Friday NCAA Previews



By Jim Hurley:


It's the catchy phrase " invented" by late N.C. State head coach Jim Valvano some 30-or-so years ago but it really continues to have major meaning in this day-and-age.

Consider how on Day One of this year's NCAA Tournament the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the BYU Cougars both survived major deficits and yet prevailed late and thus lived to see another day in this here-and-now tourney.

Last night it was Vermont ( a Network winner as our Triple Line Blaster went 2-1) and South Florida who did the survive-and-advance bit - clearly with a bit more ease as both were double-digit winners with the USF Bulls ultra-impressive in their never-was-close 65-54 " First Four" win in Dayton and so on they go to the next round of play - so be sure you'll be hearing a lot of the survive-and-advance mantra all week/weekend long.

We'll get to three of Friday's NCAA Tournament Game Previews in just a moment but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers roars into the College Basketball post-season as we'll have NCAA Tournament, NIT and CBI and CIT winners too all through the month of March plus there's plenty of NBA Winners when you sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winning selections. Note that the special check-in times are anytime after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday afternoon games and then after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday night action. Also, the winning selections are available after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Go ahead and sign up now for the NCAA Tournament and all the other post-season College Basketball Tournies!   

National Arena - Columbus, OH

#11 N.C. STATE (22-12) vs. #6 SAN DIEGO STATE (26-7) - 12:40 p.m. ET
Here's one of those double-digit seeded teams that actually finds itself in the betting favorite's role - and now we'll see if the Wolfpack (winners of four of its last five games) can keep the engine humming under first-year head coach Mark Gottfried. The Pack sports five different players that average double-digit scoring but guard C.J. Williams - a 52.3 percent field-goal shooter - must not suffer through any offensive droughts here against a San Diego State squad that holds opponents to sub-.400 percent shooting from the floor.

Naturally, all eyes will be firmly planted on Aztecs star G Jamaal Franklin (17.2 ppg) who was just named the nation's " Most Improved Player" but expect N.C. State to show Franklin a batch of different defensive looks and so let's see what SDSU guards Xavier Thames and Chase Tapley contribute here in this matinee tilt 'cause we say if the Aztecs' three-guard attack doesn't score 50 points among 'em here than the Mountain West Conference Tournament " runner-up" is going down.

One last item regarding this near dead-even matchup: This is San Diego State's third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament under veteran head coach Steve Fisher - yes, it's now 23 years since he won it all with Michigan - but will that count for something here against an N.C. State squad that has not appeared in the tourney with this group of players?

NCAA TOURNAMENT - Midwest Regional
Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN

#13 OHIO (27-7) vs. #4 MICHIGAN (24-9) - 7:20 p.m. ET
Hard to believe that this marks the first time since the 1995 and '96 seasons that the Michigan Wolverines are playing in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and one year after the maize-and-blue were ousted in third-round action by Duke it returns looking to make a prolonged engagement: The only thing is gritty Ohio - winners of four games in a row including a 64-63 Mid-American Conference Championship Game tilt win against Akron last Saturday night in Cleveland - would love to " monkey wrench" the plans by these Big 10 guys.

Hey, Ohio kayoed Georgetown from this tourney two years ago and head coach John Groce has plenty of defensive stoppers that are looking forward to getting in the grill of Michigan stats Trey Burke (14.8 ppg) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.6 ppg) but expect pace and tempo to be the key words here.

The 6-point underdog Bobcats want to make this a smash-mouth game played in the 50s while the Wolverines want to put pedal to the floor - at times - and let Burke, Hardaway, Jr. and G Zack Novak go baseline-to-baseline in a New York City minute. Let's see who gets the game at what speed here and remember that Ohio guard D.J. Cooper (14.3 ppg and 5.6 assists-per-game) can be a real handful and we'll see if Michigan's frosh Burke can stay with him all the way.

Century Link Center - Omaha, NE

#10 VIRGINIA (22-9) vs. #7 FLORIDA (23-10) - 2:10 p.m. ET
Wanna know one of the really/truly underrated stats about the NCAA Tournament? Florida head coach Billy Donovan - who has been part of the " Big Dance" on 11 other occasions - is a whopping 25-9 SU (straight-up) in NCAA Tourney games for a .735 winning percentage with those back-to-back national championships in 2006 and '07 and so let's give a major shout-out here before digging in deeper to this second-round affair.

Donovan's guys - to be entirely frank - didn't exactly wow anyone down the stretch of this 2011-12 campaign as the not-so-mighty Gators enter this clash having lost four of their last five games and note that Florida was held to 67 points or less in three of these setbacks and so the Gainesville gang must get the 3-point shot up and in here or this could be mild upset time for a Virginia Cavaliers club that's painfully short of bench players (the Wahoos might go with just seven bodies here, that's it) and there's a lot of pressure on Virginia F Mike Scott (17.9 ppg) to nail his open jumpers because the rest of this Virginia stating five averages just 30-to-31 points a game.

Florida's gonna chuck it from three-land even though Virginia holds opponents to 29 percent shooting from treyland - let's see if Donovan cracks down on the 3-ball attempts by his star G Kenny Boynton who has connected on 105-of-246 treys (that's 42.7 percent) or does he give 'em the green light all game long?

In other NCAA Tournament News & Notes ...

Note other than the aforementioned Florida vs. Virginia game on this first Friday of the NCAA Tourney, the only other game pitting power conference clubs against one another is the Texas vs. Cincinnati clash in Nashville. The two-point underdog Longhorns - who've qualified for the NCAAs in each of head coach Rick Barnes' 14 years in Austin - might be able to steal this game from the free-throw line. Note that Texas connects on 73.3 percent of its foul shots while sometimes it's just painful to watch some of the Cincy Bearcats at the line ...

Now that Vermont has moved into this #16-vs-#1 game against North Carolina the nation will see if the heavy-duty underdog Catamounts play as unselfishly as they did in Wednesday's 71-59 triumph over 1 ½-point fav Lamar. Not only did frosh G Four McGlynn (18 points with 3 rebs and 3 assists) strut his stuff but Vermont wound up getting a lot of great uncontested looks en route to a 25-of-50 FG night. Note that Lamar blocked only two shots in that " First Four" game while Carolina might block a dozen providing near seven-footer John Henson is back from his non-shooting wrist injury. Do stay tuned ...

Finally, the last two teams to get on the court for their second-round games here figures to be Detroit and Kansas in Omaha with expected tip time at 9:55 p.m. ET. The Midwest's #2 seed Jayhawks don't want to be looking beyond this weekend (the winner here gets the Purdue-Saint Mary's win and that figures to be a decent challenge) but the fact remains that Kansas will have a distinct home-region advantage if/when it gets to St. Louis for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds and won't #1 Midwest seed North Carolina be cranky if/when that dream matchup happens.

Somebody call a foul!

NOTE: There's much more NCAA Tournament coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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