The NCAA Tournament is flying by far too quickly and is now down to 12 teams. But college basketball fans will still be able to savor a few juicy matchups in Friday’s action.
There are a few blue bloods and a Cinderella in action today, and some of the nation’s biggest stars will be on the court. But there are other players who were unknowns coming into March who have quickly made names for themselves.
But regardless of the way a player has attracted attention, all of the athletes listed below have been able to impact the outcomes of their last two games.
Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the page for all scheduling info and scores throughout the remainder of the tournament. Now, here are the matchups that will be crucial in Friday’s games.
No. 12 Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi vs. No. 1 Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng
When: 7:15 p.m. ET
Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng is a long, athletic big man who has not had much trouble establishing himself in the paint this season. He is averaging 10.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the floor.
However, Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi is also averaging 9.5 rebounds per game this season, and he has been an absolute monster on the glass in the tournament. In Oregon’s first two games, he has 33 total rebounds.
The Ducks senior stands just 6’7”, but his hustle down low is extraordinary. Dieng, who has only 10 rebounds in his two tournament games, will certainly have trouble controlling the point, even with a four-inch height advantage.
If Kazemi can win the battle of the boards by a comfortable margin, Oregon just may be able to stay close enough to pull off a shocking upset.
No. 4 Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. No. 1 Kansas’ Ben McLemore
When: 7:37 p.m. ET
Ben McLemore has proved that he can do it all in his freshman year. He has led Kansas in scoring while shooting 49.4 percent on his field-goal attempts and 41.6 percent from three-point range, and he has impressed on the defensive end of the floor.
But his defensive prowess will be tested against Michigan’s fast-paced and potent offense. His assignment will be Tim Hardaway Jr., who is an incredibly explosive athlete.
While Hardaway Jr. hasn’t been as efficient as McLemore, he is still putting up 14.9 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from the floor and 39.3 percent from long distance. In the tournament, he is 8-of-12 from three-point range.
However, Hardaway Jr. is at a disadvantage on the defensive end, and he will need to step up this part of his game to contain McLemore if Michigan hopes to win this game.
No. 3 Michigan State’s Gary Harris vs. No. 2 Duke’s Seth Curry
When: 9:45 p.m. ET
Experience will battle youth when Duke and Michigan State face off, as the key matchup in this game will be senior shooting guard Seth Curry against freshman shooting guard Gary Harris.
Each player is his team’s second-leading scorer, and they will likely be the X-factors in an extremely tight matchup. If either is able to have a big scoring night, it will swing the game in his team’s favor.
Physically, Harris has the advantage. He is taller, stronger and more athletic than Curry. But the Duke star has experience and skill on his side.
If Harris puts his head down and is able to consistently take Curry off the dribble and get to the rim, the Spartans will have an excellent shot to move on to the Elite Eight. But if Curry’s smooth jump shot falls often in this game, the Blue Devils will survive.
No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast’s Brett Comer vs. No. 3 Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin
When: 9:57 p.m. ET
Florida Gulf Coast’s Brett Comer has been the surprise star of this year’s tournament. He has frequented highlight reels with his lobs, and he has 24 assists in his last two games.
But Florida will feel confident about being able to slow down the high-flying Eagles by sticking Scottie Wilbekin on FGCU’s star sophomore point guard.
Wilbekin is one of the best defensive guards in the country, and Billy Donovan has consistently stuck him on the opponent’s best ball-handler. This will certainly be the case in the Gators’ Sweet 16 matchup.
If Wilbekin is able to keep Comer from finding his big men flying through the air, Florida Gulf Coast will not be able to build enough momentum to record another incredible upset.
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