Colleges

JOE SULLIVAN

Handicapping Friday’s NCAA games

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 5: Markis McDuffie #32 of the Wichita State Shockers drives againt MiKyle McIntosh #11 of the Illinois State Redbirds during the Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Tournament Championship game at the Scottrade Center on March 5, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty
Markis McDuffie (right) leads Wichita State against Dayton.

EAST REGION

at Greenville, S.C.

2. Duke (27-8) vs. 15. Troy (22-14), 7:20 p.m., TBS: Duke is now the formidable team it was projected to be in the preseason. The freshmen, most notably Jayson Tatum, have meshed with veterans like Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen. They’re going to be tough to stop. Troy’s best player is the well-bred Wesley Person, son of the former NBAer of the same name, and nephew of the Rifleman, Chuck Person.

7. South Carolina (22-10) vs. 10. Marquette (19-12), 9:50 p.m., TBS: The Gamecocks slumped near the end, losing six of their last nine, but they have a dynamic player in Sindarius Thornwell, a muscular presence in the paint at 6-5. Marquette, the best 3-point shooting team in the country, will live and die by that play.

at Tulsa, Okla.

3. Baylor (25-7) vs. 14. New Mexico State (28-5), 12:40 p.m. truTV: Baylor, ranked No. 1 at one point, was 5-5 in its last 10. Led by big man Johnathan Motley (17.3 ppg, 9.9 apg), the Bears are rugged inside. The Aggies will need smallish guard Ian Baker (16.6 ppg) to have a big game.

Advertisement

6. SMU (30-4) vs. 11. USC (25-9), 3:10 p.m., truTV: The Mustangs are on a 16-game winning streak and are a threat for a deep run. They are the most underrated team in the tournament. Semi Ojeleye, a transfer from Duke, is their best player. USC has a nice big-man tandem in Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu.

SOUTH REGION

at Greenville, S.C.

Get 2018 Winter Olympics in your inbox:
A daily newsletter of Globe features, photos, and analysis from PyeongChang, South Korea.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

8. Arkansas (25-9) vs. 9. Seton Hall (21-11), 1:30 p.m., TNT: A trio of experienced juniors — Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, and Desi Rodriguez — make the Hall a candidate to win a couple of games. First, they’ll have to deal with Arkansas’s fast-paced game under coach Mike Anderson.

1. North Carolina (27-7) vs. 16. Texas Southern (23-11), 4 p.m., TNT: The ACC regular-season champs have just about everything — great guard play led by Joel Berry, and a bunch of rugged big men led by Kennedy Meeks. They will compete for the title. Texas Southern coach Mike Davis has built a nice program that wins the SWAC every year, but the Tigers aren’t ready to pull off this upset.

at Indianapolis

7. Dayton (24-7) vs. 10. Wichita State (30-4), 7:10 p.m., CBS: This is the best game in the first round. Everyone except the selection committee thinks Wichita is a great team, much better than its seed. Vegas has Wichita favored by 6 points. The Shockers are defensive-minded and well-balanced on offense. Markis McDuffie, a player Boston College coveted, is the leading scorer. Dayton is well-coached by Archie Miller, has a great point guard in Scoochie Smith, but will have to be at its best to win.

2. Kentucky (29-5) vs. 15. Northern Kentucky (24-10), 9:40 p.m., CBS: This is not John Calipari’s best team, but the Wildcats have a great backcourt with De’Aaron Fox, the quickest player in the country, and Malik Monk, one of the most explosive offensively. This is Northern Kentucky’s first bid; the goal should be not to lose by 50.

at Sacramento

Advertisement

6. Cincinnati (29-5) vs. 11. Kansas State (21-13), 7:27 p.m. truTV: Cincy plays its usual tough defense (holding opponents to 38 percent shooting) but this might be coach Mick Cronin’s best offensive team (75 ppg). That’s a tough combination. K State is very inconsistent but when playing well is carried by balanced offense.

3. UCLA (29-4) vs. 14. Kent State (22-13), 9:57 p.m., truTV: UCLA is the best offensive team in the country, shooting 51.9 percent mostly because freshman sensation Lonzo Ball gets the ball to teammates in great position to score. Kent State is a poor shooting team that needs to make this a slow, halfcourt game.

MIDWEST REGION

at Indianapolis

7. Michigan (24-11) vs. 10. Oklahoma State (20-12), 12:15 p.m., CBS: Michigan’s Derrick Walton has emerged as a top-notch point guard; he leads the Wolverines in scoring (15.1) and assists (4.6) and has the ability to take over games. Okie State has its own excellent guard in Jawun Evans (19.0 ppg), who makes up with aggression what he surrenders in size.

2. Louisville (24-8) vs. 15. Jacksonville State (20-14), 2:45 p.m., CBS: Injuries have slowed Louisville, but its backcourt of Donovan Mitchell (15.7 ppg) and Quentin Snider (12.7) stacks up against anyone’s. Jax State won’t win, but coach Ray Harper is a winner; he has four national championships at other levels.

at Tulsa, Okla.

1. Kansas (28-4) vs. 16. UC Davis (23-12), 6:50 p.m., TNT: Kansas freshman forward Josh Jackson is back from suspension. Combine him with one of the best backcourts in the country — Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham — and you have a national championship contender. UC Davis can only hope it doesn’t get ugly.

Advertisement

8. Miami (21-11) vs. 9. Michigan State (19-14), 9:20 p.m., TNT: Don’t be fooled; this is not the type of Michigan State team you are used to seeing. Injuries have ruined the season, and even great coaching from Tom Izzo couldn’t make a big enough difference. The Spartans still do have a great freshman in Miles Bridges. Miami has been up and down but remains well-coached by Jim Larranaga and has Boston’s own Bruce Brown at forward.

at Sacramento

3. Oregon (29-5) vs. 14. Iona (22-12), 2 p.m., TBS: Oregon is missing center Chris Boucher, but the Ducks are an experienced bunch who advanced to the Elite Eight last year. The ultra-competitive Dillon Brooks could be the difference. Iona will try to win it from the 3-point line; the Gaels are ninth in the country in threes per game.

6. Creighton (25-9) vs. 11. Rhode Island (24-9), 4:30 p.m. TBS: Creighton is only 7-8 since point guard Maurice Watson tore his ACL. The Bluejays still have talent but the offense just isn’t the same. Rhody is riding an eight-game winning streak along with an A10 tournament championship. The Rams are poised to do well.

Joe Sullivan can be reached at joseph.sullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GloveSullivan