Did the Tar Heels just get jinxed in the NCAA Tournament?
At Columbus, Ohio
No. 10 Iowa vs. No. 7 Cincinnati
▪ 11:15 a.m. CST, CBS
▪ Of note: Big man Tyler Cook leads the Hawkeyes in scoring and rebounding and Iowa’s advantage should be inside. Cincinnati upset Houston to capture the American Athletic Conference tournament and gets to open play some 100 miles away in Columbus. Jarron Cumberland leads the Bearcats in scoring and assists.
▪ Line: Cincinnati by 3 1/2
▪ Prediction: Cincinnati 71-67.
No. 15 Colgate vs. No. 2 Tennessee
▪ 1:45 p.m CST, CBS
▪ Of note: Colgate has won 11 in a row on its way to school-record 24 victories. This is Colgate’s 119t season of basketball and the program’s first 20-victory season. Northwestern transfer Rapolas Ivanauskas is the Raiders’ scoring leader. Tennessee spent some time at No. 1 this season before and lost to Auburn twice in its past four games.
▪ Line: Tennessee by 17 1/2
▪ Prediction: Tennessee 80-60
At Columbia, S.C.
No. 9 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Mississippi
▪ 11:40 a.m. CST, truTV
▪ Of note: Neither team is on fire with the Rebels losing five of seven and the Sooners finishing 4-8. First year Mississippi Coach Kermit Davis knows how to win in March having led Middle Tennessee State to victories in 2016 and 2017. Oklahoma defends the rim well without a classic rim-protector, and the Rebels shoot 36 percent from three.
▪ Line: Mississippi by 1
▪ Prediction: Oklahoma 70-68
No. 16 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 1 Virginia
▪ 2:10 p.m. CST, truTV
▪ Of note: Gardner-Webb’s Runnin Bulldogs make their NCAA Tournament debut and are led by David Efianayi, who averages 18.4 points and often gets to the free throw line. No overlooking Gardner-Webb for Virginia, which became the first top-seeded team in NCAA Tournament history to lose its opener last season.
▪ Line: Virginia by 22
▪ Prediction: Virginia 81-67
At San Jose, Calif
No. 13 UC Irvine vs. No. 4 Kansas State
▪ 1 p.m. CST, TBS
▪ Of note: It appears the Wildcats will be without All-Big 12 forward Dean Wade for the second straight year because of injury. The Anteaters, making their second NCAA appearance, are one of five teams entering the tournament with 30 victories. Irvine, winners of 16 straight, is a deep team with nine players averaging at least 16 minutes.
▪ Line: Kansas State by 4 1/2
▪ Prediction: Kansas State 67-64
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Wisconsin
▪ 3:30 p.m. CST, TBS
▪ Of note: Any loss in the Pac-12 Tournament and the Ducks are unlikely in the NCAA. But they won four straight, walloping Washington in the final. Ethan Happ does it all, leading Wisconsin in scoring (17.5), rebounds (10.1), assists (4.6) and steals (1.1). He also blocks 1.3 shots per game.
▪ Line: Wisconsin by 2
▪ Prediction: Oregon 66-63
At Tulsa, Okla.
No. 14 Northern Kentucky vs. No. 3 Texas Tech
▪ 12:30 p.m. CST, TNT
▪ Of note: The Norse tied for the Horizon championship and survived the conference tournament. Big man Drew McDonald (19.1 ppg.) was named league player of the year. Texas Tech is one of nation’s top defense team with a potential NBA Draft lottery pick in Big 12 player of the year Jarrett Culver (18.5 ppg).
▪ Line: Texas Tech by 13
▪ Prediction: Texas Tech 70-56
No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 6 Buffalo
▪ 3 p.m. CST, TNT
▪ Of note: The Sun Devils defeated St. John’s in the First Four to collect their first NCAA Tournament victory in 10 years and turn their attention to the Bulls, who ripped through the Mid-American Conference. Buffalo gets 18.3 points per game from MAC player of the year CJ Massinburg.
