A preview of Friday’s NCAA Tournament games

Providence's Kyron Cartwright (24) drives past Xavier's Paul Scruggs (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Big East men's tournament semifinals Friday, March 9, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
frank franklin II/AP
Xavier and Providence are both in action in the West Region.

A look at Friday’s first-round games:


at San Diego

5. West Virginia (24-10) vs. 12. Murray State (26-5), 4 p.m., TNT: The Mountaineers win with extreme effort and an unrelenting defense that features one of the best shot blockers in the country, Sagaba Konate. Murray State is a quality opponent led by guard Jonathan Stark (21.8 ppg), but I’m not sure the Racers can withstand the pressure for 40 minutes.

4. Wichita State (25-7) vs. 13. Marshall (24-10), 1:30 p.m., TNT: The Shockers have great personnel but fell short of expectations, mostly because of a leaky defense. The tournament is their chance for redemption, and they shouldn’t have a problem with Marshall. The high-scoring Thundering Herd have two players, Jon Elmore (22.8 ppg) and C.J. Burks (20.5), who can light it up.

at Detroit


7. Arkansas (23-11) vs. 10. Butler (20-13), 3:10 p.m., truTV: Arkansas coach Mike Anderson says his team is built for the tournament. The Hogs will need to click with their full-court pressure and get a bunch of 3-pointers from Jaylen Barford. Butler will need a consistent performance from forward Kelan Martin (20.8 ppg).

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2. Purdue (28-6) vs. 15. Fullerton State (20-11), 12:40 p.m., truTV: The poor Titans have an early tipoff after coming from the West Coast. That can’t help, but they’re also overmatched by a veteran Purdue team that has good players at every position.


at San Diego

5. Clemson (23-9) vs. 12. New Mexico State (28-5), 9:57 p.m., truTV: Clemson has had a great season; coach Brad Brownell has forged a balanced offensive team with good defense. This is a tough matchup. New Mexico State plays in the WAC against opponents most people are not familiar with, but the Aggies are good, led by guard Zach Lofton (19.8 ppg) and 6-5 rebounding machine Jemerrio Jones (second in the nation at 13.2 rpg). Upset alert.

4. Auburn (25-7) vs. 13. Charleston (26-7), 7:27 p.m., truTV: Auburn looks to be going the wrong way after a great regular season. The Tigers have lost four of their last six, getting crushed by Alabama in the SEC tournament. Charleston is methodical and defensive-minded; if it can turn this into a slow-paced game, an upset is possible.

at Detroit

6. TCU (21-11) vs. 11. Syracuse (21-13), 9:40 p.m., CBS. TCU’s talent will not jump off the TV screen at you, but the Frogs are well-coached and intense. They have to figure out how to deal with Syracuse’s confounding zone defense. The Orange tied Arizona State in knots in the First Four. TCU needs a cohesive plan on how to attack it.


3. Michigan State (29-4) vs. 14. Bucknell (25-9), 7:10 p.m., CBS: Sparty won the Big Ten, but I can’t help but see flaws. On the other hand, they have gotten a great draw. They should advance easily to the Sweet 16. Bucknell is experienced and smart, but the Bison actually haven’t had the season everyone expected from them.


at Charlotte, N.C.

1. Virginia (31-2) vs. 16. Maryland Baltimore County (24-10), 9:20 p.m., TNT: Virginia lost a critical player in sixth man De’Andre Hunter, who provides offense for a team that can lack it. Defense is what wins games for Virginia, mostly. The Cavs won’t miss him in this game but they could later.

8. Creighton (21-11) vs. 9. Kansas State (22-11), 6:50 p.m., TNT: It will be denied, but this is a bad-blood game. Marcus Foster, Creighton’s leading scorer, was thrown off the team at K-State by coach Bruce Weber, then transferred. Now they face each other in what should be an intense, close game.

at Nashville

7. Nevada (27-7) vs. 10. Texas (19-14), 4:30 p.m., TBS: Nevada is seriously hurting with injuries to four starters, three of whom will still play despite the pain. The Wolfpack will have their hands full with Texas, which features future NBA lottery pick Mo Bamba, a 6-11 physical specimen.

2. Cincinnati (30-4) vs. 15. Georgia State (24-10), 2 p.m., TBS: Cincinnati is statistically the second-best defensive team in the country, but the Bearcats are more than that. They overwhelm opponents with a physical style that eventually wears teams down. It probably will happen sooner rather than later for Georgia State.


at Nashville


1. Xavier (28-5) vs. 16. Texas Southern (16-19), 7:20 p.m., TBS: X, the Big East champion, isn’t regarded as the best team in its league, so the Musketeers have a chip on their shoulders. X guard Trevon Bluiett (19.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) has had an All-America season. Southern has former UMass player Donte Clark but not enough to compete.

8. Missouri (20-12) vs. 9. Florida State (20-11), 9:50 p.m., TBS: Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. was regarded as the best freshman in the country before the season but he hurt his back. He surprisingly returned for the SEC tournament. (This will be his third game.) He’s a projected lottery pick, so here’s his chance to salvage a season in just a handful of games. But he’s up against a tough defensive coach in Leonard Hamilton, which may prove frustrating.

at Charlotte, N.C.

7. Texas A&M (20-12) vs. 10. Providence (21-13), 12:15 p.m., CBS: A&M has barely survived in a season wracked by suspensions, injuries, and lack of intensity. Now the Aggies face a really intense team. Few teams play as hard as the Friars, who took Villanova to overtime in the Big East tournament final.

2. North Carolina (25-10) vs. 15. Lipscomb (23-9), 2:45 p.m., CBS: If Lipscomb plays the way it did in the first half of the Big South final, the Bisons are going to go to the Final Four. OK, that won’t happen; they’re playing UNC, not Florida Gulf Coast. But the Bisons have enough talent to make this interesting for at least part of the game. In short, the Heels had better be paying attention.


Joe Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan