Friday's NCAA Previews (March 21, 2013)

March Madness Program goes 2-1 Tuesday, and 2-1 Wednesday winning with Stony Brook and Oral Roberts and losing with Boise State.

THE NCAA TOURNAMENT (REALLY) SWINGS INTO ACTION

HERE ARE FRIDAY'S GAME PREVIEWS

By Jim Hurley:

Think there's coaching star-power on this first Friday of the NCAA Tournament?

There happen to be six gentlemen who are coaching teams here today/tonight that have won a combined 11 national championships and so these folks have "been around the block" with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (4), Florida's Billy Donovan (2), North Carolina's Roy Williams (2), San Diego State's Steve Fisher (1 at Michigan), Kansas' Bill Self and Minnesota's Tubby Smith (1 at Kentucky) all getting into the action here:

EAST

At Frank Erwin Center - Austin, TX
#7 ILLINOIS (22-12) vs. #10 COLORADO (21-11) - approximately 4:40 p.m. ET
In all, there are seven head-to-head matchups between power conference teams in this "second round" of NCAA Tournament play but this one might be the best of 'em all when you consider the Fighting Illini have a dynamic shot-maker on board in G Brandon Paul (see Big 10 Tourney buzzer-beater bucket against Minnesota) while Colorado soph G Spencer Dinwiddie (15.6 ppg) is just starting to hit his stride and may be one of the country's best-kept secrets.

Toss into the mix here the fact that Illinois' first-year head coach John Groce already made a name for himself in this tourney when he guided the Ohio Bobcats to a Sweet 16 berth a couple of years ago while the Buffaloes' Tad Boyle already owns a Pac-12 Tourney title (see 2012) plus he brings Colorado to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths for the first time in some 50 years.

Big question for Colorado here is the health/well-being of standout Andre Roberson who is more than simply a defensive stopper - if Roberson's able to shake free and get 15-to-20 points in this tilt than the Buffs figure to be the ones movin' on.

#2 MIAMI (27-6) vs. #15 PACIFIC (22-12) - 2:10 p.m. ET
Now that the good folks from South Beach are "over" the disappointment of not getting a #1 seed despite ACC regular-season and mini-tourney championships, the U of M Hurricanes can get down to business and PG Shane Larkin will look to send Pacific boss Bob Thomason into retirement after a brilliant 25-year career. Can the Big West champs be saved by G Lorenzo McCloud who shoots it at 40 percent from trey-land and 80 percent from the FT line?

At UD Arena - Dayton, OH
#1 INDIANA (27-6) vs. #16 JAMES MADISON (21-14) - approximately 4:10 p.m. ET
The Indiana Hoosiers spent an awful lot of time sitting on top of the heap in the college hoops world this 2012-13 season and now the drive for the school's first national title since 1987 gets underway for real - look for Tom Crean's club to get out and go with guards Victor Oladipo, Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls pushing the pace against a JMU crew that zonked LIU-Brooklyn 68-55 in "First Four" action Wednesday night despite not having inside force Rayshawn Goins for the first half (suspension).

#8 N.C. STATE (24-10) vs. #9 TEMPLE (23-9) - 1:40 p.m. ET
Will the real N.C. State Wolfpack please stand up? College basketball's most enigmatic good team never did jell right this 2012-13 season but on the 30-year anniversary of Jimmy V's "Survive-and-Advance" crew that won a slew of nail-biters, we send out fair warning that Mark Gottfried's squad is capable of "big things" - and if three-point maven Scott Wood ever gets hot here than the Owls will be sunk.


SOUTH

At Sprint Center - Kansas City, MO
#8 NORTH CAROLINA (24-10) vs. #9 VILLANOVA (20-13) - 7:20 p.m. ET
Just when you thought this might be a "transition year" for the UNC Tar Heels, here comes Mr. Williams' latest cast of characters coming into this second-round tourney game with eight wins in its last 10 games and showing great "mojo" in last week's ACC Tournament.

