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March Madness Crib Notes For Friday’s Games

After an upset-filled opening Thursday, the 2015 NCAA men’s tournament rolls on with 16 more games Friday. The marquee matchups of the day aren’t quite as strong as they were Thursday, but there are a few good 7-versus-10 games to keep an eye on, as well as an 8-versus-9 pairing (Oregon vs. Oklahoma State) pegged as a likely upset by our model and a compelling tossup between Providence and play-in winner Dayton.

Read on for more of what to look for in the NCAA tournament Friday.


South Regional

IN BRIEF

Game to watch: No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Davidson (a harmonic mean of 83.6) at 7:20 p.m. on TNT

Upset alert! No. 9 St. John’s (42 percent win probability) vs. No. 8 San Diego State at 9:40 p.m. on CBS

Most lopsided matchup: No. 1 Duke (98 percent) vs. No. 16 Robert Morris at 7:10 p.m. on CBS

IN DEPTH

Iowa (62 percent win probability) vs. Davidson

Player to watch: Aaron White, Iowa

Iowa has an experienced, balanced team with great size, and its dynamic front-court duo of Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff will be difficult for Davidson to match. It’s in the top 40 in both offense and defense, according to Ken Pomeroy, dean of college basketball stats.

For the Wildcats to win, they probably need to catch fire from the 3-point arc: During the season, Davidson ranked 16th among Division I schools in 3-point accuracy and ninth in the percentage of field-goal attempts devoted to 3-pointers. We give Iowa a 62 percent chance of moving on, but Davidson’s long-distance shooting prowess does give it a fighting chance at the upset. That and its apparent love of advanced basketball statistics.


West Regional

IN BRIEF

Game to watch: No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State (82.5) at 6:50 p.m. on TBS

Upset alert! No. 9 Oklahoma State (59 percent) vs. No. 8 Oregon

Most lopsided matchup: No. 1 Wisconsin (98 percent) vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina at 9:20 p.m. on TBS

IN DEPTH

Oregon vs. Oklahoma State (59 percent win probability)

Player to watch: Phil Forte, Oklahoma State

Oregon is the No. 8 seed, with a 25-9 record, but our model has 18-13 Oklahoma State favored, with a 59 percent probability of pulling the “upset.” Why? The Ducks are a small, one-dimensional team with a great offense but a vulnerable defense, while the Cowboys have greater balance, better size and the stronger backcourt combination with Phil Forte and Anthony Hickey. (Oklahoma State also played the tougher schedule during the season, which accounts for its superior power rating despite an inferior record.) Oregon’s chances, then, might depend on the play of big man Jordan Bell — a relative offensive non-entity but one of the nation’s top defensive players. His ability to block shots and shore up the Ducks’ interior defense could make him an equalizing force against the Cowboys.


Midwest Regional

IN BRIEF

Game to watch: No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 10 Indiana (84.6) at 2:45 p.m. on CBS

Upset alert! No. 12 Buffalo (32 percent) vs. No. 5 West Virginia at 2:10 p.m. on TNT

Most lopsided matchup: No. 2 Kansas (89 percent) vs. No. 15 New Mexico State at 12:15 p.m. on CBS

IN DEPTH

Wichita State (72 percent win probability) vs. Indiana

Player to watch: Fred VanVleet, Wichita State

A year removed from a magical, near-undefeated season, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has led the mid-major standard-bearers to a round-of-64 game against Indiana, thanks to an excellent, balanced team. Both teams are great at protecting the basketball (and Indiana is one of Division I’s worst defenses at forcing takeaways), so don’t expect this game to be decided by points off turnovers. Instead, the Hoosiers’ path to the upset would seem to involve — what else? — 3-point shooting, a skill in which they ranked 7th nationally during the season. But Indiana also has a very shaky defense that placed among the bottom half of all Division I schools, and it could prove the ultimate liability against a Wichita State squad that shoots and rebounds well on offense and hardly ever gives the ball away.


East Regional

IN BRIEF

Game to watch: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Georgia (84.4) at 12:40 p.m. on TruTV

Upset alert! No. 11 Dayton (49 percent) vs. No. 6 Providence at 9:57 p.m. on TruTV

Most lopsided matchup: No. 2 Virginia (96 percent) vs. No. 15 Belmont at 3:10 p.m. on TruTV

IN DEPTH

Michigan State (62 percent) vs. Georgia

Player to watch: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

We’ve written before about the incredible record of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who has led the Spartans to six Final Fours (and was about 16 minutes away from a seventh last March) starting from a collection of seeds unlikely to produce that many deep tourney runs. History may not repeat this year, though; Michigan State is a No. 7 seed (no Izzo Final Fours have come from a seed worse than 5th). Even Georgia is a tough draw — a matchup between the Spartans’ offense (15th-best, according to Pomeroy) and the Bulldogs’ defense (24th). Georgia’s style of play isn’t necessarily ideal for producing upsets, though — the team doesn’t shoot a lot of threes or force a lot of turnovers, which are some of the gambling hallmarks of strong underdog candidates. Still, Michigan State has its own Achilles’ heel: free throws. The Spartans were one of the worst foul-shooting teams in Division I, and it wouldn’t be surprising if that weakness becomes a real factor if the game comes down to the wire.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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