If Day 3 of March Madness was any indication of how the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament is going to be, hoops fans better prepare for a wild ride.
Here's what to watch for on Friday, March 18, complete with in-depth Associated Press previews:
12:15 p.m. — Texas (-10.5) vs. Oakland
TULSA, Okla. — Rick Barnes begins each season with the goal of reaching the NCAA tournament and he's done it in each of his 13 seasons at Texas.
The problem is that the Longhorns have reached only one Final Four during that stretch and that was eight years ago. Barnes insists he isn't feeling any pressure to take Texas back for the first time since 2003. Read the complete preview here.
12:40 p.m. — Michigan vs. Tennessee (-1.5)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bruce Pearl wanted to talk about Tennessee super freshman Tobias Harris, Michigan's motion offense or the Wolverines 1-3-1 zone defense.
Instead, the embattled Volunteers coach was peppered with questions Thursday about his job status a day after his athletic director left the door open to dumping Pearl after the season. Read the complete preview here.
1:40 p.m. — Notre Dame (-14.5) vs. Akron
CHICAGO — Slowing down Ben Hansbrough hasn't been easy for any team all season and the Akron Zips know it.
Akron will get its shot at Notre Dame's hot-shooting guard on Friday in a second-round NCAA game in Chicago. Read the complete preview here.
2:10 p.m. — George Mason vs. Villanova (-1.5)
CLEVELAND — Villanova formed a circle at mid-court, then welcomed the program's sage into the center.
Rollie Massimino, who led the Wildcats to a most improbable national championship, walked over from the sideline for a post-practice pep talk with a simple message: I believe in you. Read the complete preview here.
2:45 p.m. — Arizona (-6) vs. Memphis
TULSA, Okla. — In his only year as an assistant at Memphis, Josh Pastner formed an opinion on what kind of coach it would take to replace John Calipari.
"I used to say the guy that follows him is crazy," Pastner said. "How are you going to follow this guy?" Read the complete preview here.
3:10 p.m. — Duke (-23.5) vs. Hampton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kyrie Irving zipped down the floor toward an empty frontcourt and fired a pass to a teammate for an easy basket.
Even during a simple drill with the reserves, the electrifying point guard once again had Duke off and running. Read the complete preview here.
4:10 p.m. — Texas A&M (-1) vs. Florida St.
CHICAGO — Texas A&M players see that Texas-sized carrot dangling right there in front of them, knowing all they have to do is win two games and they'll get to finish the season in their home state.
They also realize this. Getting there won't be easy. Read the complete preview here.
4:40 p.m. — Ohio St. (-24) vs. UTSA
CLEVELAND — Leaning back in a chair inside Ohio State's locker room, Jared Sullinger seemed amused by all the fuss. As he and his teammates got ready for practice, Sullinger was asked if he was nervous before his first NCAA tournament game.
"No, not really," the fab freshman said. "It's just another basketball game. We just want to keep playing basketball." Read the complete preview here.
6:50 p.m. — Kansas (-23) vs. Boston U.
ULSA, Okla. — Brady Morningstar has heard about Northern Iowa for a year now.
The Kansas senior has been reminded time and again about last season's second-round NCAA tournament loss to the Panthers and the sharp-shooting Ali Farokhmanesh. He's heard about it from friends, family, and most of all on the road at places like Missouri and Kansas State. Read the complete preview here.
7:15 p.m. — North Carolina (-17.5) vs. Long Island
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina players huddled around the small television in the cramped locker room and screamed in unison: "Oh!"
Morehead State's upset of Louisville on a clutch shot Thursday provided not only some entertainment on a full day of practices and media obligations for the Tar Heels, but a warning, too. Read the complete preview here.
7:20 p.m. — Purdue (-14.5) vs. St. Peter’s
CHICAGO — JuJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore have been part of a school-record 106 wins during their careers at Purdue. They're used to carrying the Boilermakers, even if that means compensating for the loss of a teammate.
After star Robbie Hummel re-injured his knee in the preseason, Johnson and Moore combined to average 38.7 points, 53 percent of Purdue's offense this season. Read the complete preview here.
7:27 p.m. — Xavier (-2.5) vs. Marquette
CLEVELAND — He's been called Tu since he was a tot.
So Terrell Holloway decided it was time to stop being so formal. He scrapped his first name in favor of his nickname. Read the complete preview here.
9:20 p.m. — UNLV (-2.5) vs. Illinois
TULSA, Okla. — Illinois coach Bruce Weber has more important things to worry about in the NCAA tournament than where he stacks up in a bracket filled with his predecessors.
The Illini (19-13) stumbled down the stretch, losing 10 of their last 16 games to end up closer to the bubble than the top 10. The senior-laden squad led by Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis plummeted from a No. 12 ranking to a mediocre finish in the Big Ten. Read the complete preview here.
9:45 p.m. — Washington (-6) vs. Georgia
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Washington's reward for winning another Pac-10 tournament: a nearly 3,000-mile trip for its NCAA tournament opener, and a possible matchup with North Carolina in the Tar Heels' home state.
Perhaps if the Huskies had been steadier during the season, their coach figures, they'd be playing closer to home. Read the complete preview here.
9:50 p.m. — Georgetown (-6) vs. VCU
CHICAGO — Georgetown point guard Chris Wright will be quite happy if he never sees a stair climber again.
Wright logged hours on the machine over the last three weeks, powerless to stop the Hoyas' four-game losing skid because of a broken left hand. He's back now, though, giving Georgetown hope the third part of its season will end better than the second part. Read complete preview here.
9:57 p.m. — Syracuse (-12.5) vs. Indiana St.
CLEVELAND — The moment Indiana State's name flashed alongside Syracuse's on the TV screen, the first thing that popped into Orange forward Kris Joseph's head was Larry Bird.
"Probably a bunch of [players] that could shoot," Joseph said. "We're going to have to extend the zone." Read the complete preview here.
For a printable copy of the bracket, click here.
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