Rothstein: Friday’s NCAA Tournament Primer; Picks, Best Bet For An Upset & More

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Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

By Jon Rothstein

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BEST GAME: NORTH CAROLINA VS. VILLANOVA

Two storied programs. Two teams with freshman point guards. Sounds delicious, right? The Tarheels have been a different squad offensively since they went to a smaller lineup, but Villanova has been really good this season at bringing their opponents into the mud. The Wildcats are not a vintage Jay Wright team, but they’re incredibly tough and have great role allocation. For Villanova to win, they have to find a way to contain P.J. Hairston, whose scored 21 or more points in three of his last five games.

BEST BET FOR AN UPSET: LA SALLE OVER KANSAS STATE

I’ve been saying all season long that the Explorers have the most underrated backcourt in college basketball, and they showed their capabilities in the First Four against Boise State. The Explorers shot over 60 percent from the field in their victory over the Broncos, something that will be hard to replicate against Kansas State. Beating the Wildcats in Kansas City presents a daunting challenge for La Salle, but John Giannini’s team matches up fairly well with their next opponent. Like Kansas State, the Explorers play a four-out, one-in type of approach, and always have great spacing on offense. It says here that the team from Philadelphia has at least one more win left in the tank.

BEST UPSET TO AVOID PICKING: NORTHWESTERN STATE OVER FLORIDA

The Demons may play 10 guys and operate at a frenetic pace, but there’s no way they’re going to shock the Gators. There are few things that are known commodities in March but one is Billy Donovan. The Gators are too experienced, too skilled, and too savvy to lose this game.

BEST STORYLINE: CREIGHTON VS. CINCINNATI

The Bluejays are ecstatic to be in the new Big East. The Bearcats are angry they’re still in the old Big East. Creighton can score. Cincinnati can guard. If this game breaks 65, the Bluejays march on. If it’s a rock fight, Mick Cronin’s squad should advance to the round of 32 for a potential meeting with Duke.

DON’T BE SURPRISED IF….

Iona pushes Ohio State. This game may be being played in Dayton, but the Gaels can fill it up and have one of the better offensive back courts in the country in Momo Jones and Sean Armand. Ohio State has been terrific defensively of late, especially since they started playing Shannon Scott next to Aaron Craft — but they’re still not a great offensive team. If Iona makes some shots early on, this one could very interesting.

FRIDAY’S PICKS:

Duke over Albany

Wisconsin over Ole Miss

Temple over NC State

Miami over Pacific

Cincinnati over Creighton

La Salle over Kansas State

Indiana over James Madison

Colorado over Illinois

Georgetown over Florida Gulf Coast

Ohio State over Iona

North Carolina over Villanova

Florida over Northwestern State

Oklahoma over San Diego State

Notre Dame over Iowa State

Kansas over Western Kentucky

Minnesota over UCLA

What’s your bracket-busting pick of the day? Be heard in the comments!

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