Daily Word: A look at Friday's action
Every day, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Kentucky has been impossible to predict all season. That's not stopping us. What do you expect from the Wildcats?
Andy Katz: The Kentucky team that finished the game on Sunday is the one I expect to show up against Kansas State. Julius Randle can still be the most dominant player in Friday's game. If Kentucky doesn't advance, then that will be remembered more than anything else about this season.
Eamonn Brennan: Based on recent play -- Kentucky was genuinely good in that second half against Florida, and the Wildcats looked more cohesive and connected than they ever have this season -- it's reasonable to expect a really impressive second-round performance. On the other hand, I have no clue. A 10-point loss seems just as likely as a 20-point win.
Myron Medcalf: The Wildcats are still impossible to peg. But they've managed to become one of the best 30- or 35-minute basketball teams in America. Kentucky can play with anyone over that span of time. The Cats are still crumbling late, though. And that's what I expect to happen against Kansas State -- a late collapse in a win for Bruce Weber's program.
2. What conference will walk away from Friday feeling good about itself?
Katz: The ACC. The Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Cavaliers and North Carolina Tar Heels should all advance and give the league a shot at having at least three teams in the Sweet 16. Pitt's dominance of Colorado might have been the most surprising result for the conference.
Brennan: If good Kentucky makes an appearance, as most seem to expect, then the SEC could look pretty good by the end of the day. Saying as much implies a Tennessee win over UMass, which seems like a fair enough prediction to me. At some level, the SEC shouldn't feel good about much of anything, because it got just three teams into the field (and barely at that). But if all three teams stick around for a while, hey, that's something.
Medcalf: Probably the Big 12. Five of its seven reps will compete in winnable matchups Friday. No guarantees of 5-0 with Kansas State-Kentucky, Baylor-Nebraska and Oklahoma State-Gonzaga on the slate. But I think the Big 12 will win those games and have a great day Friday.
3. Is there a big upset lurking out there in Raleigh, San Antonio, St. Louis or San Diego?
Katz: I don't see a major upset but there will be seed upsets. Nebraska can easily knock off Baylor. Stanford, Providence and New Mexico State are all double-digit seeds capable of winning, but if it weren't the NCAA tournament, no one would be shocked by those results.
Brennan: I've got my eye on a handful of Friday upsets. Providence over UNC, Stephen F. Austin over VCU and -- this is the craziest one -- N.C. Central over Iowa State. If there is a more dangerous 14-seed in the field, I can't find it.
Medcalf: In San Diego, Virginia Commonwealth will face a very confident Stephen F. Austin team that has won 28 consecutive games and crashes the offensive glass better than most teams in the field. Plus, Melvin Johnson (10.4 PPG) is doubtful for VCU. The Rams didn't have him when they lost to Saint Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 tournament. He's important to the program. This has the makings of a possible upset.
The Latest Dish
New Mexico won 27 games somewhat quietly in the midst of a down season for the Mountain West Conference, leading to a No. 7 seed, but many are predicting the Lobos to bust a few brackets.
They boast three scoring options, led by senior Cameron Bairstow, who averages 20.3 points per game. Fellow senior and last season's MWC Player of the Year Kendall Williams adds 16.4 per game and center Alex Kirk blocks nearly three shots per game.
Games To Watch
Nebraska lost five of its first six Big Ten games, but went on a five-game winning streak in February and closed the season with a big win over Wisconsin. Similarly, Baylor went on a five-game skid in January but had a run of six straight wins spanning from the regular season into the conference tournament.
Tennessee bullied its way to an overtime win against Iowa in the First Four. In the Minutemen, the Volunteers will see another high-scoring team, led by senior Chaz Williams (15.8 points per game).
Oklahoma State's 8-10 finish in the Big 12 dropped the Cowboys to a No. 9 seed, but it's impossible to deny the talent on their roster. Marcus Smart and Markel Brown combine to score more than 34 points per game.
Stephen F. Austin is a popular upset choice against VCU, a team that has found success in March as of late. The Lumberjacks have won 28 straight games on their way to winning both the Southland Conference regular season and tournament crowns.