Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:05 AM
Friday - Session 3
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South Region – Charlotte – Spectrum Arena
#9 Kansas State vs. #8 Creighton (-1, 144) – 6:50 PM EST – TNT
The Blue Jays can count on a motivated senior leader in Marcus Foster, who started his career at Kansas State under head coach Bruce Weber and looked like the next Mitch Richmond as a freshman in Manhattan. He didn't make it through his sophomore season
Kicked off the team for a violation of rules, Foster ended up transferring to Creighton, where he could be playing the final game of his college career if things don't go well against the Wildcats. No one involved disputes that Foster wasn't immature. He wasn't picked on or blind-sided, but that doesn't change the fact that he'll be getting an opportunity for a little revenge. Both have said all the right things this week and will likely have a nice exchange at some point, but for the 40 minutes the Blue Jays are on the floor, everything Foster does will carry traces of "I told you so".
Foster leads Creighton with a 20.3 points-per-game average and gets plenty of help from Khyri Thomas, another likely pro who comes off a disappointing 8-point effort in the Big East Tournament loss to Providence, snapping an 11-game run of scoring in double-digits. He averaged 18 points per game in that span, so Creighton will need him to rebound.
Foster has shot poorly in a pair of NCAA Tournament losses, shooting a combined 13-for-37, including 2-for-14 on 3-pointers. His teams have gone 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament. A date with top-ranked Virginia awaits Friday's survivor.
The Blue Jays have slumped of late, dropping four of their last six games. They'll be looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Power forward Dean Wade led the Wildcats in scoring this season, but missed the team's Big 12 Tournament exit with a stress fracture of his foot that is expected to hinder him in this one. He's a game-time decision, but won't be at 100 percent if he suits up as expected.
K-State junior guard Barry Brown left the Big 12 Tourney loss to in-state rival Kansas after a severe poke to the eye drew blood a few minutes in, but he's been practicing and should be good to go without limitations.
An x-factor to watch for K-State is 6-foot-9 sophomore Makol Mawien, who tried to pick up his team without Wade by scoring 29 points. He shot 19-for-26 in the Big 12 Tournament and has scored in double-figures three straight games, something he hadn't done all season.
If Wade can play well and Mawien continues his surge, Creighton could be ill-equipped to handle the Wildcats over the course of a full game, having lost top rebounder Martin Krampelj to a torn ACL back in January.
Kansas State has gone 11-7 ATS since Jan. 10. In 2018, the under has prevailed in 13 of 20 Wildcats' games. The low-side is 10-7 in Creighton contests since Dec. 31.
Midwest Region – Detroit – Little Caesar's Arena
#14 Bucknell vs. #3 Michigan State (-14.5, 148) – 7:10 PM EST – CBS
It's been a strange and often trying season for Michigan State, which has been ranked among the nation's elite teams and won the Big Ten regular season title, setting a school record with 29 regular-season wins. Sparty bowed out in disappointing fashion against rival Michigan, so we'll see how they respond.
It won't be their first dose of adversity. The U.S. gymnastics scandal threatened to scar the program by shedding light on past transgressions once again, forcing Tom Izzo to address some difficult questions. At one point, he actually had to come out and say that he had no plans to step down.
On the floor, Izzo has been blessed with a pair of likely NBA lottery picks in sophomore Miles Bridges and freshman Jaren Jackson, Jr. Both are versatile, dynamic athletes that make the MSU frontcourt arguably the nation's most talented.
It's hard to imagine a Patriot League being able to adequately match up with such special talents, but Bucknell is up to the challenge and has the personnel to give it an honest shot. Center Nana Foulland has been the best big man in his conference for years. Forward Zach Thomas averages over 20 points and nine rebounds, leading the league in both categories. He seemingly always makes the right play and has been starting games for four seasons.
Bucknell reached the NIT in the first two seasons featuring this year's senior class, so nobody was around for the C.J. McCollum-led upset of Duke back in 2012, but most everyone was around for last year's thrilling game against West Virginia that resulted in an 86-80 loss exactly one year ago on March 16.
Bison guards Stephen Brown and Kimbal McKenzie combined to score 41 points in the loss to the Mountaineers, shooting 8-for-14 from 3-point range. If Bucknell has any shot at an upset, both will have to be a factor.
Making matters most challenging for the Patriot League champs will be the venue, since the Spartans will undoubtedly benefit from being placed in Detroit's new downtown Little Caesar's Arena, removing the possibility of fans adopting the underdog mid-game. Rival Michigan won in Wichita on Thursday, so even those faithful to the Maize and Blue won't be a factor.
This will only be the second meeting ever between these schools, who squared off in Nov. 2003. Michigan State won at home 64-52.
