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Mitchell Northam | NCAA.com | March 21, 2019

March Madness schedule 2019: The 3 most interesting games for Thursday

Andy Katz makes some tough picks in the Midwest Region

With wins by Arizona State and North Dakota State on Wednesday closing out the First Four, the table for the NCAA tournament is completely set.

We’ve found our 64 teams. Now, the real fun begins.

On Thursday, we’ll see several top teams in action, including No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 2 Kentucky, Big East champion Villanova and SEC champ Auburn.

But here are three other interesting games to keep an eye on.

 

Family business in Louisville vs. Minnesota

The first game of the day tips off at noon (EST), when No. 10 Minnesota takes on No. 7 Louisville.

The Golden Gophers are coached by Richard Pitino, whose father Rick coached the Cardinals from 2001 to 2017.

This is the second time Richard Pitino has led Minnesota to the NCAA tournament since taking over in 2013. However, he’s still looking for his first win in the Big Dance. In 2017, Minnesota was upset by No. 12 Middle Tennessee State.

On the other side, Chris Mack has 11 NCAA tournament wins, all with his former team, Xavier. In his first year on the job at Louisville to a 20-13 (10-8 ACC) record, which featured wins over NCAA tournament teams Vermont, Michigan State, Seton Hall, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

The Cardinals are led by Jordan Nwora's 17.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while the Golden Gophers are steered by Amir Coffey’s 16.3 points and 3.2 assists per game.

Belmont back in action

Two days after winning his first NCAA tournament game — against Temple in the First Four — Rick Byrd is looking for his second. If he pulls it off, it’ll be a notable upset, as the No. 11 Bruins are taking on No. 6 Maryland in Jacksonville, Florida.

Belmont’s win over Temple in Dayton, Ohio saw a 29-point performance from senior guard Kevin McClain, and an effort of 16 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal from OVC Freshman of the Year Nick Muszynski, who was returning to the court after missing the OVC title game with a foot injury.

The Bruins match up well with Maryland as the Terps struggle to defend the three-pointer at times, placing just 57th in three-point defense. Overall, the Terps are solid on that end of the floor, owning the 16th best field goal defense in the country, allowing opponents to make just 39.7 percent of all their shots. The Terps have the 13th-best field goal defense among NCAA tournament teams.

Leading the way for Maryland this year is dynamic guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who averages 16 points and 4.3 assists per game. Big man Bruno Fernando chips in 13.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

Wofford going for win No. 21

The Wofford Terriers are the hottest team in the country entering the tournament, having won 20 straight games.

Standing between Mike Young’s side and win No. 21 — and what would be Wofford’s first ever NCAA tournament win — is a tough Seton Hall team. The Pirates come into this game after losing in the Big East title game to Villanova. Before that loss, they had won four in a row.

Wofford enters the tournament with the country’s 10th-best field goal percentage, second best three-point percentage, second best offensive rating, sixth best true shooting percentage and fourth best effective field goal percentage. They are also armed with Fletcher Magee, who has made more three-pointers than any other player in college basketball this season.

Seton Hall is led by Myles Powell, the second-leading scorer in the Big East and 13th-best scorer in the country. The 6-foot-2 junior averages 22.9 points per game.

 

Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.

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