I've had a busy week dropping tax returns in mailboxes and arguing about Snoop videos, but I managed to carve out a little time to jinx the Canes on Friday night. Tom Izzo's microwave has proven to be a valuable asset for Jim Larranaga this week so expect the Canes to be well prepared.
(8) MIAMI -2 vs (9) Michigan State - 9:20pm
I love Miami's chances against Michigan State. The Spartans have lost three of the past four games and finished the year 19-14. Michigan State was 14-2 at home and just 5-12 on the road or at neutral sites. To contrast, Miami has also 14-2 at home, but was 7-9 elsewhere. Michigan State made the Final Four in 2015, but lost in a first round upset to 15-seed MTSU last season. The Spartans have two freshman scorers; big man Nick Ward and star Miles Bridges, a potential lottery pick this summer.
I like Miami's balance better on offense and with the emergence of Bruce Brown and the strong play of Kamari Murphy down the stretch, the Canes have four guys who can take over a game. Brown has played his best against the toughest opponents on Miami's schedule - averaging 25.5 ppg in two games against UNC and 20ppg in two games against Duke. Murphy has put up 10 or more points in six of his last ten games, after managing that just three times in the first few months of the season. Davon Reed has been a steady leader all year and he and Ja'Quan Newton bring valuable experience to the NCAA Tournament.
Miami has been the more consistent team and will be more poised under pressure. Michigan State is turnover prone and struggles from the free throw line. Look for the Canes to win by 5-10 points.
(7) MICHIGAN -2.5 vs (10) Oklahoma State - 12:15pm
Michigan is one of the hottest teams in the country, having just swept through the Big Ten tournament. Derrick Walton Jr. has been the biggest driver of his team's success and his experience gives Michigan an edge. Mo Wagner has improved dramatically this season and his size and skill will be difficult for OKST to handle inside. OKST's star guard Jawun Evans is fun to watch, but he won't get enough help on Friday. Michigan pulls away late.
(14) NEW MEXICO STATE +12.5 vs (3) Baylor - 12:40pm
Baylor is one of the most overrated 3-seeds in recent history. The Bears started the season on a huge winning streak, but went just 5-6 in February and March. Ian Baker is good enough to keep NMSU in this game. Baylor has lost in the first round the past two seasons, so expect some nerves early. Jonathan Motley will do just enough to earn the Bears a win, but it won't be easy.
(9) SETON HALL +1 vs (8) Arkansas - 1:30pm
Both teams finished the season strong, but I think Seton Hall is better on both ends of the floor. The Pirates are tougher inside, led by double-double machine Angel Delgado. Seton Hall also has two talented guard/wing defenders in Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez. Arkansas's leading scorer Dusty Hannahs will struggle. Expect the Hall to win by double digits.
(11) RHODE ISLAND pk vs (6) Creighton - 4:30pm
Creighton managed to play well in the Big East tournament, but without injured and suspended PG Maurice Watson Jr. the Bluejays aren't the same on offense. Creighton is just 7-8 in its last 15 games, where as Rhode Island has been been playing its best basketball of late, winning the A-10 tournament title last week. E.C. Matthews was 10-15 from 3 last week and scored 19ppg to lead the Rams. The odds indicate that seeding doesn't matter in this matchup. Don't be surprised if Rhode Island is actually favored by game time.
(6) CINCINNATI -3.5 vs (11) Kansas State - 7:30pm
After Kansas State's incredible offensive performance against Wake on Tuesday (25-31 on 2-point FG), I expect some mean reversion against Cincinnati, one of the best defensive teams in the nation. UC's Kyle Washington will prevent the easy baskets and Kansas State will be forced to rely more on making 3's, which isn't a strength for the Wildcats. Cincinnati won 29 games this season and will grind out another close one on Friday night.