T.J. Warren (24) and the NC State Wolfpack hope to go from First Four to second weekend in the NCAA tournament. Their next roadblock is the St. Louis Billikens. (Source: NC State Athletics Communications)
James Michael McAdoo (43), Marcus Paige (5) and Brice Johnson (11) will be key to the sixth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels having success in the NCAA tournament. Their first matchup is with Providence on Friday. (Source: UNC Athletics)
Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
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(RNN) - Welcome to your most unproductive day of the year - consider yourself a member of Congress for the foreseeable future.
Whether you're "visiting your constituents" (i.e. taking the day off) or just showing up and pretending to do something, everyone knows what's up: It's NCAA Tourney Day. You're watching the games. Work can wait.
No need to feel guilty; the president is in his office doing the same thing.
Everyone will be especially worthless Thursday for a few reasons - they'll usually get a little guilt-work out of you Friday - but it's mostly about the bracket. That big, beautiful, 64-level creation makes the most lukewarm sports fan an absolute freak for at least a few hours, until the red ink starts flying with each incorrect pick on the board.
It can only get worse this year, when a perfect bracket can win $1 billion. Getting paid an exorbitant amount of money for doing next to nothing? That also sounds like something your representatives in DC are familiar with.
It's not only about neglecting the job, though. Keep in mind, there's plenty of chores/cooking/kids that will need to be neglected once the workday ends, too.
And some of the most exciting matchups of the round of 64 happen in prime time Thursday and Friday. So make sure you cut out a little early from a long day of not working, to avoid missing a moment of March Madness action.
To do anything else would be un-American.
St. Louis Billikens (5) vs. NC State Wolfpack (12), 7:20 p.m. ET
SLU (26-6) stormed out of the gate, losing only to Wisconsin (2) and Wichita State (1) before going on a 19-game winning streak. Then, rather suddenly, their good luck charm wore off.
The team stumbled to the finish, losing three of its last four - among them a defeat to sub-.500 Duquesne and a first-round exit from the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Billikens were running on fumes after using a rotation of only six or seven players all season, and its defense suffered for it. On the bright side for St. Louis: it's a squad that should be well-rested after only one game in the last 10 days, it starts five seniors and it has been "dancing" before. Dwayne Evans gets it done in the paint, averaging 14 points on 50 percent shooting and grabbing nearly seven rebounds a game.
The Wolfpack (22-13) were the biggest surprise among at-large tourney teams, likely gaining a bid on the strength of a win over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. A little star power doesn't hurt either: T.J. Warren is one of the best offensive players in the country.
The sophomore scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half as NC State took a 74-59 win in the First Four matchup with Xavier. That outing made him the top single-season scorer in Wolfpack history, and it was his 18th game in a row with 20-plus points. Another difference maker down the stretch has been Tyler Lewis - the 5'11" point guard has helped keep the turnovers below 10 per game in the last seven (5-2).
Texas Longhorns (7) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (10), 9:40 p.m.
The Sun Devils (21-11) looked a lot stronger a month ago. Since a double overtime victory against Arizona (1), the team is 2-5, including a 21-point drubbing at the hands of Stanford (10) in the Pac-12 tournament.
What ASU does have going for them is a pair of scorers that can find the range from long distance: Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall. Carson, who averages nearly 19 points, is also skilled at getting to the free throw line (6.5 attempts per game). On the other end of the floor, one-man SWAT team Jordan Bachynski blocks nearly every attempt that comes within his wingspan.
The Longhorns (23-10) would have liked to end their regular season on a better note, too, losing their finale to a 14-18 Texas Tech squad. That loss still only dropped them to 11-7 in the Big 12, a league that managed to send seven of its 10 teams to the Big Dance.
Texas is one of the nation's best at rebounding, with big men Cameron Ridley (8.1 per game) and Jonathan Holmes (7.2) leading the way. The team relies on that and its defense to make up for an offense that is among the least accurate shooting in the tournament. Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor provides a spark on offense, with the ability to get to the rim using his speed.
North Carolina Tar Heels (6) vs. Providence Friars (11), 7:20 p.m.
It's unusual for an up-tempo team like the Tar Heels (23-9) to worry about defense. Yet it was their ability to stop others from scoring that caused the turnaround from a 1-4 start in ACC play.
Marcus Paige became the on-court leader for UNC in his sophomore campaign, leading them in scoring, assists and becoming their top threat from behind the arc. Bolstering his perimeter play is a stable of big men with the ability to score around the basket, including James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. The team's biggest Achilles' heel is found at the charity stripe, where they shoot a paltry 62 percent, even with Paige's efforts (88 percent free throws) included .
The Friars (23-11) went from bubble team to sure thing when they burned through the inaugural tournament of the new Big East to claim the title. The championship game saw them knock off Creighton (3) for the second time.
At the top of Providence's six-man rotation is Bryce Cotton, an explosive guard who shows no shortage of energy or ways to score. The senior averaged 21.4 points per game and dished out 5.8 assists while rarely taking a seat when the clock was running (39.9 minutes per game). Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton, both excellent rebounders, will mix it up in the lane with UNC's big bodies.
Kentucky Wildcats (8) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (9), 9:40 p.m.
K-State (20-12) was another team that ran the gauntlet of the Big 12 slate, and it got a little dinged up its last three games of the season (0-3). But the team showed throughout the year it could hang with anybody, with several marquee victories - against Kansas (2), Iowa State (3), Oklahoma (5), Gonzaga (8) - under its belt.
The Midwestern Wildcats have a freshman guard who can light up a scoreboard with his 3-point shooting in Marcus Foster. He put up arguably his best offensive outings in the last two, narrow losses to Baylor (6) and Iowa State, as he hit 10-of-15 from long range. Thomas Gipson, the team's leading rebounder, makes up for his height (6'7") down low by using his 265-pound frame to move people around.
UK (24-10) started the season ranked among the top teams in the nation. While their lauded freshman class didn't gel the way fans in the Bluegrass State hoped, the talent of the roster is undeniable.
Julius Randle averaged a double-double (15.0 points, 10.5 rebounds) for the season, and he can extend defenses with a solid jumper in addition to his low-post game. He joins fellow freshmen James Young and the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, to form a group that can overwhelm anyone on any given night.
Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
Need something to help you get through two weeks of March Madness? Try playing Basketball Cliche Bingo. Mark off the words or phrases that are overused during each game of the tourney.More >>
Don't like basketball? Need something to help you get through two weeks of March Madness? Try playing Basketball Cliche Bingo. Mark off the words or phrases that are overused during each game of the tournament.More >>