NCAA Basketball Scores 2012: Ranking Friday's 5 Unpredictable Outcomes

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2012

NCAA Basketball Scores 2012: Ranking Friday's 5 Unpredictable Outcomes

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    How is your bracket after Thursday?

    How did you do at predicting the first games? 16-0?

    Some are just too close to call. The teams are evenly matched, and it's hard to say who has the advantage going in.

    In the Friday matchups of the 2012 NCAA tournament, there are at least five games that are nearly unpredictable.

    Here's a quick preview of these ultra-competitive contests:

5. South Florida vs. Temple

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    Tough-as-nails defense vs. wide-open offense.

    That's what you'll get when you click on the USF vs. Temple game tonight.

    South Florida gives up a stingy 56.8 PPG (No. 7 in the nation). The Bulls really challenge their opponents beyond the arc, only allowing them to convert 29.5 percent (No. 11) of their threes.

    Temple is one of the best three-point shooting team in the nation (No. 8; 40.2 percent from beyond the arc). The Owls score 76 points per game (No. 30 in the nation) while shooting 47.2 percent from the field.

    Something's gotta give in this one.

    Ramone Moore (pictured) was the No. 2 scorer in the Atlantic 10 Conference this year.

    If USF can keep him under wraps, the Bulls have a chance to pull off one of those sweet No. 5/12 upsets. 

4. Xavier vs. Notre Dame

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    Here are two programs whose seasons didn't exactly go as planned.

    If you would have told most people that the Fighting Irish would post a 13-5 record in the Big East after their best player, Tim Abromaitis, went down to a season-ending injury after playing only two games, your knowledge of college hoops would have been seriously questioned.

    But that's exactly what happened. Using a shutdown defense that only allowed their opponents to score 61.5 points per game, the Fighting Irish played better than just about anybody could have expected during the 2011-12 season.

    Xavier, on the other hand, starting the season on fire.

    They won their first eight games before "The Brawl."

    Since then Chris Mack's Musketeers have barely played .500 ball (13-12) and ended up having to win the A-10 tournament to get into the Dance.

    Notre Dame's leading big man, Jack Cooley (pictured), could be the key to the game.

    The Irish's leading scorer and rebounder averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds during the Big East tournament.

    If Xavier can keep him off the boards, it has a decent chance of advancing.

3. Purdue vs. St. Mary's

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    Two feel-good stories collide in this evening game in Omaha.

    If there was an award for determination and resolve, Purdue forward Robbie Hummel should win it hands-down.

    He had, in effect, sat out two years in a row because of knee injuries.

    Hummel has come back and led the Boilermakers to Purdue's 25th NCAA tournament appearance by scoring (16.3 PPG) and rebounding (7.1 RPG).

    St. Mary's has been the West Coast Conference bridesmaid program (to Gonzaga) for so many years. But the Gaels broke through this year, taking both the regular-season and tournament conference titles.

    You hate to see either of these programs' season end tonight.

    But my basketball junkie heart wants Hummel to survive and advance.

2. St. Louis vs. Memphis

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    Memphis may be one of the hottest teams going into the 2012 NCAA tournament.

    The Tigers finished strong (winning seven games in a row), closing out the Conference USA regular-season title, as well as the conference tournament. The average margin of victory is a gaudy 24 PPG.

    The Tigers like to push the tempo and get the ball into the paint. They are shooting almost 50 percent from the field (No. 5 in the nation) and score just over 75 points per game.

    St. Louis went 7-1 in the month of February, finishing second in the Atlantic 10. The Billikens will get after opponents on defense, only allowing them to score 57.5 PPG (No. 8 in the nation).

    Because of their preferred style of play, both teams will use their benches liberally, going eight to 10 deep.

    What this game may come down to is how effective SLU is at preventing Memphis' dribble penetration.

    Easier said than done.

1. Alabama vs. Creighton

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    What happens when a gritty defensive team goes up against a talented offensive squad?

    We are about to find out.

    Alabama is a program on the rise.

    In Anthony Grant's three years in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide have established themselves as one of the top defensive teams in the nation. This season, Bama only allowed their opponents to score 58.1 PPG, the fewest in the SEC.

    They will be tested today as they face one of the better offensive teams in the nation: Creighton.

    Led by sophomore forward Doug McDermott, the nation's third-leading scorer, Creighton (28-5) is averaging 80 points per game (No. 7 in the nation).

    Creighton relies heavily on shots from beyond the arc. On the season, they take over one-third of their shots from three-point range, hitting on 42.5 percent (No. 3 in the nation). Alabama will counter that by challenging every shot from distance. They hold their opponents to 28.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc (No. 4 in the nation).

    Strength vs. strength.

    It should be a great game that will come down to end-of-the-game execution.

    Must see!