Now, whether or not that means the Heels are set to cause some problems in this "Big Dance" - and we all have been reminded a million times that Kansas awaits the winner of this #8-#9 game - is another matter but here in this clash against an oft-sloppy 'Nova team (the 'Cats rank 310th nationally in turnovers) "Roy's Boys" would love to get out and go here and allow F James Michael McAdoo (14.6 ppg) and friends to get into track meet mode.

How does underdog Villanova win this game?

Well, Jay Wright's club must make a slew of trips to the foul line where this Big East bunch is "money" but it may serve Villanova's best interests to take some air out of the ball here and shorten this game - a score in the 60s could have the 'Cats in a mild upset mode here.

#1 KANSAS (29-5) vs. #16 WESTERN KENTUCKY (20-15) - approximately 9:50 p.m. ET
Last year's national championship runner-ups - the now scorching-hot Kansas Jayhawks (winners of 10 of their last 11 games) - are rated a three-TD betting fav for this clash against the WKU Hilltoppers and 'bout the only thing that can save the Sun Belt Tourney champs here is T.J. Price lighting it up from downtown. Is this tourney gonna be a national coming-out party for Kansas super-frosh Ben McLemore?

At Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
#2 GEORGETOWN (25-6) vs. #15 FLORIDA-GULF COAST (24-10) -- 6:50 p.m. ET
Here's one more thing you might not know about Hoyas hero Otto Porter who is our Jim Sez National Player of the Year award winner this season: The slender dude hits 48.9 percent of his shots while averaging 16.3 ppg and he usually has two or three defenders draped all over him. If Porter sees any open floor here, than he'll jam in down the FGC Eagles' collective throats!

#7 SAN DIEGO STATE (22-10) vs. #10 OKLAHOMA (20-11) - approximately 9:20 p.m. ET
Hope the San Diego State Aztecs enjoyed that little trip from SoCal to Philly - yikes! - and it'll be ultra-important for Steve Fisher's crew to have their legs from the get-go here because Oklahoma is fresh and ready to step up its defensive pressure with recently-named PG Sam Grooms spearheading the charge. If the Aztecs don't have their own answers to OU's inside/outside game of Romero Osby (15.8 ppg) and three-point star Steven Pledger than the underdogs from the power conference could strike up a winning blow against the favorites from a non-power league.

At Frank Erwin Center - Austin, TX
#3 FLORIDA (26-7) vs. #14 NORTHWESTERN STATE (23-8) - 7:25 p.m. ET
It's funny how few folks are talking up the Gators these days even though they had a legit shot at a #1 tourney seed as recently as three weeks ago: Maybe aforementioned two-time NCAA Tourney champ coach Billy Donovan has gotten word out that this well-balanced offense just needs to go back to having fun. Remember that Florida sports four double-digit scorers but it's do-it-all G Kenny Boynton (12.3 ppg and 67 made threes this year) that should be taking any/all crunch-time shots.

#6 UCLA (25-9) vs. #11 MINNESOTA (20-12) - approximately 9:55 p.m. ET
You might have heard ESPN's Bill Walton claiming the Uclans were "unhappy" with being shipped to Austin and out of the less-powerful West Region but what Ben Howland's crew really should be focused on here is boxing out a physical Minny squad that isn't afraid to get skin under their fingernails. True, UCLA will miss Pac-12 co-Freshman of the Year Jordan Adams (broken foot) here but lefty Shabazz Muhammad (17.9 ppg) can carry a team and - no matter what you hear - the Howland vs. Tubby Smith sideline showdown is a virtual wash. The lower-seeded Golden Gophers are the favorites, but should that necessarily be the case?

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers roars into the College Basketball post-season as we'll have NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and CIT winners too all through the month of March and right into April 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!

MIDWEST

At Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
#7 CREIGHTON (27-7) vs. #10 CINCINNATI (22-11) - approximately 2:45 p.m. ET
One thing we really/truly applaud the NCAA Tournament Committee on is there #7 vs. #10 and #8 vs. #9 matchups - all of 'em have the potential for buzzer-beating type affairs and that includes this tilt where much has been made of the contrast in styles: Cincy can't score and Creighton can't defend has been the mantra but did you know the Bluejays ranked third in defensive points per game in the Missouri Valley Conference this year (allowed just 63.1 ppg) and so the Bearcats may have an even tougher time ringing the bell than it originally believed, right?