▪ Line: Buffalo by 4 1/2
▪ Prediction: Buffalo 80-73
At San Jose, Calif.
No. 9 Washington vs. No. 8 Utah State
▪ 5:50 p.m. CST, TNT
▪ Of note: The Huskies are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Washington’s zone defense will look to slow down a Utah State team that averages 79.2 points per game. Junior guard Sam Merrill, the Mountain West player of the year, leads the Aggies with 21.1 points and it his 91 percent from the line.
▪ Line: Utah State by 3
▪ Prediction: Utah State 75-70
No. 16 Iona vs. No. 1 North Carolina
▪ 8:20 p.m. CST, TNT
▪ Of note: Guards E.J. Crawford and Rickey McGill lead the Gaels, who allow 75.6 points per game. That should play into the hands of offensive-minded North Carolina. The Tar Heels average 86.1 points per game, third in the nation and they’re the game’s top rebounding team at 43.6 boards per game.
▪ Line: North Carolina by 23
▪ Prediction: North Carolina 101-72
At Tulsa, Okla.
No. 14 Georgia State vs. No. 3 Houston
▪ 6:20 p.m. CST, TBS
▪ Of note: The Panthers know how to craft upsets. They knocked off Baylor as a No. 14 seed in 2015 and Wisconsin as a No. 11 seed in 2001. At 31-3, Houston is having one of the great seasons in the history of its proud program. The Cougars are led by senior guard Corey Davis, who averaged 17.6 points.
▪ Line: Houston by 12
▪ Prediction: Houston 73-63
No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Iowa State
▪ 8:50 p.m. CST, TBS
▪ Of note: The Cyclones roared through the Big 12 Tournament, reversing a late-season losing trend. The Buckeyes dropped their final three games of the regular season. Forward Kaleb Wesson leads Ohio State at 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. Points come from several sources for Iowa State, starting with Marial Shayok at 18.6 points per game.
▪ Line: Iowa State by 5 ½
▪ Prediction: Iowa State 75-73
At San Jose, Calif.
No. 12 Liberty vs. No. 5 Mississippi State
▪ 6:27 p.m. CST, truTV
▪ Of note: Liberty played two SEC teams this season, Vanderbilt and Alabama, and lost by nine points each time. The Flames own a school record 28 victories. Quinndary Weatherspoon leads the Bulldogs at 18.2 points. The Flames play with patience, ranking 342nd in possessions per game.
▪ Line: Mississippi State by 6 ½
▪ Prediction: Liberty 64-62
No. 13 Saint Louis vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech
▪ 8:57 p.m. CST, truTV
▪ Of note: Hokies point guard Justin Robinson has missed the past 12 games with a foot injury but has been cleared to play. Tech’s No. 4 seed is the highest in program history. Saint Louis ripped off four straight victories in the Atlantic-10 tournament.
▪ Line: Virginia Tech by 10 1/2
▪ Prediction: Virginia Tech 67-55
At Columbia, S.C.
No. 16 North Dakota State vs. No. 1 Duke
▪ 6:10 p.m. CST, CBS
▪ Of note: If this was a FCS championship game, go with the Bison who have won seven of the last of those football titles. Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and other Duke newcomers make their NCAA Tournament debut. All eyes will be on the Blue Devils’ perimeter shooting. They’re at 30.2 percent from beyond the arc.
▪ Line: Duke by 27
▪ Prediction: Duke 90-68
No. 9 Central Florida vs. No. 8 VCU
▪ 8:40 p.m. CST, CBS
▪ Of note: You won’t be able to take your eyes off 7-6 UCF center Tacko Fall, but the Knights are much more. Michigan transfer Aubrey Dawkins averages 15.2 points and hits 41.3 from beyond the arc. It looks like VCU point guard Marcus Evans will be back after suffering a knee injury in the Atlantic-10 Tournament.
▪ Line: Central Florida by 1
▪ Prediction: VCU 64-63