Previews of every first-round NCAA tournament game on Friday

The NCAA tournament continues rolling along on Friday with 16 games at four different sites across the country.

Get ready for all the action with our capsule previews for every game on the schedule as the field of 64 starts to narrow down on the road to Glendale, Ariz.

East Region

No. 2 Duke (27-8) vs. No. 15 Troy (22-14)

Time, TV: 7:20 p.m. ET, TBS. Site: Greenville, S.C.

Why Duke will win: Have you seen how well the Blue Devils are playing lately? Jayson Tatum looks like the best freshman in the country, Grayson Allen is hot from three again and Luke Kennard remains the team’s most consistent scorer. Throw in contributions from Amile Jefferson, Frank Jackson and signs of growth from freshman Harry Giles, and it finally makes sense why the Blue Devils were considered title contenders in the preseason.

Why Troy will win: Other teams in similar situations have done it. Lehigh, a No. 15 seed in 2012, upset No. 2 Duke in one of college basketball’s greatest upsets. Two years later, the third-seeded Blue Devils were upset by No. 14 Mercer, yet another stunner. Even if Duke looks good in February or early March, there always remains the possibility of craziness — and, if Troy’s able to stay in this game, you can guarantee all the Carolina fans in attendance will be pulling loud for the underdog.

REGION ANALYSIS: East | South | Midwest | West

HIGHLIGHTS: The best of Thursday's tournament action

BRACKET: Follow the field to Glendale

No. 3 Baylor (25-7) vs. No. 14 New Mexico State (28-5)

Time, TV: 12:40 p.m., truTV. Site: Tulsa, Okla.

Why Baylor will win: The Bears are long and very athletic, led by fourth-year junior Johnathan Motley, a versatile power forward who’s a load inside but hard to stop outside. An upset last year in the first round by Yale hasn’t been forgotten, making it less likely they’ll overlook the Aggies.

Why New Mexico State will win: New Mexico State has become a regular in the NCAA tournament — the Aggies are making their fifth appearance in six years – but are still looking for their first win since 1993. Ian Baker, who scored 21 on Baylor when the teams played a year ago, leads the Aggies, who can score from 3-point range but will need to find a way to hold their own on the boards.

No. 6 Southern Methodist (30-4) vs. No. 11 Southern California (25-9)

Time, TV: 3:10 p.m., truTV. Site: Tulsa, Okla.

Why SMU will win: The Mustangs, who have won 23 of their last 24 games, do it with defense, allowing less than 60 points per game. They don’t turn the ball over much or foul, either – both potential keys to winning in the NCAA.

Why Southern California will win: Fresh off a comeback win over Providence in the First Four, the Trojans will rely on their perimeter offense, which often allows them to overcome suspect defense. USC should be confident after rallying from a 17-point deficit in Dayton.

No. 7 South Carolina (22-10) vs. No. 10 Marquette (19-12)

Time, TV: Approx. 9:50 p.m. ET, TBS. Site: Greenville, S.C.

Why South Carolina will win: Defense. The Gamecocks boast the nation’s third-most efficient defense, according to KenPom.com, a unit that’s particularly good at defending the three — Marquette’s favorite. If South Carolina can snap out of its rut — it lost six of nine games entering the NCAA tournament — and defend the deep ball like it knows it can, that’s where the game will be won.

Why Marquette will win: The Golden Eagles live and die by the three, which obviously can be very, very good or very, very bad in a single-elimination tournament. And when they’re shooting well, they’re the most efficient three-point shooting team in the country. Marquette averages 10.5 threes per game, most in the nation, and while a lot of guys can shoot well, Markus Howard is the best (54.9% from three-point range, best in the country). This is simple: Shoot well, and win. Besides, the basketball gods clearly want to set up a meeting between Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and former assistant Steve Wojciechowski.

Midwest Region

No. 1 Kansas (28-4) vs. No. 16 UC Davis (20-12)

Time, TV: 6:50 p.m., TNT. Site: Tulsa, Okla.

