Here’s the four regional semifinal games to be played Friday along with their locations, their announcing teams and some commentary for each. All times are Central:
Midwest Regional, At Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Tracy Wolfson
6:15 p.m.: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee
— Tennessee may be the greatest example of a team that’s playing its best basketball in March. Following a strong run in the SEC tournament, this rugged Cuonzo Martin-coached squad bullied UMass and Mercer to get to this point. Meanwhile, Michigan also cruised by Wofford and Texas.
I like the Volunteers’ front line, but U of M offers some interior depth as well, which has shown in the team still thriving after losing Mitch McGary earlier in the season. This tournament has also been a showcase for the Wolverines’ guards and wing players, all experienced deep in March and confident that they’ll get back to the Final Four. Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson Jr. got this.
*8:45 p.m.: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky
— We’ve got the match-up we’ve been waiting for. Although it had to come at the expense of Wichita State, it is now time for the latest edition of Armageddon in Kentucky…in Indiana.
The football stadium atmosphere actually befits this game and I don’t expect there being much of a problem filling Lucas Oil being that both team’s campuses are within 90 minutes or so from Indy. There’s not much to break down here, this is the game that needs the least breaking down. Everyone involved will be at the top of their game, there will be no let downs, which means that it can go in any number of directions.
It is interesting that talent-wise this game sets up a lot like Kentucky versus Wichita — Louisville features an older team as well, one that has played a lot of big games together. You can argue that Kentucky has a talent advantage but the Cards won’t have to worry amongst each other about who does what and when, they know how to go. For that reason I give the defending National Champs a slight, slight edge.
East Regional, At Madison Square Garden, New York
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Allie LaForce
6:27 p.m.: No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut
— UConn has surprised me a little bit but they really haven’t been challenged since the second half of their game Thursday against St. Joseph. Villanova didn’t have much for them, but that’ll change against ISU.
After its harrowing win over North Carolina Sunday, I think the Cyclones are bound for the Elite 8 at least, as long as Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane keep up their superior play. The Huskies do counter with Shabazz Napier and five of its players reached double-figures against ‘Nova, plus they get to play this game at the familiar confines of Madison Square Garden, but Jim Calhoun isn’t leading them through the Big East this time. This is Iowa State’s time.
*8:57 p.m.: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State
— Virginia gives up fewer points than any other team in America, making it possibly an ideal opponent for MSU, who along with Iowa St. are the only teams to score 80+ and 90+ in a game this tournament.
I’m looking for ACC Player of the Year Joe Harris to make a signature performance if Virginia is to take this one, otherwise I don’t think Virginia can contain the likes of Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Gary Harris for an entire 40 minutes. It may take a while but the Spartans will have their run and they’ll take this contest in the end.
* – approximate time, game will start about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the earlier contest
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