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Handicapping Thursday’s NCAA games – The Boston Globe





EAST REGION

at Buffalo

1. Villanova (31-3) vs. 16. Mount St. Mary’s (20-15), 7:10 p.m., CBS: The Wildcats are a well-oiled machine with multiple offensive weapons in Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Jalen Brunson (and more). The Mount’s little guards, 6-0 Elijah Long and 5-5 Junior Robinson, will be hard-pressed to keep up.

8. Wisconsin (25-9) vs. 9. Virginia Tech (22-10), 9:40p.m., CBS: The Badgers have underachieved, as has forward Nigel Hayes as an individual; he was projected to be an All-American and he’s only adequate. Despite that, they are not to be overlooked; they still play tough defense and patient offense. Tech needs big games from Zach LeDay inside and Seth Allen outside.

at Orlando, Fla.

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5. Virginia (22-10) vs. 12. UNC Wilmington (29-5), 12:40 p.m. truTV: UVa was only 5-5 in its last 10, which sets off the upset alert. The Cavaliers like to take things slowly and force teams out of their comfort zone. Wilmington (wearing its canary-yellow uniforms, we hope) will try to turn this into a track meet and pull off the upset.

4. Florida (24-8) vs. 13. East Tennessee (27-7), 3:10 p.m., truTV: The Gators have lost three of their last four, including two to Vanderbilt — upset alert in Orlando again. If they snap out of the slump, they can be tough; they’re a well-balanced team. East Tennessee is a veteran team with four senior starters and ranks 10th in the nation in shooting percentage.

SOUTH REGION

at Milwaukee

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4. Butler (23-8) vs. 13. Winthrop (26-6), 1:30 p.m., TNT: Pint-size Winthrop point guard Keon Johnson, generously listed at 5-7, is worth the price of admission (22.5 ppg). Butler must not let him get rolling, and use its superior talent to wear down the Eagles.


5. Minnesota (24-9) vs. 12. Middle Tennessee (30-4), 4 p.m. TNT: Giddy Potts, Middle’s junior guard, is the man — an outrageous 3-point shooter who can turn games around by himself. Minnesota, talented but young, needs to keep its composure to avoid an upset. Check out Minny freshman Amir Coffey, a future star.

MIDWEST REGION

at Milwaukee

4. Purdue (25-7) vs. 13. Vermont (29-5), 7:27 p.m. truTV: The Catamounts have to hope Purdue has an off night and that their America East Player of the Year, point guard Trae Bell-Haynes, has a big night frustrating the Boilers with his quickness. Purdue’s frontcourt is towering and looms large in this matchup.

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5. Iowa State (23-10) vs. 12. Nevada (28-6), 9:57 p.m., truTV: Nevada is coached by former NBA head coach Eric Musselman, who in two years has turned the Wolfpack into Mountain West champions. This is a tough assignment. Iowa State is one of the most athletic teams in the tournament, led by point guard Monte Morris.

WEST REGION

at Buffalo

5. Notre Dame (25-9) vs. 12. Princeton (23-6), 12:15 p.m., CBS: This might be a good matchup for Princeton because the Irish do not have overwhelming size. The Irish do have the incredible Bonzie Colson from New Bedford, whose long reach rivals a superhero. He’s 6-5, but his arm length can make him seem 7 feet tall. Not sure what Princeton will do with him.

4. West Virginia (26-8) vs. 13. Bucknell (26-8), 2:45 p.m., CBS: The Mountaineers have a tough attitude that comes directly from their coach, Bob Huggins. They will cover Bucknell full-court, and the Bisons’ lack of depth will make it hard to pull off an upset.

at Orlando, Fla.

6. Maryland (24-8) vs. 11. Xavier (21-13), 6:50 p.m., TNT: X has not been the same since losing point guard Edmond Sumner to injury; there was even a six-game losing streak. Maryland has a symphonic conductor in point guard Melo Trimble, who should lead the Terps to victory.

3. Florida State (25-8) vs. 14. Florida Gulf Coast (26-7), 9:20 p.m., TNT: The last thing Florida State needs is to lose to a lesser in-state school in the first round. Jonathan Isaac, the Seminoles’ spindly 6-10 freshman, probably will make sure that doesn’t happen. Gulf Coast, the Red Sox’ favorite team, is an excellent shooting squad (50.2 percent, fifth in the nation) and is dangerous.

at Salt Lake City

1. Gonzaga (32-1) vs. 16. South Dakota State (18-16), 2 p.m., TBS: SD State’s Mike Daum, the second-leading scorer in the nation at 25.3 ppg, will have to carry the Jackrabbits to victory. They also need the Zags to have an off game.

8. Northwestern (23-11) vs. 9. Vanderbilt (19-15), 4:30 p.m., TBS: The first-ever bid for Northwestern, but this is no mid-major; the Wildcats are a tough unit led by frenetic point guard Bryant McIntosh. Vandy should have been in the First Four. I’m expecting this to be over early.

7. Saint Mary’s (28-4) vs. 10. VCU (26-8), 7:20 p.m. TBS: Seven Australians, most notably 6-11 Jock Landale, plus BC transfer Joe Rahon, make Saint Mary’s a sweet-shooting, veteran unit. VCU will try to turn it into a physical slog. The Rams rough people up.

2. Arizona (30-4) vs. 15. North Dakota (22-9), 9:50 p.m., TBS: Arizona has been on an upward arc since Allonzo Trier, its best player, returned from a PED suspension. The Wildcats stormed through the Pac 12 tournament and are a championship contender. North Dakota is a hockey school, as we all know.

Joe Sullivan can be reached at joseph.sullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan


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