Duke, N. Carolina, Florida among teams tipping off


No. 15 Albany vs. No. 2 Duke, 12:15 p.m. EDT (CBS)

Albany ran the table in the America East Tournament as the fourth seed, and as a reward gets a Duke team motivated to not lose as a No. 2 seed for the second straight year. The Great Danes lost to Ohio State by 22 in their only game against a ranked team this year.

Pick: Duke 82-61

No. 10 Cincinnati vs. No. 7 Creighton, 2:45 p.m. (CBS)

It’s a familiar path for the Blue Jays, who after winning their first game last season drew North Carolina in the second game. A victory here likely pits Creighton against Duke. Doug McDermott is the nation’s second leading scorer at 23.1 and Creighton leads the nation in field goal percentage at 50.8

Pick: Creighton: 72-68



No. 12 Mississippi vs. No. 5 Wisconsin, 12:40 p.m. (truTV)

All eyes will be on Mississippi’s Marshall Henderson for more than his scoring ability. He’s the most animated player in college basketball. Wisconsin is anything but, and the Badgers play ball-control, play patiently and look for the high percentage shot.

Pick: Wisconsin 67-64

No. 13 La Salle vs. No. 4 Kansas State, 3:10 p.m. (truTV)

It’s been a whirlwind for the Explorers, who defeated Boise State on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, hopped on a charter and got to Kansas City early Thursday morning. But the team said it will be ready to take on a Wildcats team that similarly guard oriented. La Salle’s top challenged is to slow all-Big 12 guard Rodney McGruder.

Pick: Kansas State 79-72

No. 15 Iona vs. No. 2 Ohio State, 7:15 p.m. (CBS)

Iona players are confident. “To me, it’s not an upset, it’s a game we should win,” guard Sean Armand said. Hey, last year two No. 15 seeds — Lehigh (over Duke) and Norfolk State (over Missouri) — won. The Buckeyes were a factor all season in the Big Ten and finished tied for second. Deshaun Thomas leads the Big Ten in scoring at 20 points per game.

Pick: Ohio State 81-67

No. 10 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Notre Dame, 9:45 p.m. (CBS)

The Cyclones lead the nation in three-pointers made per game, a shade fewer than 10, and they make them from every position. The team’s top gun, Tyrus McGee, comes off the bench. Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley is one of the game’s top rebounders.

Pick: Iowa State 76-72


No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova, 7:20 p.m. (TNT)

The teams are meeting in an NCAA Tournament game for the sixth time, the first since 2009. The Wildcats are back in the NCAA after missing last year's field, and were good enough to knock off each of the three teams that tied for the Big East title: Louisville, Georgetown and Marquette. The Tar Heels season changed after Coach Roy Williams went with a smaller lineup, starting 6-5 P.J. Hairston at forward. North Carolina lost only to Duke and Miami since then.

Pick: North Carolina 74-67

No. 16 Western Kentucky vs. No. 1 Kansas, 9:50 p.m. (TNT)

Perry Ellis' improvement was the Jayhawks' big story in the Big 12 Tournament when he averaged 14.3 points, but Kevin Young likely remains the starter for his defense and energy. The Hilltoppers swept through the Sun Belt Tournament and seven players have NCAA Tournament experience. Leading scorer T.J. Price has averaged 16 points in two NCAA games.

Pick: Kansas 80-66

No. 14 Northwestern State vs. No. 3 Florida, 7:27 p.m. (truTV)

This one should be fun. Northwestern State leads the nation in scoring at 81 points per game and the Gators can play that way, shooting 48 percent on all shots and 38 percent on threes. The Demons average about 63 field-goal attempts per game.

Pick: Florida 93-79

No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 6 UCLA, 9:57 p.m. (truTV)

The teams enter this game on different paths. The Gophers have lost three straight and 11 of 16. The Bruins are 7-2 in their last nine, and Coach Ben Howland teams have historically played well as a better seed in the NCAA. Larry Drew III has come on strong for UCLA and has taken some of the scoring pressure from Shabazz Muhammad.

Pick: UCLA 55-46

No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 2 Georgetown, 6:50 p.m. (5:15 p.m.)

Atlantic Sun Tournament champ Florida Gulf Coast is in its sixth season of Division I athletics and in just its second season of tournament eligibility. The Eagles beat Florida State and Alabama during the season. Not exactly calling for the upset here, but the Hoyas need to take this one seriously.

Pick: Georgetown 68-60

No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 San Diego State, 9:20, (TBS)

Who defense Jamaal Franklin for the Sooners? Franklin does it all, averaging 16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals. Romero Osby and Steven Pledger are two of the top threats for Oklahoma, which can be an excellent mid-range shooting team.

Pick: San Diego State 69-66


No. 9 Temple vs. No. 8 North Carolina State, 1:40 p.m. (TBS)

The Owls are in the tournament for the sixth straight season and in four the previous five they lost the first game, including last year as a No. 5 to No. 12 South Florida. Temple got good news when top rebounder Anthony Lee should be able to play after suffering a concussion in the Atlantic-10 Tournament.

Pick: N.C. State 75-68

No. 16 James Madison vs. No. 1 Indiana, 4:10 p.m. (TBS)

The Dukes are back in the tournament for the first time since 1994 and defeated Long Island in an opening round game. The Hoosiers, among the nation’s top offensive teams, shot just 38.3 in its Big Ten tourney loss to Wisconsin,

Pick: Indiana 92-71

No. 15 Pacific vs. No. 2 Miami, Fla., 2:10 p.m. (TNT)

Pacific took thumpings from NCAA teams California and Gonzaga and split with Saint Mary's. Miami, Fla., Shane Larkin was the MVP of the ACC Tournament and helped the Hurricanes to their first NCAA appearance since Frank Haith took them in 2008.

Pick: Miami, 83-68

No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 7 Illinois, 4:40 p.m. (TNT)

The Illini, who beat No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Indiana this season, started 2-7 in Big Ten play but won six of the last nine regular season games. The Buffs started Pac-12 play 1-4 before winning 10 of 15.

Pick: Illinois 72-71