A viewer’s guide to Friday’s NCAA tournament first-round games

Good morning from the NCAA tournament’s second full day, with another 16-game slate on tap.

Duke looks to avenge its first-round disaster last season in another No. 2-No. 15 game, this time taking on America East champion Albany at 12:15. A host of competitive matchups follow, capped off at 9:57 p.m. in Austin with No. 6 UCLA facing No. 11 Minnesota. Here’s your one-stop shop for breaking down the day’s best matchups, potential upsets and players who could take center stage.

Here are some of today’s highlights:

MUST-SEE GAMES

East: No. 8 North Carolina State vs. No. 9 Temple in Dayton, Ohio, 1:40 p.m. (TBS)

The Wolfpack made a deep NCAA tournament run last season as the No. 11 seed, reeling off wins over San Diego State and Georgetown before falling to Kansas in the Sweet 16. But Coach Mark Gottfried’s group has mostly underwhelmed this season despite the being odds-on preseason favorite to win the ACC. Temple, meanwhile, has baffled plenty all season, with solid wins over Syracuse, VCU and Saint Louis but losses to Duquesne, Canisuis and Saint Bonaventure. The Owls had put things together down the stretch, winning seven straight before falling to Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

West: No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss in Kansas City, 12:40 p.m. (TruTV)

It’s the Marshall Henderson show taking on a trendy mid-level seed in Wisconsin. The Rebels are surging of late behind the boisterous and equally hot-shooting Henderson, who dropped 27, 23 and 21 points during a three-game burst through the SEC tournament. The Badgers, meanwhile, reached the Big Ten title game and dealt Indiana its worst loss of the season along the way. This could shape up into an early-afternoon treat.


(Associated Press)

South: No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova in Kansas City, 7:20 p.m. (TNT)

Ever since switching to a four-guard lineup after consecutive losses to Duke and Miami, the Tar Heels have been rejuvenated, reaching the ACC title game behind the hot shooting of swingmen Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston. Since Jan. 26, Coach Roy Williams’s squad has lost just four times – twice to the Blue Devils and twice to the Hurricanes. This game’s location has some added intrigue. If North Carolina wins, Williams will likely face top-seeded Kansas, his former team.

South: No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota in Austin, 9:57 (TruTV)

Minnesota opened the season 15-1 with wins over Michigan State, Memphis and Illinois, but endured two two-game losing streaks, one three-game losing streak and one four-game losing streak since. Still, the Gophers are a talented bunch, capable of matchup well against UCLA and freshman phenomenon Shabazz Muhammad. This game has somewhat of a ghastly feeling around it, however. Both Tubby Smith (Minnesota) and Ben Howland (UCLA) have been on the hot seat recently. An early exit could doom either one.

UPSET ALERT

West: No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 13 La Salle in Kansas City, 3:10 p.m. (TruTV)

A day with three 2-15 games and two 1-16 games isn’t likely to contain many stunning upsets. But if you want a potential sleeper, look no further than La Salle, which dispatched Boise State in Wednesday’s play-in game. Three Explorers guards form one of the nation’s best back courts, led by senior Ramon Galloway (17.1 points per game) and Tyrone Garland (13.1 points per game), a Virginia Tech transfer.

South: No. 3 Florida vs. No. 14 Northwestern State, 7:27 p.m. (TruTV)

If, somehow, Northwestern State can keep things close, the Gators might be in trouble. Florida enters with a dreadful track record in close games (0-6 when decided by single digits). Plus, its adjusted defense, which ranks second nationally according to Kenpom.com, will face a high-scoring Northwestern State team fresh off a Southland Conference title game win over Stephen F. Austin, which ranks 10th in that category.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Guard Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss, Jr.


jst had to say …. 10 IN A ROW IN PONG!! WHO WANTS TO SEE US?!?!

— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) March 18, 2013

 


Forward Doug McDermott, Creighton, Jr.

The nation’s second-leading scorer behind Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, McDermott (23.1 ppg) will be Creighton’s workhorse throughout the tournament, especially if the No. 7 Bluejays hope to sprint past No. 10 Cincinnati and onto the second round, where the winner of Duke-Albany awaits. The coach’s son, McDermott is averaging 27 points over his past five games, including a 41-point performance against Wichita State on March 2.

MUCH, MUCH MORE FROM THE NCAA TOURNAMENT

Obama doesn’t like Notre Dame’s uniforms…so he’s getting one

Butler survives late surge, improves to 12-4 under Stevens in the tournament

Wichita State wins an ugly one over Pittsburgh

Bog: Why this isn’t the best sporting day of the year

JMU’s Brady thriving despite uncertain future | Brady’s rap

Interactive bracket and NCAA tournament history database

The Bracket Challenge contest (Round-by-round)

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Matt Bonesteel · March 22, 2013

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