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NCAA Tournament: Previewing Friday’s bracket action; picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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GAMES OF THE DAY

No. 7 Michigan (-2) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State, 12:15 p.m., CBS: I have a feeling that this is going to end up being the best game of the afternoon, and I don’t know if it will be all that close. Both the Wolverines and the Cowboys have a star point guard – Derrick Walton vs. Jawun Evans — and both teams love to put up points while seeming morally averse to playing any kind of defense. Great guard play + elite offenses + bad defenses = aesthetically-pleasing basketball.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma State (+2)

No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State (-6), 7:10 p.m., CBS: This is a fascinating matchup, not only because of what Wichita State went through with the Selection Committee — they were vastly underseeded — and not only because that negligence from the committee means that a No. 7 seed is a six-point underdog in the first round, but because of Indiana. Both Gregg Marshall and Archie Miller are elite coaches outside the college basketball power structure, and both would be in the mix to get the Indiana job with Tom Crean gone. Winner moves to Bloomington?

PREDICTION: Wichita State (-6)

No. 6 SMU (-6.5) vs. No. 11 USC, 3:10 p.m., truTV: There are two things about this game that make it really interesting: This is rematch of a game played earlier this season where UCLA won, a game that very likely got USC into the NCAA tournament, but perhaps more interesting is the fact that this is the first game that SMU, one of the trendy sleeper picks in this year’s bracket, will play in front of the nation.

PREDICTION: SMU (-6.5)

No. 8 Miami (-2) vs. No. 9 Michigan State, 9:20 p.m., TNT: This is another matchup that should be all kinds of fun, as the floor will be stocked with high-end athletic talent. Miami’s perimeter players are far better than you think, but I don’t know if any on Miami will be an answer to Miles Bridges when he gets going.

PREDICTION: Michigan State (+2)

UPSETS BREWING

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Rhode Island, 4:30 p.m., TBS: This is one of my two favorite upset picks of the first round. (Middle Tennessee State was the other.) Rhode Island is a really talented team that has been battling injuries but it finally getting healthy at the right time. Creighton is slightly overseeded because they got credit for things that they did before Mo Watson was injured.

PREDICTION: Rhode Island (even)

No. 6 Cincinnati (-3.5) vs. No. 11 Kansas State, 7:27 p.m., truTV: I actually think that Bruce Weber’s club matches up pretty well with Cincinnati, although I fully expect Mick Cronin to have his boys ready to play. Jacob Evans vs. Wesley Iwundu will decide this.

PREDICTION: Cincinnati (-3.5)

No. 7 South Carolina (-1.5) vs. No. 10 Marquette, 9:50 p.m., TBS: This is a fascinating clash of styles. South Carolina is one of the nation’s elite defenses but is physically incapable of scoring at times. Marquette is lethal offensively and couldn’t guard a streetlight.

PREDICTION: Marquette (+1.5)

BLUE BLOODS IN ACTION 

On Thursday, both Gonzaga and Villanova, as No. 1 seeds, were pushed in the first half before pulling away in sloppy games in the second half. On Friday, the tournament’s five blue-bloods — plus Louisville! — all square against teams seeded 14 or lower. Do any of them have a shot?

  • No. 1 North Carolina (-27) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern, 4:00 p.m., TNT: No. 1 seeds have struggled twice in this tournament. I don’t think UNC will. PREDICTION: UNC (-27)
  • No. 2 Duke (-20) vs. No. 15 Troy, 7:20 p.m., TBS: Duke landed three come-from-behind wins last week in the ACC tournament. Hopefully they won’t fall behind by 15 in this one. PREDICTION: Troy (+20)
  • No. 3 UCLA (-18.5) vs. No. 14 Kent State, 9:57 p.m., truTV: Which UCLA shows up here? The only that can put up 120 points on anyone, or the one that doesn’t want to play any defense? PREDICTION: UCLA (-18.5)
  • No. 2 Kentucky (-20) vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky, 9:40 p.m., CBS: I actually think NKU makes this into a slugfest, and I think they give Malik Monk some trouble. Kentucky wins, but NKU cover. PREDICTION: Northern Kentucky (+20)
  • No. 1 Kansas (-23.5) vs. No. 16 UC Davis, 6:50 p.m., TNT: It feels like the bigger story here is everything that is going on with Josh Jackson, whose name popped up in another legal incident on Thursday.
  • No. 2 Louisville (-19.5)vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State, 2:45 p.m., CBS: Ray Harper has had a ton of tournament success in his career. That run ends today. PREDICTION: Louisville (-19.5)

HOPEFULLY, IT’S CLOSE LATE

  • No. 3 Baylor (-12.5) vs. No. 14 New Mexico State, 12:40 p.m., truTV: New Mexico State is one of the best mid-major programs that you haven’t paid attention to. The Aggies went 28-5 this season. I don’t, however, think they have an answer for Johnathan Motley. PREDICTION: Baylor (-12.5)
  • No. 8 Arkansas (-1) vs. No. 9 Seton Hall, 1:30 p.m., TNT: This game should give us some fireworks as well, as Arkansas loves to press and run in transition while Seton Hall is loaded with athletes who are tough and play hard. It may not be pretty, but it will be exciting. PREDICTION: Seton Hall (+1)
  • No. 3 Oregon (-15) vs. No. 14 Iona, 2:00 p.m., TBS: We’re still waiting to see how Oregon is going to adjust to playing without Chris Boucher, and 15 points is a lot of points to cover for a team that may be trying to figure themselves out. PREDICTION: Iona (+15)

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.