Why Kansas will win: Though not deep, the Jayhawks are undeniably talented and tough. Led by senior guard Frank Mason III, USA TODAY Sports’ national player of the year, and freshman guard-forward Josh Jackson, Kansas has plenty of firepower. Coming off an upset loss to TCU in the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks should be inoculated from another upset.

Why UC Davis will win: UC Davis isn’t big, but the Aggies have regularly outrebounded opponents. They’re not a great offensive team, but they counter it with tough defense. And hey, someone’s got to be the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed, right? Right?

No. 2 Louisville (24-8) vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State (20-14)

Time, TV: 2:45 p.m., CBS. Site: Indianapolis.

Why Louisville will win: The Cardinals played the sixth-toughest schedule and feature the sixth-best defense in the country. Donovan Mitchell (15.7 ppg) and Quentin Snider (12.7 ppg) provide threats. Jacksonville State played two games versus teams from power five conferences (TCU and Maryland) and lost by an average of 22.5 points.

Why Jacksonville State will win: Beginner’s luck and momentum? The Gamecocks, making their first NCAA tournament appearance, allowed the fewest rebounds in the Ohio Valley. (32 per game). The Gamcocks sport four double-figure scorers, led by Malcolm Drumwright (12.8 ppg).

No. 3 Oregon (29-5) vs. No. 14 Iona (22-12) 

Time, TV: 2 p.m. ET, TBS. Site: Sacramento, Calif.

Why Oregon will win: Duh, because they’re playing Iona. Last week Oregon lost forward Chris Boucher, who was averaging 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game before he tore his ACL. But the Ducks, led Dillon Brooks, are still deep — too deep for Iona.

Why Iona will win: Because in the history of the NCAA tournament, 21 No. 14 seeds have upset No. 3 seeds, so why not the Iona Gaels? They won’t buckle under pressure because they’re in the tourney for the second year in a row, and they’ve got bracket-busting DNA with Sam Cassell Jr., son of the former NBA star.

No. 6 Creighton (25-9) vs. No. 11 Rhode Island (24-9) 

Time, TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, TBS. Site: Sacramento, Calif.

Why Creighton will win: Simply put, Creighton has more talent. Its roster features an impressive trio: Justin Patton, a freshman center projected to go in the first round of this year’s NBA draft; Marcus Foster, a junior guard averaging 18.3 points per game; and Khyri Thomas, a sophomore guard and emerging star.

Why Rhode Island will win: Rhode Island is rolling on the strength of an eight-game winning streak. And after waiting 18 years to get back to the tournament, the Rams have no intention of bowing out in the first round. Look for a key swat to determine the outcome, because Rhode Island ranks fourth nationally in blocked shots (6.1 per game).

 

No. 7 Michigan (24-11) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State (20-12)

Time, TV: 12:15 p.m., CBS. Site: Indianapolis.

Why Michigan will win: The Wolverines won their first Big Ten tournament title by winning four games in as many days – after a scare on an airplane no less.. Overall, they’ve won eight of 10 games.

Why Oklahoma State will win: The Cowboys have been inconsistent and enter the tournament having lost three in a row. OSU scores the eighth-most points per game (85.5) in the country.

No. 8 Miami (21-11) vs. No. 9 Michigan State (19-14)

Time, TV: 9:20 p.m., TNT. Site: Tulsa, Okla.

Why Miami will win: In a loaded ACC, the Hurricanes more than held their own, beating North Carolina, Duke and Virginia. The three-guard tandem of Davon Reed, Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown provides leadership and offensive firepower, and Miami ranked No. 20 in defense in the KenPom ratings.

Why Michigan State will win: The Spartans have been inconsistent, but the rapid development of freshman forward Miles Bridges (16.7 ppg) gives them a chance against anyone. And then there’s coach Tom Izzo, who regularly takes Michigan State deeper than predicted in the tournament.

 

South Region

No. 1 North Carolina (27-7) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern (23-11)

Time, TV: Approx. 4 p.m. ET, TNT. Site: Greenville, S.C.

