If you still have a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket after Thursday’s 16 first-round games, kudos as you already are ahead of the curve. In some respects, the first Friday of the NCAA Tournament sees better basketball overall than Thursday because coaches have an extra day to prepare for their opponent.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
No team has repeated as national champion since Florida in 2007, and North Carolina begins its defense Friday as the No. 2 seed in the West Region against No. 15 Lipscomb, a school with an enrollment of about 4,500 located in Nashville. The Bisons were the winners of the Atlantic Sun Tournament to reach their first-ever Big Dance.
Only eight No. 15 seeds have ever upset a No. 2, and Lipscomb doing so as a 19.5-point underdog would surely be the biggest upset in tournament history.
ACC regular-season and tournament champion Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and a 21-point favorite over neighboring Maryland-Baltimore County in South Region action. The Cavaliers got some bad news earlier this week as ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter was ruled out of the tournament with a broken wrist. The freshman averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds this season.
UMBC, meanwhile, had lost 23 straight to Vermont before upsetting the regular-season champion Catamounts in the America East Conference tournament title game.
No. 8 Missouri is a 1.5-point underdog in West Region play in Nashville to No. 9 Florida State, and the Tigers will be without a key player; forward Jordan Barnett was given a one-game suspension for an arrest last week. The senior forward was second on the team in scoring (13.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 ppg).
That could also be the final collegiate game for Mizzou’s Michael Porter Jr., considered by many the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2017. He played just two regular-season minutes before undergoing back surgery. He returned for Missouri’s SEC Tournament opening loss to Georgia. Porter will be a Top 10 pick, maybe Top 5, in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The fastest-paced game Friday figures to be No. 13 Marshall vs. No. 4 Wichita State in the East Region, with the Shockers as 12-point favorites. Led by Conference USA leading scorer Jon Elmore (22.8 ppg), Marshall plays ultra-up tempo under Coach Dan D’Antoni, brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Herd averaged 84.3 points per game, while Wichita State will be happy to match the pace and scores 83.0 points per game. Not coincidentally, this has the highest first-round total (166). WSU head coach Gregg Marshall is a former assistant at Marshall.