The first round of the NCAA Tournament continues on Friday, and here are the four top games of a loaded schedule, including two intriguing 8-9 matchups. The eighth seed has won just over 51% of those games.
(11) Nebraska vs. (6) Baylor – West, 12:40 PM ET
Odds: Baylor -3.5
Both of these teams struggled at one point in the season, but they came together at the right time with the Cornhuskers winning eight of their last 10, while Baylor has won six of their last seven. The Bears have superior numbers offensively, but Nebraska can harass you on the other side of the ball and they are gritty and tough, like most Big Ten teams so it will be an interesting contrast in styles. These two know each other well as Nebraska used to be in the Big 12, and Baylor won four of five between 2008 and 2011. The Bears are favored by 3.5 points.
(9) Oklahoma State vs. (8) Gonzaga – West, 4:40 PM ET
Odds: Oklahoma State -3
The Cowboys were a mess for the last part of January and February, and the lowlight was Marcus Smart’s suspension for pushing an abusive fan. But they recovered down the stretch and Smart is still one of the best players in the country and sometimes, that can push you over the edge. Gonzaga won five in a row to end the season and beat BYU to win the West Coast tournament, and they are no longer the mid-major that could; this program can compete with anyone in the country. These two have met five times since 2004, and the Bulldogs have won all five meetings, but OSU is favored by three on the college basketball betting lines.
(11) Providence vs. (6) North Carolina – East, 7:20 PM ET
Odds: UNC -4
The Tar Heels are an enigma as they seem to raise their game against top-level competition, winning five games against ranked opponents. Marcus Paige emerged as one of the best guards in the country, but if he isn’t getting it going, UNC can have scoring troubles. The Friars went through the regular season quietly, then won the Big East tournament and they may have a chip on their shoulder due to their low seed, so they are a dangerous four-point underdog college basketball odds.
(9) Kansas State vs. (8) Kentucky – South, 9:40 PM ET
Odds: Kentucky -6.5
No team in the country fell further than Kentucky, who started out as the preseason #1, but that was an unfair ranking to a team full of freshmen. The play of the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, is crucial, but the Wildcats need to ride Julius Randle to the Promised Land; this kid is a surefire top-five pick in the draft. Kansas State have lost four of their last six coming into the Tournament and they are a hard-nosed team that is going to try and get into the heads of this young UK squad. Kentucky won this battle of the Wildcats back in 2008 by a score of 74-72, and they are favored by 6.5 points on Friday.