Thursday’s Matchups to Watch in the N.C.A.A. TournamentMarch 16, 2023
We’re on the hunt for upsets as the men’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament gets going in earnest. Here are our picks for the games we don’t want to miss (all times Eastern):
No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 West Virginia
12:15 p.m., CBS
Our first game of the day should also be a good one. Maryland finished fifth in the Big Ten but did score a win in February over eventual No. 1 seed Purdue. West Virginia went 7-11 in the Big 12, but the Mountaineers finished the regular season with wins at Iowa State and against Kansas State. It’s hard to root against Coach Bob Huggins and West Virginia’s pesky defense: According to The Upshot’s bracket aggregator, fans in public bracket contests are picking West Virginia slightly more often than Maryland.
No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Utah State
1:40 p.m., TNT
The 7-10 matchups are historically upset candidates, with the No. 10 seed winning 39.5 percent of the time. Modelers see this matchup as the most likely upset of this year’s No. 7 seeds, with FiveThirtyEight giving Utah State a 64 percent chance of advancing. The Aggies are 26-8 but didn’t play many top-tier teams. According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, though, they feature the 13th-best offense in Division I. Missouri is no slouch, with forward Kobe Brown and guard D’Moi Hodge leading the way, but the Tigers may have trouble slowing Utah State’s attack.
No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Auburn
6:50 p.m., TNT
Iowa has a potential first-round N.B.A. draft pick in Kris Murray, whose twin brother, Keegan, was a lottery pick last year. But the Hawkeyes have been inconsistent all season, including in a home loss to woeful Eastern Illinois. Auburn also recorded an up-and-down season: The Tigers had winning streaks of eight games (to start the year) and five games (in January), but otherwise didn’t win more than two games consecutively. Auburn’s defense could give the Iowa offense trouble; modelers are giving the edge to the Tigers in this tossup game.
No. 5 Duke vs. No. 12 Oral Roberts
7:10 p.m., CBS
Duke is a trendy Final Four pick in its first year under Coach Jon Scheyer, but the Blue Devils will need to handle Oral Roberts first. The Golden Eagles posted a record of 30-4, including a perfect 18-0 in Summit League play. But Duke is also on a hot streak and has won its past nine games on the way to an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title. Fans are largely picking Duke, but some modelers are skeptical, with Pomeroy giving Duke a 63 percent chance to advance.
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