Day two of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s round of 64 promises more of why we love March Madness.
The Friday slate features the last of the No. 1 regional seeds to take the court as well as a slew of matchups in the middle of the bracket that are sure to produce close finishes and surprises.
As we did for the first day, we’ll rank the 16 games in order of what we think will be the most compelling, though once again we stipulate that events during the day could unfold in unexpected ways. In short, keep that remote handy.
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11 Virginia Tech vs. 6 Texas, 4:30 p.m., TBS
The theory of whether recent performance is a good indicator of March Madness success gets an immediate test. The Hokies, who perhaps underachieved in the season’s early stages, got hot at the right time to win the ACC tournament. The Longhorns enter on a three-game skid, though granted two of those came against No. 1 seeds Kansas and Baylor. Texas will look to ugly the game up with its disruptive defense that allows just 59.6 points a game. What the ‘Horns don’t want is to get into a three-point shooting contest; UT averages just 32.3% from the arc while the Hokies connect at nearly a 40% clip.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 75-68.
10 Loyola Chicago vs. 7 Ohio St., 12:15 p.m., CBS
This is another case where the higher seed might actually be the perceived underdog. The Buckeyes limp into the tournament with just one win in their last five outings and could still be shorthanded due to lingering injuries, but E.J. Liddell’s takeover ability will still warrant plenty of attention. The Ramblers are under new management with first-year coach Drew Valentine but still have their dangerous March reputation. Loyola has scoring balance, but expect the ball to be in veteran Lucas Williamson’s hands in key moments.
Prediction: Loyola, 69-63.
9 TCU vs. 8 Seton Hall, 9:57 p.m., truTV
The lone 8-9 game of the day is a virtual tossup featuring two power conference teams that had their share of ups and downs. The Pirates had to reinvent themselves when Bryce Aiken sustained a concussion in early January that ended his season, but they won enough games in the Big East to earn a bid. The Horned Frogs took some lumps in the crowded Big 12 but were able to post one win in three tries against Kansas down the stretch. TCU will be a full roster strength, but its sketchy 66.8% team free-throw percentage might be a concern.
Prediction: TCU, 70-63.
12 UAB vs. 5 Houston, 9:20 p.m., TNT
Houston was able to push through some key injuries to get back to the Big Dance but now hopes to avoid being the first of last season’s Final Four to bow out. The Cougars clearly have the toughest round-of-64 draw in the Blazers, one of the best shooting teams in the field. UAB’s Jordan Walker is connecting on 40.6% of his three-point tries, but the Cougars have the nation’s best field-goal defense, holding opponents to just 37.3%.
Prediction: UAB, 68-65.
10 Davidson vs. 7 Michigan St., 9:40 p.m., CBS
Two of the game’s longest tenured coaches square off in this venue’s nightcap. Davidson’s Bob McKillop has arguably his deepest squad since joining the Atlantic-10, notwithstanding the loss to Richmond in the tourney final. The same can’t be said of Tom Izzo’s Spartans, who did just enough in the rugged Big Ten to land on the upper half of the bracket. MSU should still have a considerable advantage on the glass, so the Wildcats must hope their 38.6% three-point accuracy as a team holds up.
Prediction: Davidson, 74-71.
11 Notre Dame vs. 6 Alabama, 4:15 p.m., TNT
It will be a quick turnaround for the Fighting Irish, who had to work overtime to get by Rutgers in Dayton late Wednesday night. But the Crimson Tide have struggled with consistency for much of the season, relying on long-range shots that don’t always find the mark. Both teams can struggle to get defensive stops, so there could be a high score in this one.
Prediction: Notre Dame, 82-78.
10 Miami vs. 7 Southern California, 3:10 p.m., truTV
This could be the most unpredictable of the 7-10 clashes. Miami needed a significant bounce-back season just to get here. The Trojans were for the most part able to follow up last year’s successful postseason run by avoiding damaging losses. Veteran guard Kameron McGusty is the Hurricanes’ primary option, while USC’s Isaiah Mobley could be a difficult matchup inside.
Prediction: USC, 74-68.
13 Chattanooga vs. 4 Illinois, 6:50 p.m., TNT
You’ve undoubtedly seen David Jean-Baptiste’s SoCon championship buzzer beater a time or two that propelled the Mocs into the bracket. Such events can often be a sign of future success, but they drew a difficult assignment against a Fighting Illini squad eager to avoid a repeat of last year’s premature tournament exit. Illinois still has standout big man Kofi Cockburn, though Chattanooga’s Silvio De Sousa might at least make him work for his points.
Prediction: Illinois, 85-71.
14 Colgate vs. 3 Wisconsin, 9:50 p.m., TBS
The Raiders are back, and they’re still knocking down treys. Oh, and they’ve heard all of your toothpaste jokes, so don’t go there. Four Colgate players have hit at least 47 triples this season, led by Jack Ferguson’s 90. They’ll probably have to hit a lot to keep up with Johnny Davis and the Badgers, but it could be interesting for a while.
Prediction: Wisconsin, 85-78.
14 Yale vs. 3 Purdue, 2 p.m. TBS
The Boilermakers appear to have the pieces in place to end a string of disappointing Marches. The Ivy League champion Bulldogs won’t have any answers for Purdue’s deep array of post players.
Prediction: Purdue, 82-64.
11 Iowa State vs. 6 LSU, 7:20 p.m., TBS
The Cyclones got a bit of a reality check once Big 12 play rolled around, but T.J. Otzelberger’s first season as the head man in Ames must still be considered a huge success. It’s difficult to know what to expect from LSU amid program upheaval, though interim coach Kevin Nickelberry does have head coaching experience.
Prediction: Iowa State, 65-59.
15 Delaware vs. 2 Villanova, 2:45 p.m., CBS
Delaware won’t have the fire power to match the Wildcats’ perimeter prowess, but you’ll likely notice a familiar name for the Blue Hens, especially if you’re a Philly Big Five follower. Delaware’s top scorer is Jameer Nelson Jr., whose dad helped St. Joseph’s to the Elite Eight in 2004.
Prediction: Villanova, 85-64.
15 Jacksonville State vs. 2 Auburn, 12:40 p.m., truTV
The Gamecocks are happy to be here after benefiting from transitioning Bellarmine’s ASUN tournament win, and they’re happier to get a crack at an in-state power. But while the Tigers have been inconsistent of late, they should have little trouble as they get a break from SEC competition.
Prediction: Auburn, 90-67.
14 Montana State vs. 3 Texas Tech, 1:45 p.m., TNT
The Bobcats make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996. It’s likely to be a short stay, however, as the Red Raiders look for another deep run after finishing in the upper division of the strong Big 12.
Prediction: Texas Tech, 75-51.
15 Cal State Fullerton vs. 2 Duke, 7:10 p.m., CBS
There are challenges ahead for the Blue Devils in this loaded region, but this should not be one of them. But give the Titans credit for rallying from a 14-point deficit against Long Beach State in the Big West tournament final to get here.
Prediction: Duke, 88-68.
16 Wright State vs. 1 Arizona, 7:27 p.m., truTV
Wright State enjoyed Wednesday night’s First Four victory close to home against Bryant, and the Raiders should also enjoy the weather in sunny San Diego. Their encounter with the top-seeded Wildcats isn’t likely to be as much fun.
Prediction: Arizona, 95-72.