The first half of the round-of-64 games are nearly in the books. On Friday, the college basketball universe turns its focus to another epic set of 16 games. When Friday's action is done, the field will be trimmed down to just 32.
Three of the four No. 1 seeds in the field are in action on Friday. Here's a look at the time, regions, matchups and predictions for all of Friday's games.
Just beneath the predictions is a closer look at three of the marquee matchups set for the day. Click here to see the updated bracket.
|3 Duke vs. 14 Mercer||12:15 p.m. ET||Duke|
|6 Baylor vs. 11 Nebraska||12:40 p.m. ET||Baylor|
|7 New Mexico vs. 10 Stanford||1:40 p.m. ET||New Mexico|
|1 Arizona vs. 16 Weber State||2:10 p.m. ET||Arizona|
|6 UMass vs. 11 Tennessee||2:45 p.m. ET||UMass|
|3 Creighton vs. 14 La.-Lafayette||3:10 p.m. ET||Creighton|
|2 Kansas vs. 15 Eastern Kentucky||4:10 p.m. ET||Kansas|
|8 Gonzaga vs. 9 Oklahoma State||4:40 p.m. ET||Oklahoma State|
|8 Memphis vs. 9 George Washington||6:55 p.m. ET||George Washington|
|1 Wichita State vs. 16 Cal Poly||7:10 p.m. ET||Wichita State|
|6 UNC vs. 11 Providence||7:20 p.m. ET||Providence|
|5 VCU vs. 12 Stephen F. Austin||7:27 p.m. ET||VCU|
|1 Virginia vs. 16 Coastal Carolina||9:25 p.m. ET||Virginia|
|8 Kentucky vs. 9 Kansas State||9:40 p.m. ET||Kentucky|
|3 Iowa State vs. 14 North Carolina Central||9:50 p.m. ET||Iowa State|
|4 UCLA vs. 13 Tulsa||9:57 p.m. ET||UCLA|
ESPN for times, predictions from B.Mazique
No. 6 UNC Tar Heels vs. No. 11 Providence Friars
The Friars surged to win the Big East tournament behind Bryce Cotton's scoring (averaging 20.5 points in last two games) and LaDontae Henton's strong inside play (averaging 17 points and 12.6 rebounds in last three games). Providence has proven to be a tough defensive squad with a balanced offensive attack.
That could spell doom for North Carolina.
The Tar Heels are the more talented group, but they struggle to take care of the ball and make free throws. Roy Williams' team commits 12 turnovers per game and only makes 62.5 percent of its shots from the stripe.
As Joseph Camozzi mentions in a Twitter conversation with ESPN's Andy Katz and CBS Sports' Seth Greenberg, the Friars may have a huge advantage in a close game:
This figures to be a tight one, and because of North Carolina's struggles from the free-throw line, the Friars should outlast them.
No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats
Kentucky began the season as the No. 1 team in the country. Through the ups and downs of the season, John Calipari's team comes in as the eighth seed.
Kansas State is going to be a tough matchup despite Kentucky's obvious edge in overall talent. However, taking a look at the way the teams have been playing heading into tournament shows an edge for Kentucky.
Despite failing to win the SEC tournament, Kentucky gave Florida all it could handle in the conference title game. Losing 61-60 should have given Kentucky a little bit of a confidence boost.
On the other side of the coin, Kansas State lost its last three games and has no momentum. The entire Kentucky nucleus is coming together at the right time. This is a group of players in Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle who are likely playing to improve their NBA draft stock.
This team will play with a chip on its shoulder, and based on its talent and rebounding (41.1 per game), Kentucky will prevail.
No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys
When asked about his NBA future, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart deflected to talk of individual goals. Per Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press (via ABC News), Smart said:
"I'm just focused on this team right now. We've got Gonzaga Friday, so that's really our main focus. I'm pretty sure — I feel like I've made a pretty good mark on Oklahoma State, but that's not really my main focus."
Smart and the Cowboys play as hard as any team in the country, but they do lack size. Gonzaga boasts 7'1" Przemek Karnowski and 6'9", 255-pound Sam Dower in the frontcourt. The Zags can't match the Cowboys' overall speed and agility, but if they can force Oklahoma State into turnovers and bad shots, the Zags can win.
Like most Cowboys games, Smart is the key. He only shoots 42.5 percent from the field. He needs to take good shots and attack the basket looking to create for shooters to soften the interior defense.
Also, the Cowboys must get offense from their defense. Per Hoop-Math, Oklahoma State has an effective field-goal percentage of 59.7 percent when playing in transition.
On effort, intensity and the transition game, the Cowboys will win one of the better games of the day.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats per StatSheet.com.
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