9 Things to Watch on Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament
The second act of the moment you have been waiting for all college basketball season will be upon us Friday as the second group of 16 games in the first round will be played.
Here are the nine things to watch as you enjoy the second day of the tournament.
1. Will Michigan-Oklahoma State be the Highest-Scoring Game of the First Round?
Both Michigan and Oklahoma State boast top-10 offenses, per our numbers, and have the individual firepower to score in a hurry. To help the offensive proceedings, neither are particularly good at stopping opponents from scoring, with Michigan ranking 160th in defensive rating, while Oklahoma State ranks 272nd. Lead by sophomore guard Juwan Evans, it will be up to the Cowboys to speed up Michigan, who typically plays a slower pace. Given the efficiency of these offenses, if this game becomes a track meet, both teams have shown the ability to score 85-plus points.
2. Can Baylor End Their Recent Tournament Struggles?
Baylor coach Scott Drew has lead the program to the NCAA Tournament for a record fourth straight season. However, the Bears have been lacking postseason success of late. Even though they have managed to secure quality seeds in the big dance, Baylor has exited the tournament in the first round in each of the past two seasons, and they have done so in very tough fashion. Following the 2015 loss to 14 seed Georgia State, where they were beat on a buzzer beating three, the Bears lost to 12 seed Yale last season when their comeback effort came up just short.
This year, again as a 3 seed, Baylor has drawn New Mexico State in the first round. The Aggies went 28-5 and made their way out of the WAC by beating favorite Cal State Bakersfield for the second time in three tries this season.
3. How Will Oregon Respond After the Season-Ending Injury to Chris Boucher?
Oregon found out Saturday that they lost senior forward Chris Boucher for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. They turned around that night and lost a close game to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game. Boucher is the Ducks' third leading scorer this season, and he leads the team in blocks. Without him, Oregon takes the short trip down to Sacramento to see if they can make a run through the tournament.
This march starts against an Iona team who has reached the tournament for the second straight season by way of the MAAC automatic bid. Oregon will do well to turn their focus on senior forward Jordan Washington, who leads the country in usage rate at 39.3 percent and paces Iona in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage.
4. Can SMU and Cincinnati Follow up Their Conference Domination With Tournament Wins?
There was no question that SMU and Cincinnati owned the American Athletic Conference this year, combining for 33 wins and meeting in the AAC title game last Sunday. Now, as they embark on similar journeys as 6 seeds in the tournament, both teams will need to stave off upset bids from First Four opponents.
Cincinnati is looking to get the bad taste out of their mouth from last year's devastating exit against Saint Joseph's and get back to their first Sweet 16 since 2012, while SMU is trying to claim their first tournament win since 1988.
5. Will a First Four Team Score an Upset for the 7th Straight Year?
Since the inception of the First Four games in 2011, one of the winning teams has upset their next opponent in each big dance.
The first team that will get a shot to do this is USC when they take on SMU in a rematch of a game Southern Cal won at home in late November. Later Friday, Kansas State will get a shot at Cincinnati after they looked unstoppable offensively in a 95-88 win over Wake Forest on Tuesday, hitting 66 percent of their shots from the field.
6. Can Rhode Island Stay Hot and Make a Serious Run?
Rhode Island started the season in the Associated Press top 25, but they were not able to sustain the ranking after a bit of a tough early non-conference schedule. The Rams have bounced back, winning 12 of their last 14 to close the year, including an A-10 tournament championship that likely kept them from playing in the First Four.
Now that Rhode Island is in the tournament for the first time since 1999, the Rams have been tasked with taking down 6 seed Creighton, who has been without senior guard Mo Watson for the second half of the season. The Bluejays are 7-8 since the injury after an 18-1 start and top 10 AP ranking.
7. Will Wichita State Prove They Were Underseeded?
Wichita State was once again a subject of conversation on Selection Sunday. Several computer rankings, including ours, love the Shockers, ranking them as one of the 10 best teams in the country, but their resume didn't receive much credit. After a 30-4 campaign that included only three RPI-top-100 wins, the Shockers were announced as a 10 seed, much to the chagrin of the teams around them in the South Region.
Wichita State opens with a Dayton squad that is looking to avoid the same fate they were dealt last year when they lost early in the A-10 tournament and got bounced in the first round as a 7 seed. The Flyers do get the benefit of playing in Indianapolis, only 105 miles from home.
8. Can South Carolina's Defense Slow Down Marquette's Three-Point Attack?
Another lower seeded team that gets a break, as far as travel is concerned, is South Carolina, who gets to play 100 miles from campus in their home state. Where the Gamecocks did not catch a break from the selection committee is being paired up with Marquette.
The Golden Eagles lead the nation in three-point shooting percentage, connecting on 43 percent of their attempts from downtown. This will be a serious test to South Carolina. However, there are few teams more equipped than the Gamecocks to slow down such an attack. South Carolina ranks fourth amongst tournament teams in three-point percentage defense, only allowing opponents to shoot 29 percent from deep.
9. Will UCLA Score the Most Points of Any Team in the First Round?
The nation's leader in offensive rating and probably the most fun team to watch in the tournament will be the last to get started in the tournament. UCLA has put on an offensive display this season that has many impressed with the Bruins, but it leaves others wondering if there (lack of) defense will stop them from making a deep run in the tournament.
For now, they will be focusing on 14 seed Kent State, who will be tasked with slowing down the most potent offense in college basketball -- one with four players, Thomas Welsh, TJ Leaf, Lonzo Ball, and Bryce Alford, who rank in the top 20 of the country in offensive rating. The Bruins average 90.4 points per game and have eclipsed the 100-point mark nine times this season.