes)
  • 18%
    annoying blue football school
    (5 votes)
27 votes total Vote Now

4:30 PM [6] Texas Longhorns vs. [11] Virginia Tech Hokies

TBS East Region Milwaukee, WI

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 12 ACC Tournament - Duke v Virginia Tech
You thought I would post a picture of the big, bad man? You were wrong.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No comment.

Okay, fine. Hopefully this game breaks the record for overtimes by 35. Virginia Tech is hot. Texas lacks height. Winner of this one goes to the Sweet 16. /cries. /tears ACL


Texas or Virginia Tech?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Texas will beat Yale
    (4 votes)
  • 40%
    Virginia Tech will beat Yale
    (11 votes)
  • 44%
    /breaks down crying
    (12 votes)
27 votes total Vote Now

It’s Friday night. All the teams you really want to lose their opening round games are playing.

6:50 PM [4] Illinois Fighting Illini vs. [13] Chattanooga Mocs

TNT South Region Pittsburgh, PA

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 07 Southern Conference Basketball Men’s Championship - Furman v UT Chattanooga
Since this is a gamethread, no gifs of the buzzer beater for you.
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Mocs started the Madness with authority by knocking off Furman in an overtime thriller to win the Southern Conference. Despite Furman shooting 5/5 in OT, Chattanooga was able to pick up the overtime win on a buzzer beater. If you weren’t watching that game, you missed a classic and I don’t want to be your friend. You know, if robots could have friends.

Former Jayhawk Silvio De Sousa has reappeared at Chattanooga and fellow senior David Jean-Baptiste as well as sophomore Malachi Smith give the Mocs some weapons to potentially make this a game.

Illinois is probably the most dangerous of the B1G teams at the moment, but gifted the Hoosiers a tournament berth and unlike the stripey skunks, got a very difficult draw in their bracket.


Illinois or Chattanooga?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Team Orange
    (28 votes)
  • 20%
    Another buzzer beater for the Mocs!
    (7 votes)
35 votes total Vote Now

7:10 PM [2] Duke Blue Devils vs. [15] Cal St. Fullerton Titans

CBS West Region Greenville, SC

North Carolina v Duke
Hubert Davis gives Coach K a thumbs up and refuses to shake his hand or some such manufactured controversy.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

I’m still mad that Duke got a 2 seed. Straight up garbage committee. Duke takes care of the basketball, apparently never fouls (yeah right!), and tries to score a lot of their points in the paint. This isn’t a Duke team that is going to kill you from the perimeter.

Like most of our other 15 seeds this year, the Titans don’t have a lot to recommend them. They don’t shoot threes, let alone make many of them. They have zero wins over top 100 teams. Overall the Titans are a very average team. If you really want to squint for a reason to think the Titans have a shot - their four highest usage players are all seniors. Oh, and they are pretty good at getting to the FT line and making FTs. Like that’s going to help against Duke. /rolls eyes


Duke or Cal State Fullerton?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Coach K retirement tour continues
    (21 votes)
  • 34%
    Coach K is retired on March 19
    (11 votes)
32 votes total Vote Now

7:20 PM [6] LSU Tigers vs. [11] Iowa State Cyclones

TBS Midwest Region Milwaukee, WI

Missouri v LSU
I paid that guy! And that guy and that one and that one...
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

A coachless team vs. a team with a losing conference record. Both teams are built on strong defenses. Both teams turn the ball over a ton. Both teams have shitty offenses. LSU has more talent. Iowa State is the most superior university in Iowa.

I’m predicting a sloppy, sloppy game between two teams that have limped into the postseason. If you like that sort of thing, this is can’t miss basketball. If you don’t, let me suggest you watch the Pittsburgh games instead.

Oh, and Bruce Weber can finally cut his hair since Will Wade has been fired now. My favorite part of the Will Wade story (and there are a lot of juicy parts to that story) is that he paid the ex-fiancée of one of his players hush money to keep quiet about his crimes.


LSU or Iowa State?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    No coach in Louisiana
    (10 votes)
  • 67%
    No talent team in Iowa
    (21 votes)
31 votes total Vote Now

7:27 PM [1] Arizona Wildcats vs. [16] Wright State Raiders

TruTV South Region San Diego, CA

Bryant v Wright State
Congrats on making the tournament Wright State. Thumpasaurus actually bet that you wouldn’t cover the spread in your backyard.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

I like Wright State. I really do. I’ve seen them play two games this season (Purdue and Bryant) and liked their hustle. But uhhh... they don’t have what it takes to compete with Arizona. And if I’m wrong about that, you will find my bracket near the bottom of OTE’s competition.