Why North Carolina will win: These Tar Heels know what they’re doing this time of year. The key pieces — Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II and Kennedy Meeks — were all integral parts of last year’s team that made it to the national championship game. North Carolina should rebound well from its ACC tournament loss to Duke and cruise through this tournament’s first round.

Why Texas Southern will win: A No. 16 seed has to beat a No. 1 seed sometime, right? Well, even for a Texas Southern program that’s challenged itself by playing as tough a nonconference schedule as anyone can dream, this would be a mighty tall task. The Tigers will need a monster performance from SWAC Player of the Year Zach Lofton, and UNC to shoot poorly and turn the ball over frequently for this upset to even have a chance to happen.

No. 2 Kentucky (29-5) vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky (24-10)

‚ÄčTime, TV: 9:40 p.m., CBS. Site: Indianapolis.

Why Kentucky will win:  The Wildcats have won 11 in a row. Malik Monk (20.5 ppg), De’Aaron Fox (16.1 ppg) and Edrice Adebayo (13.2 ppg) are a trio of talented freshmen who can put up big numbers.

Why Northern Kentucky will win: The Norse are making their NCAA debut and are riding momentum, having won 10 of 11 games. They led the Horizon league in 3-pointers made per game (8.7).

No. 3 UCLA (29-4) vs. No. 14 Kent State (22-13)

Time, TV: 9:57 p.m. ET, TRU. Site: Sacramento, Calif.

Why UCLA will win: The Bruins will not have the services of LaVar Ball, the father of UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball who famously said, in his heyday, he would’ve killed Michael Jordan one-on-one. Nonetheless, Lonzo highlights a packed UCLA roster that leads the NCAA in scoring with 90.4 points per game and has Final Four potential.

Why Kent State will win: Any team named the Golden Flashes has at least a puncher’s chance against heavyweight UCLA. Kent State has won nine of its last 10 games following the lead of Jimmy Hall, a three-time, first-team All-MAC pick who averages 18.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

No. 6 Cincinnati (29-5) vs. No. 11 Kansas State (21-13) 

Time, TV: 7:27 p.m. ET, TruTV. Site: Sacramento, Calif.

Why Cincinnati will win: The Bearcats don’t have a superstar, but they do have a variety of scoring options. Six players are averaging eight or more points per game, and Jacob Evans, a 6-6 guard averaging 13.7 points, and Kyle Washington, a 6-9 forward averaging 13.1 points, will lead the way.

Why Kansas State will win: A pair of victories against Baylor and a win vs. West Virginia were evidence the Wildcats have what it takes to pull off the upset. And a 95-88 victory against Wake Forest in the First Four again demonstrated the Wildcats have the necessary firepower.

No. 7 Dayton (24-7) vs. No. 10 Wichita State (30-4)

Time, TV: 7:10 p.m., CBS. Site: Indianapolis.

Why Dayton will win: The Flyers ranked second in the Atlantic-10 in field goal percentage and scoring defense. Charles Cooke (16.1 ppg) and Kendall Pollard (14.1) carry the scoring load.

Why Wichita State will win: The Shockers led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring offense (82.1 ppg) and margin of victory (19.6 ppg). History is on their side, too: they’ve made it to the second weekend of the tournament in three of the past four years.

No. 8 Arkansas (25-9) vs. No. 9 Seton Hall (21-11)

Time, TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, TNT. Site: Greenville, S.C.

Why Arkansas will win: The Razorbacks have been playing their best basketball of late, winners of 8 of their last 10 games heading into the NCAA tournament, and they’re motivated to past the sour taste of an SEC tournament championship-game loss. Expect a balanced scoring effort.

 

Why Seton Hall will win: The Pirates have the two things that help teams win in March: Defense and rebounding. Angel Delgado is one of the best rebounders in the nation, and, in large part because of him, Seton Hall ranks among the top 40 teams nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Delgado will be key in this game on the other end of the floor, too — he averages a double-double.

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