Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Loyola-Chicago was undaunted by its status as the No. 11 seed in the South Regional, and when Donte Ingram hit a long three-point shot with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock, it gave the Ramblers a 64-62 upset victory over Miami in Thursday’s first round of competition in the NCAA tournament.
Another full 16-game schedule is at hand for Friday’s action, and the likes of Providence and Bucknell will try to join Loyola as lower-seeded teams that manage to win their first-round games.
The Providence Friars are the 10th-seeded team in the West Region, and they will take on No. 7 seed Texas A&M in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 12:15 p.m.
Providence had an excellent run in the Big East tournament, pushing eventual champion Villanova to overtime in the title game before falling. Head coach Ed Cooley does not have a lot of blue-chip talent, but his team plays hard for 40 minutes, and if the Aggies don’t come with their best effort, the Friars have an excellent chance to pull off the victory.
The Friars come into the tournament having won three of their last four games, and the Friars are led by senior forward Rodney Bullock, who is averaging 14.0 points per game. He is getting support from sophomore guard Alpha Diallo, who is scoring 13.0 point per night and adding 6.6 rebounds.
Additionally, senior guard Kyron Cartwright is also in double figures, scoring 11.8 points per game, but his 42.8 shooting percentage is a bit concerning.
Texas A&M is not playing its best basketball as the tournament gets underway. Head coach Billy Kennedy’s team has lost four of its last seven games, and it is going to try to rely on its ability to rebound to gain an advantage over Providence. Texas A&M is recording 41.3 rebounds per game, which ranks fifth in the nation.
The Aggies are led by senior center Tyler Davis, who is averaging 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 57.6 percent from the field. Junior guard Admon Gilder is making a solid contribution with 12.2 points per game while shooting 82.1 percent from the free-throw line.
Texas A&M is a 2.5-point favorite over Providence, according to OddsShark.
Bucknell has a challenging assignment in trying to find a weakness in Michigan State’s game so it can record a key upset.
The 14th-seeded Bison have three legitimate scorers in Zach Thomas, Nana Foulland and Stephen Brown.
Thomas is averaging 20.3 points and coming down with 9.2 rebounds per night to lead Bucknell in both categories.
Foulland is providing excellent support with 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while Brown is scoring 14.9 points per game.
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Bucknell won the Patriot League regular-season title as well as the conference tournament, and the Bison come into their meeting with the Spartans having won eight games in a row.
The Spartans started the season with hopes of being a Final Four team, and while they have had a few ups and downs, nothing they have done has indicated that aspiration has changed.
They appear to have a major homecourt advantage since the game will be played at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, but head coach Tom Izzo believes Bucknell is a dangerous team.
“It’s a team that, I look at them, they’re as good or better than Middle Tennessee,” Izzo said, per Stats LLC (h/t ESPN.com). “Similar, except they’re bigger. Their bigger guys can shoot it.”
Michigan State lost to Middle Tennessee State two years ago in the tournament.
Miles Bridges will try to keep the Spartans from getting upset in this game. He is averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Bridges is getting plenty of help from Nick Ward and Cassius Winston, who are both averaging 12.6 points per game.
Joshua Langford and Jaren Jackson Jr. are also averaging in double figures, so it’s clear Izzo has plenty of scoring options.
Michigan State is a 14.5-point favorite in the 7:10 p.m. game.
NCAA Tournament odds
Villanova and Virginia are plus-550 co-favorites to win the NCAA tournament, followed by Duke at +750 and Michigan State at plus-850.
A $100 wage on Villanova would provide a successful bettor a profit of $550.
Here are the odds for the top eight teams in the field, as well as a link to the odds for the rest of the teams.
Michigan State +800