What you need to know for Friday, Nov. 24:
1. The most interesting game is for the worst prize of the day: 7th place. Purdue and Arizona have taken the plunge at Atlantis and are trying to avoid leaving the Bahamas with an 0-3 finish. But fear not Arizona and Purdue fans, an elite team has gone through something similar before and fared well. Wichita State, without Fred VanVleet, went 0-3 in Orlando in 2015-16. The Shockers still ended up as an 11 seed, won a First Four game, beat Arizona in the round of 64 before losing to Miami in the round of 32. Purdue ran into an upstart Tennessee team on day one, but then got stunned by Western Kentucky on day two. Arizona’s loss to SMU on day two is actually more explainable (the Mustangs will be, repeat will be, a top five contender in the American) than the defeat to NC State in round one. Of course, Arizona and Purdue have a lot more opportunities for quality wins than the Wichita State team did from two seasons ago. So, there’s that.
2. The matchup of the day will be in Portland where Duke’s duo of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter tussle with Texas’ Mo Bamba at the PK80. Bamba had 12 points and four blocks against Butler. Bagley and Carter combined for 34 points and 25 boards in the comeback win against Portland State. A Texas win over Duke on a neutral court would be the program-changing win Shaka Smart has been seeking since his arrival in Austin. Still, getting out of the PK80 at 2-1, assuming the Longhorns could win one of the two final games, would be an accomplishment worth touting.
3. The hidden gem today will be in Las Vegas where two veteran, older teams meet in Arizona State and Xavier in a tournament title game. The difference between the two programs is too wide to measure. The Musketeers are an established power, a regular contender for their conference title, respective of where they have been (A-10, now Big East). Arizona State has desperately tried for years to be relevant in the Pac-10 and now Pac-12. Bobby Hurley has his most talented and experienced team in his short tenure. And with the Wildcats struggling in the Bahamas, the Sun Devils could capitalize and grab the headlines in the state of Arizona. The Pac-12 needs something positive and an ASU win in Las Vegas would certainly suffice.
Happy Thanksgiving! Time to recap some surprising results in the day in hoops: https://t.co/5UkwSUQeR9— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 24, 2017
4. The team that has looked the most complete so far this season may just be Villanova. The Wildcats go for the Battle 4 Atlantis championship against Northern Iowa, a surprise finalist (see above in No. 1). Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges have been dominant at their positions. Of course, a Panthers win here would do wonders for the Valley’s self-esteem as it tries to rebrand itself after losing Wichita State to the American. Leaving 2-1 is still a momentum boost and in addition to UNI or Nova, two of these four teams SMU-Western Kentucky or NC State-Tennessee have the opportunity today.
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5. And then there are: UNC-Arkansas at the PK80 — a rematch from one of the best NCAA tournament games last March; Florida-Gonzaga — a game that could deliver one of the most competitive games in Portland; Michigan State-UConn — a chance for the Huskies to regain its relevance nationally, let alone amid the AAC; Virginia-Rhode Island — the NIT Season Tip-Off title between a suddenly rising ACC team yet again and the A-10 favorite; Georgia-San Diego State — a Wooden Legacy semifinal between two teams that should challenge for a top three SEC/MWC finish, respectively; St. Bonaventure-Maryland at the Emerald Coast Classic in Florida, as the Bonnies look to make their mark on the national scene and late-night Nevada at Hawaii, the MWC favorite against a perennial Big West title contender.