The last set of games gets underway, with several traditional powers going in primetime, from UCLA to Kentucky to North Carolina.
1. Kentucky Tries to Gain Redemption in Tourney. Kentucky was probably underseeded. They have, though, been inconsistent and prone to bouts of poor play. Kansas State can take advantage of that, and is probably feeling a little disrespected. The key to this game? Kansas State hanging with Kentucky early, keeping them from getting high energy plays off rebounds. Many are picking the Wildcats to beat Wichita State, but which ones?
2. The Other #1 Seeds are in Action: Wichita State and Virginia are the quietest top seeds in awhile. Few are picking them, in regions where Louisville and Michigan State could play them. It’s rare that a top seed can play the disrespect card, but these two are likely ready to come out and not mess around in game one.
3, Stephen F. Austin and North Carolina Central Boast Gaudy Records, Can They Win a Big One? Stephen F. Austin is 31-2. NC Central is 28-5. These are teams used to winning, but not necessarily against the top competition. NC Central did beat NC State, and played competitively at both Wichita State and Cincinnati. SFA lost at Texas. These both have the potential to be very entertaining. The SFA-VCU game should be a wild, frantic game, where both teams have aggressive perimeter defenders and will press and trap. NC Central will likewise try to play with Iowa State, who also likes to play fast.
4. Steve Alford vs. Danny Manning. The 1987 Tournament star for Indiana versus the 1988 Tournament star for Kansas, now coaching. UCLA will try to run in this one. For Tulsa, it has been all about defense in getting to the tournament, so they will have to keep the Bruins out of transition to have a chance.
5. My picks, for entertainment and mocking purposes, on all games during this session (16-5-2 against the spread so far in tournament, pending Gonzaga +3):
George Washington (+3) vs. Memphis (6:55 tip)
Wichita State (-16) vs. Cal Poly (7:10 tip)
North Carolina (-4) vs. Providence (7:20)
Stephen F. Austin (+6.5) vs. VCU (7:27)
Coastal Carolina (+21.5) vs. Virginia (9:25)
Kansas State (+6.5) vs. Kentucky (9:40)
North Carolina Central (+8) vs. Iowa State (9:50)
UCLA (-8.5) vs. Tulsa (9:57)