Most intriguing matchup
5:15 pm ET, CBS, No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 6 Murray State, Louisville: The key to this game lies in the location: Louisville. Murray State is in Kentucky. This game will be played right before the Kentucky game. In other words, this will be a home game for the Racers, and we all know the issues that Marquette has had on the road this season.
But the intrigue in this game goes well beyond the location. Marquette is as good as any team in the country in transition. They like to press in the full-court and make the game ragged. The problem? Murray State can play at that pace, and they have the athleticism on their front line to take away some of the advantage that Jae Crowder’s mismatch provides. But Murray State doesn’t have anyone capable of guarding Davonte Gardner. Marquette isn’t as effective when the big fella is on the floor, but he will be the guy that creates the mismatch in this game.
Upsets on the horizon?
12:15 pm ET, CBS, No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 8 Kansas State, Pittsburgh: Syracuse looked terrible against UNC-Asheville on Thursday, and it wasn’t simply because Fab Melo was out of the lineup. The Orange simply did not appear to be into the game. Even without Melo, Syracuse has the pieces to beat the Wildcats — the defensive pressure that their back court can provide will wreak havoc on Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling — even if Kansas State gets 25 offensive rebounds. But will they show up?
7:10 pm ET, TBS, No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 12 VCU, Portland: At this point, any time VCU steps on the court, they should be considered an upset threat. That said, this matchup is particularly intriguing. The Rams fun one of the fiercest, most aggressive and most effective presses in the country. Can IU’s back court — Jordy Hulls and Victor Oladipo — handle it?
7:45 pm ET, CBS, No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Iowa State, Louisville: Iowa State is such a unique team. With a 6’9″, 270lb forward running the point and the number of excellent shooters the perimeter, the Cyclones are a matchup nightmare. Who guards Royce White? Does Anthony Davis get drawn out onto the perimeter? Having said that … how does Iowa State matchup with Kentucky? Regardless, if the Cyclones are hitting their threes and White is playing well, this could get interesting. It is also worth noting that White very nearly became a Wildcat before he enrolled at Iowa State.
Story lines to keep an eye on
2:45 pm ET, CBS, No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Gonzaga, Pittsburgh: The Zags actually match up pretty well with Ohio State. They have a big body inside, they have an athlete at the four to match up with Deshaun Thomas and they have high-level wings that will really defend William Buford and Lenzelle Smith. Can Aaron Craft slow down Kevin Pangos?
6:10 pm ET, TNT, No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt, Albuquerque: Vanderbilt has been a team snake-bitten in the NCAA tournament in recent year. For the first time since any Commodore has been on campus, they’ve won a game in the NCAA Tournament. Can they keep the run going?
8:40 pm ET, TNT, No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 11 Colorado, Albuquerque: It’s weird to think about the fact that a team from the Pac-12 is a cinderella, but that is exactly what the Buffaloes are. It’s weirder to think that the Bears, if they are to make the Elite 8, will do so without beating a single-digit seed. It would make anything less even more disappointing.
9:40 pm ET, TBS, No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 5 New Mexico, Portland: Louisville has been a team that has disappointed this season, but they’ve caught fire at the right time, particularly Peyton Siva. The Cardinals are playing stifling defense as well, particularly at the three-point line. New Mexico takes a lot of threes. The Lobos also happen to be the last MWC team remaining in the tournament.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.