Arizona or Wright State?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    Zona rolls
    (29 votes)
  • 3%
    BU89 loses one of his F4 teams
    (1 vote)
30 votes total Vote Now

As we head into the last four games of Round 1, remember to tip your waitresses and secure a designated driver. We want you to all be able to enjoy Saturday’s games!

9:20 PM [5] Houston Cougars vs. [12] UAB Blazers

TNT South Region Pittsburgh, PA

AAC Basketball Tournament - Championship - Memphis v Houston
The greatest coach of Indiana ever
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Houston has been dealing with some injuries for most of the year and lost to wisconsin. So how good can they really be? They have all of 1 win against a tournament team this year: Memphis. And they went 1-2 against Memphis this year. But they got a 5 seed anyway. Because - and this bears repeating - the committee this year released a sick joke of a bracket.

UAB is the latest in a long line of talented, overlooked CUSA teams to make the tournament. They are filled with upperclassmen. They are the 7th best 3-point shooting team in the country. In particular watch for the short guy: 5’11” Jordan Walker can fill it up. UAB even has a seven footer that plays 24 minutes/game.

And in case you were worried that the moment will be too big for UAB: their coach is Andy Kennedy who formerly coached Mississippi for a decade (and Cincinnati for a season). While Kennedy wasn’t winning SEC titles at Ole Miss, he was mostly .500ish and made the tournament a couple of times including once as a 12 seed when he beat wisconsin.


Houston or UAB?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    (16 votes)
  • 55%
    (20 votes)
36 votes total Vote Now

9:40 PM [7] Michigan State Spartans vs. [10] Davidson Wildcats

CBS West Region Greenville, SC

Richmond v Davidson
Foster Loyer rises up and shoots for THREE!
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Sparty no! Look, I’m going to be drunk by this point. I will either be rooting for Foster Loyer and Davidson because a) who doesn’t want to see castoffs from big schools return to beat their former teams in the tournament or b) Purdue lost earlier and I don’t think any of you should get to experience joy either.

Davidson is a discount version of Purdue. They shoot it well from 3 and aren’t heavy hitters on defense. They don’t have a 7’4” guy, but they do have a pretty solid center in 6’10” Luka Brajkovic. Luka can even make threes (40% on 85 shots) in addition to his high shooting percentages on shots closer to the basket (63.6%).


MSU or Davidson?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    January February Izzo
    (19 votes)
  • 52%
    Sparty No! Foster Loyer for the win!
    (21 votes)
40 votes total Vote Now

9:50 PM [3] wisconsin badgers vs. [14] Colgate Raiders

TBS Midwest Region Milwaukee, WI

Wales Daily Life
I’m more of a Crest man myself, but if Colgate wins I may have to switch brands
Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Brush your teeth.

Colgate is on a 15 game winning streak. They have the 2nd best three point shooting percentage in the country at 40.1%. They famously beat Syracuse earlier this year snapping a long, long losing streak in that series.

wisconsin meanwhile is the 6th luckiest team on Kenpom. They’ve lost their last two games. One man wrecking crew Johnny Davis may or may not be 100% healthy.

But what does that all mean? Let me help it make sense for you. wisconsin will win and go to the Final 4 because life isn’t fair.


Wisconsin or Colgate?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    I like Brad Davison because I’m a horrible person
    (33 votes)
  • 36%
    Team Toothpaste
    (19 votes)
52 votes total Vote Now

9:57 PM [8] Seton Hall Pirates vs. [9] TCU Horned Frogs

TruTV South Region San Diego, CA

Storm low Ylenia - Island Rügen
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!
Photo by Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty Images

Future Maryland head coach Kevin Willard leads the Pirates against Jamie Dixon and the Horned Frogs in just Dixon’s 2nd tournament appearance at TCU (he still doesn’t have a single season above .500 in B12 play).

Both the Pirates and the Purple People Eaters are strong defensive teams that struggle on offense. Neither has much hope to make the Sweet 16. Flip a coin for the winner.


Seton Hall or TCU?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    (18 votes)
  • 50%
    (18 votes)
36 votes total Vote Now

Enjoy, behave, and make sure to email your complaints to my editor MNWildcat! He loves getting emails from readers who are interested in improving OTE articles.

It’s likely someone else will be taking care of your weekend previews as I’ll be traveling, then watching basketball and drinking. Remember to Boiler Up and root against Kentucky, Texas, Baylor, and UCLA.

Jeremy Thiel