Bucknell will have to handle Michigan State's size without the assistance of suspended forward Bruce Moore, who started 22 games but has been shelved for violating team rules.
Michigan State leads the nation in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 36.6 percent. The Spartans are also tops in assists (19.3) and blocked shots (7.4).
Oddsmakers have taken advantage of Michigan State's superiority and brand by putting point spreads just out of reach. Despite a 14-3 overall record, Izzo's squad is just 4-11-2 against the number in that span. Six of MSU's last seven games have gone under. Bucknell is 5-5 ATS in games that have been included on the board.
West Region – Nashville – Bridgestone Arena
#16 Texas Southern vs. #1 Xavier (-19.5, 160) – 7:20 PM EST – TBS
The Musketeers are generally considered the weakest of the No. 1 seeds, so if there's ever a time that a 16 is going to make history and pull off an upset, this could be it. Texas Southern is coached by veteran former Bob Knight protege Mike Davis, who has taken Indiana, UAB and now Texas Southern dancing. He's 7-8 in this event, although most of the wins came in the run to the 2002 National Championship game.
Davis has taken the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in four of the last five years, but finally got over the hump and won a game on Wednesday in convincing fashion, crushing MEAC champ NC Central 64-46. Texas Southern finished second in the SWAC regular-season standings but won all three conference tourney games by double-digits and takes an eight-game winning streak into this contest.
Texas Southern rather famously went 0-13 to start the season, but that's another reason they could be worth taking seriously here. Not only have they proven resilient, but Davis' strategy of challenging the likes of Gonzaga, Ohio State, Syracuse Kansas, Clemson, Oregon, Baylor, TCU and BYU toughened his team and prepared them for this since they often went from one city to the next, playing one guarantee game after another.
Junior 7-footer Trayvon Reed, an Auburn transfer, nearly averaged a double-double and blocked three shots per game, so the Tigers could have a difference-maker in the paint at both ends of the floor if he's able to avoid foul trouble.
TSU's best players are guards Demontrae Jefferson and Donte Clark, who combine to average over 42 points per game. Jefferson, a 5-foot-7, 150-pounder who plays much bigger than his size, averaged 4.5 3-point makes in 10 attempts per game. He scored 25 points on Wednesday. Clark played his first three seasons at UMass, starting 75 times.
Xavier was eliminated from the Big East Tournament in the semifinals against Providence, losing in OT. The Muskies won 13 of 15 down the stretch but were swept by the other top seed out of the Big East, Villanova.
Despite a storied basketball history over the past few decades, this is the first time Xavier has been awarded a No. 1 seed. In Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Kerem Kanter, the Musketeers' top three scorers are all seniors who can do a number of things, including stretch out a defense from beyond the arc.
Texas Southern held NC Central to 0-for-14 shooting from 3-point range to overcome its own putrid shooting night in Dayton (21-for-73, 29 percent)
Midwest Region – San Diego – Viejas Arena
#13 College of Charleston vs. #6 Auburn (-9 ½, 148) – 7:25 PM EST – truTV
Despite off-the-court controversy and attrition issues involving the program's top big men, Bruce Pearl's Tigers managed to win the SEC convincingly during the regular season, which was no small feat given how loaded the league was this season. They won 14 straight at one point, but have stumbled down the stretch since their lack of depth has been magnified.
The College of Charleston is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 19 years after rallying from 17 points down in the Colonial title game against well-coached Northeastern.
Auburn was unable to get the top big men in the program, Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy, eligible to play due to amateurism issues. Anfernee McLemore, a superior athlete who plays much bigger than his size and was invaluable as a glue guy, tore his ACL in February.
The Tigers went 2-4 down the stretch, covering only one of those six games and bowing out of the SEC Tournament in embarrassing fashion, falling to rival Alabama 81-63.
In point guard Jared Harper, shooting guard Bryce Brown and wing Mustapha Heron, the Tigers still have a formidable three-headed monster that plays with pace and pushes tempo whenever possible. If they have success turning teams over, the Tigers can bury you in a hurry.
It will be up to senior point guard Joe Chealey to help handle the pressure. He's certainly capable, coming in as one of the most reliable mid-major guards in the country. Backcourt mates Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley should give Auburn's arsenal a run for their money.
In a perfect world, the College of Charleston will be able to take Auburn out of its comfort zone by slowing tempo and limiting turnovers. Like the Tigers, the Cougars are light on depth.
The schools haven't played since 2012 at the Charleston Classic. Auburn has won all three previous meetings.
The College of Charleston have won 14 of 15 games outright, but are just 8-7 ATS in that stretch. The Cougars played just two teams from the nation's top 10 conferences, losing to Wichita State and Rhode Island.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA