What a day huh? Four overtimes, a slew of upsets, and as I am writing this, there are still four more games to go. Because of all the overtimes, staggered start-times couldn’t keep games from ending at the same time, and it was beautiful chaos. Let’s hope for some more of that on Friday.
Late Morning: (11) Nebraska vs. (6) Baylor, 11:40 am CDT, TruTV
The Big Ten lost an 11-6 game on Thursday, and could regain a bit of conference pride if #Nebrasketball can play well away from home. If the Cornhuskers were playing in the Lincoln Regional, they would be an easy pick to go to the Final Four. Playing Baylor in the state of Texas is a completely different animal. Nebraska is good at everything the Bears are bad at, and vice versa. Baylor has underachieved for most of the season. Nebraska has overachieved most of the season. It should be close, and if it is, it will be fun.
Early Afternoon: (11) Tennessee vs. (6) UMASS, 1:45 pm CDT, CBS
According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, Tennessee is the 9th best team in the country. According to the NCAA, they are the 11th best team in their region. The Volunteers tend to blow out teams when they win, and just barely lose when they don’t. They nearly did both against Iowa in the play-in game, nearly losing in regulation, before dominating in overtime. So how good are they? Probably closer to the 9th best team in the country than they are to their seed. UMASS would appear to be the favorite because of their seeding, but they’ll have a tough time competing with the Volunteer size. Then again, UMASS has been playing and beating teams bigger and better than them all season, so they might just do it again.
The Oprah Break: (9) Oklahoma State vs. (8) Gonzaga, 3:40 pm CDT. TNT
A few years ago this game would be invisible to everyone not in the Pacific time zone. Thank goodness every game is on TV now, because this one should be good. Neither the Cowboys or the Bulldogs lived up to lofty preseason expectations, but lately both teams are playing like they have sometime to prove. The much-maligned Marcus Smart finally has his head on straight, and can be the best player in the country when he wants to be. If he hadn’t been suspended for pushing a fan (who deserved it) Oklahoma State would have been a 5 seed. Gonzaga has been gritty on defense all season, especially shutting down opponents in the paint. They are good on offense too, as long as they make their first shot attempt. Rebounding and getting to the free-throw line aren’t their strong suits.
Dinner time: (12) Stephen F. Austin vs. (5) VCU, 6:27 pm CDT, TruTV
Mid on mid violence is the worst of the March Madness crimes. Once again, two smaller schools that could put a big scare into a power conference program will beat up on each other instead. Both teams force a ton of turnovers, and don’t take particularly good care of the ball on offense. The Lumberjacks haven’t lost since November 23rd, and because they can run a half-court offense when they need to, their winning streak has a decent chance to continue.
Late Night: (9) Kentucky vs. (8) Kansas State, 8:40 pm CDT, CBS
To the selection committee, 8 and 9 seeds are equal. Therefore, 8-9 games should be the most competitive. It doesn’t always work that way, as we saw with Colorado getting run out of the building by Pittsburgh. There is a small chance that Kentucky gets run out of the building in this one. Kentucky has been wildly inconsistent, but is good when they seem to care. Kansas State struggled a bit down the stretch, proving Bruce Weber is still their coach. Despite all the super-recruits on Kentucky, Marcus Foster of Kansas State could be the best freshman on the floor. He is streaky, but worth watching in case he gets hot.