If Mick Cronin's Big East bunch is gonna do the survive-and-advance bit here than G Sean Kilpatrick (17.3 ppg) must not disappear for minutes at a time and somebody's gonna have to make some free throws - Cincinnati shoots a woeful 65 percent from the charity stripe and so making front ends of one-and-ones could be what eventually settles this showdown.

Naturally, Creighton F Doug McDermott (23.1 ppg) - the coach's son - is the centerpiece of this Bluejays attack and be sure he will find a way to get up 20-or-so field-goal attempts here but the real X-factor for Greg McDermott's gang is can PG Grant Gibbs (5.9 apg) hold it together against this Cincy defensive heat?
 
#2 DUKE (27-5) vs. #15 ALBANY (24-10) - 12:15 p.m. ET
Now here's a real NCAA Tourney no-brainer: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski probably has reminded his Blue Devils a gazillion times how they were unprepared to play little Lehigh last year (a 75-70 Duke loss as 11 ½-point betting favorites) and so expect a major flurry at the game's start here with special emphasis placed on three-point gunners G Seth Curry and F Ryan Kelly - the Dookies can't lose as 18-point favorites now, can they?

 

WEST

At Sprint Center - Kansas City, MO
#5 WISCONSIN (23-11) vs. #12 OLE MISS (26-8) - 12:40 p.m. ET
Okay, so now you've seen it twice in this year's NCAA Tournament where a power conference mini-tourney winner - both Oregon and Ole Miss - wound up with dastardly low #12 seeds and so what is Andy Kennedy's crew gonna do about it? Loud-mouth G Marshall Henderson - who pretty much infuriated the entire SEC with his antics last weekend in Nashville - remains the hot-button key here while averaging close to 20 points per game but the Rebels must rebound and that's easier said than done against a husky Wisconsin crew that led the Big 10 in defense this year and ranked ninth nationally while yielding a mere 55.9 ppg - and back to that board chat as the Badgers sport four players averaging 5-or-more rebs per game.

#4 KANSAS STATE (27-7) vs. #13 LA SALLE (22-9) - approximately 3:10 p.m. ET
Now comes that oft-asked question: Is it better to have an NCAA Tournament win under your belt already or is a well-rested K-State crew in better shape here? We will say LaSalle's virtual wire-to-wire 80-71 win against Boise State the other night showed just how lightning-fast those Explorer guards are and both Ramon Galloway (21 points against Boise) and Tyrone Garland (22 points on 9-of-11 FG makes) will be a handful for this Big 12 bunch.

At UD Arena - Dayton, OH
#2 OHIO STATE (26-7) vs. #15 IONA (20-13) - 7:15 p.m. ET
Hey, even President Obama has picked the O-State Buckeyes to make it to this year's Final Four - can you ever remember a #2 seed getting way more support for a Final Four berth than the #1 seed in that region (see Gonzaga)? - but Thad Matta's crew better not sleep on run-run Iona as guards Lamont "Momo" Jones and Sean Armand average 40 points between 'em and neither thinks twice before chucking it up.

#7 NOTRE DAME (25-9) vs. #10 IOWA STATE (22-11) - approximately 9:45 p.m. ET
Absolute toss-up game here between a pair of power conference sides but the $64,000 question is will Irish sharpshooter Pat Connaughton gonna keep sticking "3's" after that spiffy showing in last week's Big East Tournament? No question that Connaughton helps to loosen things up for Notre Dame big man Jack Cooley who - to be frank - has been in a bit of a funk in recent weeks and he desperately needs to post a healthy double-double here against an Iowa State crew that can get meek in the middle. The Cyclones average 10 trifectas a game and G Will Clyburn is quite capable of banging home three or four treys in a New York City minute!

NOTE: Lots more NCAA Tournament Previews and Re-Caps in the next edition of Jim Sez - and don't forget all the College Basketball Tournament winners at 1-800-323-4453.

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