March Madness 2013 Predictions: Picking Winners of Friday's Closest Matchups

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2013

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 14:  Shabazz Muhammad #15 of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the quarterfinals of the Pac 12 Basketball Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 14, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Don't let Thursday's round of 64 action wipe you out because there are going to be some serious March Madness on Friday as the round wraps up. 

There are great matchups all over on Friday, and the following have all the looks of three games that are destined to come down to the wire. 


No. 6. UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota 

Had the Bruins' second-leading scorer, Jordan Adams, not broken his foot on March 15, I wouldn't have predicted this one to be close. 

The Bruins had won seven of their last eight, and they were starting to live up to their talented potential. However, his loss is a big one, and the Bruins lost by nine to Oregon in their only game since his injury. 

That said, the Bruins still feature one of the nation's best in Shabazz Muhammad, and they still have Travis Wear, Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew II to give their offense a balanced-scoring attack. 

Meanwhile, the Golden Gophers limp into this game having lost three straight and seven of their last 10. 

Despite the Gophers' recent woes, I expect this one to be close as the Bruins will be missing Adams and they aren't the stoutest defensive team to begin with. 

UCLA ranks 104th in defensive efficiency and 137th in opponents' field-goal percentage. Still, in the end, I expect UCLA's offense to lead them to a narrow victory. 

Prediction: UCLA 71, Minnesota 69


No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Iowa State

This game features two defense-deficient units. Notre Dame ranks 127th in defensive efficiency, while the Cyclones check in at an even worse 155th.

As you might imagine, since both of these teams made the tournament, they are much better offensively.

Iowa State ranks 15th in offensive efficiency. The Irish rank 24th. 

The Cyclones like to play at a faster pace, and their schedule was not as difficult. As a result, at 79.6 points per game, they average just over nine points per game more than Notre Dame. 

All of this leads to a wonderful matchup that should produce plenty of quality offensive possessions. In the end, I see Notre Dame's experience gained in the tough Big East giving it the edge in crunch time. 

Prediction: Notre Dame 76, Iowa State 73


No. 8. North Carolina State vs. No. 9 Temple

North Carolina State is often its own worst opponent. This ultra-talented team has a nasty tendency of laziness.

The Wolfpack cannot afford to get lazy in this game. Temple is an excellent offensive team, and for all of the Wolfpack's talent, the Owls' Khalif Wyatt might be the best NBA prospect in this game. For the season, he is averaging 19.8 point and 4.1 assists per game.

He will make sure his team stays in this one, and he will need a fine effort.

While North Carolina State can get lazy, the Owls don't have the kind of defense that typically forces the Wolfpack into sloppy play.

In its last 60 games, Temple has allowed 70 or more points to its opponents 12 times.

That poor defense will be just enough to let the Wolfpack slide by.

Prediction: North Carolina State 74, Temple 70


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