With 16 college basketball teams punching their ticket to play in the Round of 32 yesterday, the second half of the original 64-team field tips off on Friday with a handful of notable matchups scheduled.
We’ll begin in the Midwest Region with No. 2 seeded University of Kansas looking to shake off being taken down in the Big 12 Tournament for the first time since 2005. They’ll square off against No. 15 seed New Mexico State University, winners of the Western Athletic Conference tournament where they posted a 13-1 conference record.
The Jayhawks’ leading scorer this season is junior forward Perry Ellis, who averaged just under 14 points per game. The Aggies are led by senior quick forward Remi Barry, who shot a team-high 46.6 percent from three-point territory and averaged 13.3 points per game.
If the seeding holds, Kansas would end up playing in-state rival and seventh seed Wichita State University in the round of 32. Kansas has historically avoided playing non-conference games against the Shockers, so this is a matchup everyone in Kansas is looking out for.
The next game to take a look at is in the East region – No. 7 seed Michigan State University versus tenth-seeded Georgia. Though they come into this year’s tournament as only a No. 7 seed, head coach Tom Izzo’s Spartans are always a tough draw this time of year, advancing to the Sweet 16 or better 12 times since 1998, and winning the 2000 NCAA national championship. The Spartans struggled from long distance this past season, shooting just over 38 percent from the 3-point line. The Spartans were taken down in the Big 10 Conference tournament championship by Wisconsin, the No. 1 seed in the West region.
The Georgia Bulldogs are not a traditional Southeastern Conference power. They last made the NCAA tournament in 2011 and before that it was 2008, where they bowed out in the first round on both occasions. Georgia’s best player is senior forward Marcus Thornton, who led the team in both scoring (12.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg).
This brings us to the first marquee matchup of the day: No. 7 seed Wichita State University takes on No. 10 Indiana in Midwest regional action. In most other years, basketball fans would expect these seeds to be switched. But since head coach Greg Marshall has taken over the Shockers eight years ago, they have turned into a mid-major powerhouse out of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Last season, Coach Marshall guided his team to a perfect record entering the NCAA tournament before falling to the national runner-up University of Kentucky squad in the round of 32. In 2013, Wichita State went to the Final Four, falling to eventual national champion University of Louisville. The Shockers are led in scoring by their guards: redshirt junior Ron Baker and traditional junior Fred Van Vleet, averaging 15 and 12.7 points per contest, respectively.
As for the Indiana Hoosiers, outside of two runs to the Sweet 16 when he had two NBA first round picks on his roster, head coach Tom Crean has not restored the glory to this traditional college basketball powerhouse after coming over from Marquette University in 2008. Indiana is led by junior point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell. Ferrell was the Hoosiers leading scorer at 16.1 points per game and facilitating the offense, posting nearly five helpers a game.
This game will be broadcasted from Omaha at approximately 2:45 EST on CBS.
If you’re trying to squeeze in one more game before dinner, check out No. 8 Oregon and No. 9 Oklahoma State University. Oregon proved to be a pesky out in the Pac 12 tournament, with senior guard Joe Young drilling a 30-foot buzzer-beater to knock out the favored University of Utah in the Pac 12 Tournament semifinals. Young paced the Ducks in scoring this season, dropping just over 20 points per game to lead the conference.
Oklahoma State comes in looking to make some noise after finishing the season losing five of their last six games. The Cowboys have lost their first tournament game in each of the last two years, so they’ll look to buck that trend against the Ducks. Oklahoma State was led in scoring by senior forward Le’Bryan Nash, averaging 17.1 points per game. He was second on his team in rebounds and assists.
You can watch Oregon and Oklahoma State clash in Omaha, at 6:50 p.m. Eastern on TBS.
If you’d like to take a look at the No. 1 seeds in action, check out No. 1 seed Duke University v. No. 16 Robert Morris University out of the South region in Charlotte, N.C., at 7:10 p.m. EST on CBS. And No. 1 University of Wisconsin plays No. 16 Coastal Carolina University in the West region, which will tip off in Omaha around 9:20 p.m. EST on TBS.
For a nightcap, tune into No. 8 seed San Diego State University versus No. 9 seed St. John’s University out of the South region. San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher has an accomplished tourney resume and his Aztecs are coming into the Big Dance looking to avenge their loss in the Mountain West Conference championship game. San Diego State relies on a three-pronged offensive attack from junior forward Shepard Winston (11.1 ppg), senior guard Aqeel Quinn (11.1 ppg), and senior forward J.J. O’Brien (10.1 ppg).
St. John’s is a program on the rise in the new Big East. Head coach Steve Lavin has compiled 92 wins in less than five seasons at the helm of the Big Red. Coach Lavin took over in 2010, but missed nearly all of the 2011-2012 season, due to personal health reasons. This game will be a battle of wills, as San Diego State is the second-best defensive team in the country, holding opposing teams to 51.3 points per game. St. John’s boasts four players who average more than 17 points per game, so something has to give.
You can watch San Diego State take on St. John’s from Charlotte, N.C. at approximately 9:40 p.m. Eastern Friday on CBS.