With a packed Friday of fantastic round of 64 games, I'm trying not to exhaust myself on all the fabulous Thursday action. That may end up being easier said than done.
However, it takes a little more to be a champion, and if that means I have to double my coffee and snack intake on Friday to maintain my level of finely honed alertness, that is what I'll do.
Games like these next three deserve that much.
No. 6. UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota
After an up-and-down season, the talented and young Bruins were closing out strong. Then Jordan Adams, the team's second-leading scorer, broke his foot and was lost for the season on March 15.
Including that March 15 game, which was a win over Arizona, the Bruins had won seven of their last eight. They lost their next game by nine to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament and it set an ominous tone for the NCAA tournament.
UCLA still has the talent to make it dangerous. Most notably, freshman Shabazz Muhammad averaged 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season.
So, the short-handed Bruins will take on a talented, but slumping Minnesota team. The Golden Gophers enter the tournament having lost three straight and seven of their last 10.
However, led by sophomore Andre Hollins, who averaged 13.9 points and 3.4 assists per game on the year, Minnesota has the players to make some noise.
This game is loaded with talent and it should be an exciting, close game.
No. 8. North Carolina State vs. No. 9 Temple
North Carolina State is bursting with the athleticism to make a deep run in this tournament. However, this team has been inconsistent, which explains why a group with five potential NBA players went 24-10 on the season.
Meanwhile, Temple does not have the same kind of dynamic talent, but it is a cohesive bunch with experience.
Senior Khalif Wyatt gives the Owls a steady hand in the backcourt and he led the team with 19.8 points and 4.1 assists per game on the season.
The Wolfpack are going to want to get up and down the court and flash their athleticism, while Temple will be more tactical in its approach. This will set up for a nice contrast in styles and some big runs by both teams.
In the end, I see this one coming down to the wire and providing a memorable finish.
No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincinnati
Creighton, led by two-time Wooden Award finalist Doug McDermott, has a dynamic offense.
The Blue Jays are first in the nation in field-goal percentage and three-point percentage.
The Bearcats, meanwhile, are one of the nation's best defensive teams, 15th in opponent field-goal percentage.
The Blue Jays are sixth in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency, while the Bearcats are 15th in its adjusted defensive efficiency.
This all sets up for a fabulous battle of strength vs. strength, and it puts one of the nation's best players, McDermott, in a position to showcase his skills against a stiff challenge.
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