Ranking Friday's 16 NCAA tournament games from must-see to don't bother

Yahoo Sports

The first day of the NCAA tournament lacked the dramatic finishes and seismic upsets the event typically produces.

Perhaps that means we’re in for a wild day two to make up for it.

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On Friday, CBS and Turner Sports will televise the 16 remaining first-round NCAA tournament games. Below is a ranking of all 16 from must-see to don’t bother watching until the final two minutes.

1. Wisconsin (5) vs. Oregon (12), 4:30 p.m, TBS

Buried in the middle of a dreadful Pac-12 for much of the season, Oregon caught fire the past few weeks, reeling off eight straight victories to claim the conference’s automatic bid. That helps explain why the Ducks are a popular pick against a Wisconsin team that is pretty good and has tormented them in NCAA tournaments past. The Badgers feature All-American candidate Ethan Happ, an array of shooters and one of the Big Ten’s best defenses.

2. Kansas State (4) vs. UC Irvine (13), 2 p.m., TBS

Kansas State has won without injured forward Dean Wade in the NCAA tournament before, but this matchup could be one where his absence is especially damaging. Few teams do a better job of defending the rim than UC Irvine. An already poor-shooting Kansas State team gets even worse without Wade to rain down threes and draw opposing big men away from the basket.

3. Virginia (1) vs. Gardner-Webb (16), 3:10 p.m., truTV

One year after becoming the first No. 1 seed ever to fall at the hands of a No. 16, Virginia opens this year’s NCAA tournament with a modest goal: Try not to allow history to repeat itself. The Cavaliers should carve up Gardner-Webb’s defense thanks to the playmaking of Ty Jerome, the catch-and-shoot wizardry of Kyle Guy and the face-up skill of De’Andre Hunter, but what if the Bulldogs take an early lead? Perhaps history weighs on Virginia, and this gets interesting.

4. Iowa State (6) vs. Ohio State (11), 9:50 p.m., TBS

Whereas Chris Holtmann squeezed the most out of this pedestrian Ohio State roster to get the Buckeyes to the NCAA tournament, Steve Prohm’s team performed to its capabilities in fits and starts. The Cyclones roared into Big 12 title contention in January, faded badly over the final month of the regular season, then regained their mojo in the Big 12 tournament. At its best Iowa State probably wins this game, but which Cyclones team will we see?

5. Mississippi State (5) vs. Liberty (12), 7:27 p.m., truTV

Mississippi State has made steady progress under Ben Howland, leaping from the bottom half of the SEC his first two seasons, to a deep NIT run last year, to a long-awaited return to the NCAA tournament this March. The next challenge is winning a NCAA tournament game, no easy task given the opposition. Liberty is mid-major Virginia, an efficient team that prefers to play at a molasses pace. The Flames won at UCLA in December, so they won’t be intimidated.

MADISON, WISCONSIN - MARCH 02: Ethan Happ #22 and Khalil Iverson #21 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a turnover by the Penn State Nittany Lions during a game at Kohl Center on March 02, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MADISON, WISCONSIN - MARCH 02: Ethan Happ #22 and Khalil Iverson #21 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a turnover by the Penn State Nittany Lions during a game at Kohl Center on March 02, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

6. Buffalo (6) vs. Arizona State (11), 4 p.m., TNT

Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley spoke on the emotional challenge of facing Buffalo, the program he and current Bulls coach Nate Oats built into a mid-major power. “Nate and I were on the road recruiting. We hoped we're in the same city so we could get together. We speak frequently and we root for each other. So, anytime you have to go against that team, it's not the greatest scenario but then as a coach you think about all the work you put in and how hard your players work ...to be in this tournament. Once you're here, everything goes out the window and you're just trying to compete like heck to advance”

7. VCU (8) vs. UCF (9), 9:40 p.m., CBS

The presence of 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall should provide plenty of intrigue for viewers and plenty of issues for VCU. The Rams are among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country. They need to get to the rim to score, especially with Marcus Evans’ health in doubt. That’s not easy against UCF, which ranks among the best in the nation at altering shots around the rim thanks largely due to the presence of Fall.

8. Utah State (8) vs. Washington (9), 6:50 p.m., TNT

Even though Washington slumped over the final few weeks of the season and lacks any true marquee wins, the Huskies’ 2-3 zone anchored by disruptive Matisse Thybulle ensures they will not be an easy out. Utah State surged late in the season behind the play of Sam Merrill, but the Aggies have not seen much zone all season, nor are they an elite outside shooting team.

9. Duke (1) vs. North Dakota State (16), 7:10 p.m., CBS

If you’re curious to see what it looks like when Zion Williamson squares off against some guys who probably will be going pro in something other than basketball soon, this is the game for you. Duke can probably name its final score, but there could be some fun highlights along the way.

10. Cincinnati (7) vs. Iowa (10), 12:15 p.m. CBS

Cincinnati may not have been thrilled with receiving a No. 7 seed despite winning the American Athletic Conference tournament, but the Bearcats at least received a favorable first-round draw. Iowa does not appear capable of a deep NCAA tournament run after dropping six of its final eight games to end the season. The only two teams the Hawkeyes have beaten recently are Illinois and Indiana.

11. Virginia Tech (4) vs. Saint Louis (13), 9:57 p.m., truTV

How healthy Justin Robinson looks is the primary intrigue here. Virginia Tech was a borderline top-10 team with its starting point guard but went a more pedestrian 7-5 without him. The Hokies will need Robinson to contribute to beat a Saint Louis team that was picked to win the Atlantic 10 before the season, stumbled in league play and then re-emerged during the conference tournament. Between Hasahn French, Jordan Goodwin and Javon Bess, the Billikens have the talent to match up in this game.

12. Ole Miss (8) vs. Oklahoma (9), 12:40 p.m., truTV

Picked to finish at the bottom of the SEC this season, Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis instead led the Rebels to a surprise NCAA tournament bid. Guards Breein Tyree and Terence Davis formed one of the SEC’s better backcourts and should give Ole Miss a perimeter edge in this game against an Oklahoma team that went 7-11 in the Big 12 and has lacked consistency.

13. Texas Tech (3) vs. Northern Kentucky (14), 1:30 p.m., TNT

In the past three seasons, Northern Kentucky has captured a pair of league titles, advanced to two NCAA tournaments and played in the NIT. Only a postseason victory could make that run any sweeter, especially against a team the caliber of Texas Tech. The Big 12 co-champs have been an elite defensive team all season and have made great strides on offense thanks to the emergence of a supporting cast for sophomore Jarrett Culver.

14. Houston (3) vs. Georgia State (14), 7:20 p.m., TBS

Ron Hunter is back in the NCAA tournament for the second time since his son helped engineer an upset of third-seeded Baylor. The Panthers will face a Houston team in the midst of its finest season since the Phi Slama Jama Days.

15. Tennessee (2) vs. Colgate (15), 2:45 p.m., CBS

Colgate played three top-100 opponents all season. Never did the Raiders come within double figures. That doesn’t bode well against Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and a Tennessee team that should be motivated coming off an SEC title-game loss.

16. North Carolina (1) vs. Iona (16), 9:20 p.m., TNT

No game has more blowout potential than Duke-North Dakota State, but this one is close. Iona, while not as fast-paced as years past, still likes to run. That’s a formula for getting your brains beat in as a No. 16 seed facing North Carolina.

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