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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 23, 2012 at 10:03 AM

No doubt about it: There are more storylines for tonight's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 games than we can ever remember from the much-ballyhooed wrist injury suffered last Sunday by North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall to Kentucky's latest quest for a crown with a roster jam-packed with freshmen talent to all these double-digit seeds - that's #10 Xavier, #11 N.C. State and #13 Ohio - and let's not forget that the Indiana Hoosiers are still standing here in the regional semifinals for the first time in eons.

Hmmm ... Might that mean the Baylor Bears are flying below the radar screen here?

Maybe the Waco guys will make their most noise come Sunday if/when a showdown with mighty Kentucky takes place. But, hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

As it is, none of tonight's games are exactly "pick 'em" as Baylor's a 6-point choice right now over Xavier and Kentucky is a 9-point favorite against Indiana in the games in Atlanta while North Carolina is a whopping 10 ½-point fav against Cinderella squad Ohio while Kansas is a prohibitive 8-point favorite versus N.C. State in Saint Louis.

Will we get at least one upset here in this Friday portion of the Sweet 16? Good question.
 

THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - SWEET 16 / FRIDAY PREVIEWS

NCAA TOURNAMENT SOUTH REGIONAL SEMIFINALS - Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA

#10 XAVIER (23-12) vs. #3 BAYLOR (29-7) - 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS
There's been plenty of "madness" when it comes to Xavier's two wins so far in this year's NCAA Tournament as some favorable whistles late in the triumph over Notre Dame and don't forget the Muskeeters had to rally back from a 15-point first-half deficit to topple upset-minded Lehigh ... is there more magic for Chris Mack's club here?

Well, the X-men surely needs the one-two punch of guard Tu Holloway (averaging 23 ppg this tourney) and C Kenny Frease (25 points and 12 rebounds against Lehigh last Sunday) to shine but a hidden factor here is what happens if Baylor gets three scorers rollin'?

In last Saturday's runaway win against Colorado, G Brady Heslip dumped in nine trifectas for 27 points and so he's on Xavier's radar here but 6-foot-11 Perry Jones III and junior G Pierre Jackson figure to get their numbers too ... best shot for Xavier to pull the upset here is to go right at Jones and try to get 'em in foul trouble and harass Jackson from baseline-to-baseline.

The Bears may be Final Four material even if the nation at large is ignoring them right now.

XAVIER'S FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Greensboro)        
3-16 Notre Dame - 2 Xavier Xavier 67-63
3-18 Xavier - 4 Lehigh Xavier 70-58

BAYLOR'S FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Albuquerque)        
3-15 Baylor - 8 South Dakota State Baylor 68-60
3-17 Baylor - 8 Colorado Baylor 80-63

#4 INDIANA (27-8) vs. #1 KENTUCKY (34-2) - approximately 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS
Gee - wonder how many times Kentucky head coach John Calapari has referenced that 73-72 buzzer-beating loss at Indiana way back on December 10th?

The Wildcats' boss-man actually claims the ESPN commercial that shows Christian Watford's winning shot has "motivated" his young team but in order to gain same-season revenge here than Kentucky big man Anthony Davis must steer clear of foul woes - remember Davis played only 24 minutes in that game after getting tagged for two quickie fouls. The nation's leading shot-blocker - who also averages a team-best 14.3 ppg - figures to put immediate pressure on Indiana's 6-foot-11 star Cody Zeller and so keep a keen eye on who gets into foul trouble first.

Note that Kentucky must be wise in dealing with Indiana's picks/screens 'cause the Hoosiers are a deadly perimeter shooting team (Indiana shot 9-of-15 from beyond the three-point stripe in that December meeting) and nothing would make the 'Cats happier than getting this into a track meet with Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the aforementioned Davis stuffing home follow-up hoops in an up-tempo game.

One key here: Kentucky would like to get up 65-or-more field goal attempts here, so keep an eye on that stat.

INDIANA'S FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Portland)        
3-15 Indiana - 6 New Mexico State Indiana 79-66
3-17 Indiana - 5.5 VCU Indiana 63-61

KENTUCKY'S FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Louisville)        
3-15 Kentucky - 26.5 Western Kentucky Kentucky 81-66
3-17 Kentucky - 12 Iowa State Kentucky 87-71

NCAA TOURNAMENT MIDWEST REGIONAL SEMIFINALS - Edward Jones Dome - St. Louis, MO

#13 OHIO (29-7) vs. #1 NORTH CAROLINA (31-5) - 7:45 p.m. ET, TBS
You probably never thought you would hear so much about a scaphoid bone in your life ... did you? The broken bone in North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall's right (not-shooting) wrist has made plenty of news and now that it's been operated on the buzz is that Marshall could play here but we'd rate that as less than 50-50 - so who will make the Tar Heels' offense churn here?

Stillman White has just 10 assists this season in limited play and gotta figure head coach Roy Williams will look for 20-to-25 minutes from his frosh guard here with F Harrison Barnes helping out the ball-handling chores and so this $64,000 question is will Ohio concentrate on pressuring Carolina's handlers and keep fingers crossed that Tyler Zeller and John Henson don't beat 'em up so much in the paint?

If Ohio is gonna zip into Sunday's Elite 8 game than point guard D.J. Cooper and swingman Walter Offult must resemble the duo that registered 40 of the Bobcats' 62 points against the USF Bulls last Sunday afternoon plus coach John Groce's guys must not get embarrassed on the boards as Carolina averages more than 10 rebs a game than the 'Cats.

OHIO'S FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Nashville)        
3-16 Michigan - 5.5 Ohio Ohio 65-60
3-18 South Florida - 2 Ohio Ohio 62-56

 
NORTH CAROLINA'S FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Greensboro)        
3-16 North Carolina - 16 Vermont North Carolina 77-58
3-18 North Carolina - 9.5 Creighton North Carolina 87-73

#11 N.C. STATE (24-12) vs. #2 KANSAS (29-6) - approximately 10:15 p.m. ET, TBS
Remember the old Al McGuire comment that if a team was gonna win a national championship than it would have to win at least one "white knuckler"?

Well, the Kansas Jayhawks had that "white knuckler" win last Sunday with a thrilling 63-60 non-cover triumph over Purdue that featured relative unknown guard Elijah Johnson (18 points against the Boilermakers) and some shaky late-game Purdue decisions. Now, Kansas boss-man Bill Self is hoping that star forward Thomas Robinson doesn't run out of gas here (see Purdue game) and that his guys can have some success covering N.C. State from deep after the Wolfpack drained 7-of-15 triples in that Round of 32 upset win against Georgetown.

Let's see if Mark Gottfried's club can find the creases against that crazy triangle-and-two defense that Self stubbornly goes with these days for large portions of the game - if in-the-paint threat C.J. Leslie makes Robinson and Company work hard on "D" here than that could have late-game consequences on the Big 12 favorites.

N.C. STATE'S FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Columbus)        
3-16 N.C. State - 2.5 San Diego State N.C. State 79-65
3-18 Georgetown - 4 N.C. State N.C. State 66-63

KANSAS' FIRST TWO NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES THIS YEAR

DATE FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Omaha)        
3-16 Kansas - 13.5 Detroit Kansas 65-50
3-18 Kansas - 8 Purdue Kansas 63-60

NOTE: Catch our Saturday NCAA Tournament Elite 8 game previews in tomorrow's Jim Sez.

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