The night session begins with the tournament favorite opening against in-state Western Kentucky. Since there is no break between games anymore, though, you may want to use this time to grab a bathroom break and order dinner before the night action hits fast and furious.
#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Western Kentucky, 6:50 in Louisville (TBS). Western Kentucky had a nice run and are a very young team. They’ll get experience against a superior opponent, and if they return next year, will be a better seed.
The Line: Kentucky by 26.5 The Pick: Kentucky rests starters late, allows the backdoor cover, but no #16 seed upset potential here. WKU +26.5
#5 Wichita State vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth, 7:15 in Portland (CBS). The two hottest coaching candidates from the mid-majors, both very likely to be coaching in major conferences next year. Last year’s Cinderella run, against a team that has a chance to make noise this year. Oh, and contrasting styles, with Wichita State having the inside edge, and VCU playing up tempo pressure. The key will be Joe Ragland of Wichita playing an efficient game.
The Line: Wichita State by 7 The Pick: I like the Shockers to make a run, but it doesn’t start easy, and they will be tested in this one. VCU +7.
#7 Gonzaga vs. #10 West Virginia, 7:20 in Pittsburgh (TNT). Gonzaga gets rewarded with a cross country trip to face West Virginia in a backyard brawl for the Mountaineers. This one should be a slugfest, with Robert Sacre and Elias Harris for Gonzaga, and Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli up front for the Mountaineers.
The Line: Gonzaga by 1. The Pick: Should be a close game, I’ll take the Mountaineers close to home with a slight edge, West Virginia +1
#3 Baylor vs. #14 South Dakota State, 7:27 in Albuquerque (TruTV). Baylor played better in the Big XII Tourney, going to far more man to man against Kansas and Missouri, after those teams had destroyed their zone in the regular season. Baylor has the length. South Dakota State plays off guard Nate Wolters, who is a driver. I expect Deuce Bello, a freshman who was not playing much early in the year, to get Wolters when he is in. If Baylor defends, with their length, they can stop the Jackrabbits. They should have the advantage on the other end if Perry Jones and company bring their effort, something that doesn’t always happen.
The Line: Baylor by 7.5. I know there is talk of a potential upset here. I don’t think this is a good matchup for the Jackrabbits. If there hitting the threes, it could happen, but I expect the Bears to put length on Wolters, and be able to extend on shooters. Baylor -7.5.
[photo via US Presswire]