Friday NCAA Action
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT UPDATE: LOOKIN' BACK AT THURSDAY WINNERS AND LOOKIN' AHEAD TO FRIDAY'S GAMES
Gee, the way yesterday's NCAA Tournament was going through the afternoon session you would have thought underdog bettors were gonna be able to hit their local department stores and buy one of everything ... seven-of-eight dogs covered the price tags on Thursday afternoon and that featured the prerequisite #12 seed (Murray State) beating a #5 seed (Marquette) plus mild upsets by #10 seeds Minnesota and Florda.
But hang on.
The tourney took a took last evening when night-time favs Villanova, Purdue, Wofford, Kentucky, Michigan and Gonzaga all cashed as chalk sides and so when the dust finally settled on the first full day of NCAA Tournament action it was Dogs 9, Favs 7 and thus we head into today's games with Favs / Dogs at a dead-even 10-10 so far.
Team of the Day - Wofford merely exploded in the final few minutes of last night's 84-68 triumph over 3.5-point underdog Seton Hall as G Fletcher Magee (24 points) became the NCAA's all-time triple-maker.
Player of the Day - Ja Morant (17 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds) not only put up a triple-double (the first in an NCAA Tourney game since 2012) but he was major entertainment with no-look passes to cutting teammates and high-flying hoops that propelled Murray State into Saturday's second-round showdown against Florida State.
Bummer of the Day - Nevada was counting on getting back to the Sweet 16 this year ... and maybe go a bit further but instead the Wolf Pack shot a wobbly 5-of-24 from trey-land.
Best Bet of the Day - Kansas. Go ahead and admit it: You thought Northeastern (+ 6.5) looked like a good first-round upset but instead the Jayhawks flexed their muscles and slaughtered the dudes from Beantown 87-53.
NCAA TOURNAMENT - FRIDAY, MARCH 22
EAST - at Columbia, SC
#1 DUKE (29-5) vs. #16 NORTH DAKOTA STATE (19-15) - 7:10 p.m. ET, CBS
Turn on the bright lights ... the Duke Blue Devils are in the house!
Heck, you just knew when the brackets were revealed on Selection Sunday that the Dookies - starring Zion Williamson (22.1 points per game), RJ Barrett (22.9 ppg) and fellow frosh Cam Reddish (a modest 13.7 ppg) - were gonna be the prime-time darlings of CBS and so what that Mike Krzyzewski's squad is a four-touchdown betting favorite here against this rather athletic First Four survivor. Note that Duke's perimeter defense will get tested here by a North Dakota State crew that canned half of its 14 triple tries in the first half of Wednesday's 78-74 non-cover win against 4.5-point pup N.C. Central bit is there any shot that SDS can hold the Blue Devils below their average of 84 ppg? In a word, no!
WEST - at Tulsa, OK
#6 BUFFALO (31-3) vs. #11 ARIZONA STATE (23-10) - approximately 4 p.m. ET, TNT
Here's the lowdown on Bulls-Sun Devils / Nate Oats-Bobby Hurley: The two coaches are best of friends after Hurley exited Buffalo to take the job in the desert four years ago while 4.5-point favorite Buffalo entered this man's tourney with an NCAA-best 31 SU (straight-up) wins and that includes a current 12-game winning streak but keep in mind the Mid-American Conference champs were barely challenged in their mini-tourney last weekend while every game lately has been life-or-death for the ASU Sun Devils. From a pointspread point of view, note Arizona State's covered four of its last five games overall while Buffalo is headed in the wrong direction with just a pair of covers in its last seven games. Buffalo guard CJ Massinburg canned 86 triples this year - can State get in his grill here and will Hurley's stud rookie Lu Dort (21 points against St. John's) be 100 percent after hitting the floor hard (hip/knee)?
SOUTH - at Columbia, SC
#8 OLE MISS (20-12) vs. #9 OKLAHOMA (19-13) - 12:40 p.m. ET, True TV
This flip-a-coin matchup of two power conference teams - only one of three such games on this Friday docket - could well come down to just how well Ole Miss defends Oklahoma's Kristian Doolittle who averaged 17.3 ppg in his final six games. Doolittle, a six-foot-seven forward, shoots it at 50.2 percent from the floor and odds are Ole Miss first-year boss Kermit Davis will throw some gimmick defenses his way but - hey - hasn't Sooners' head coach Lon Kruger seen everything by now after 30-plus years of coaching? For you pointspread followers, Ole Miss is an amazing 23-9 against the odds this year while Oklahoma enters this Round of 64 game at 19-10-3. In other words, these clubs may be in one of the pivotal #8 vs. #9 games but both piled up the greenbacks this year.
MIDWEST - at Tulsa, OK
#6 IOWA STATE (23-11) vs. #11 OHIO STATE (19-14) - approximately 9:50 p.m. ET, TBS
It's Big 12 versus Big 10 in this late-nighter and go ahead and raise your hand if you've figured out this Iowa State squad that rolls into this tilt fresh off its mini-tourney title (see wins/covers against Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas). Okay, so the Cyclones have been a bit two-faced this year but one thing's for sure and that's Steve Prohm's squad needs active G Marial Shayok - a Virginia transfer - to nail a batch of triples when Ohio State's defense isn't quite set. Note the Buckeyes sport a top 50 defense but O-State point guard C.J. Jackson (team-high 113 total assists) is the key player on the floor for the Big 10 gang that's a dour 14-19 versus the vig overall this year.