Previewing Friday’s four NCAA Tournament games at Viejas Arena:
(14) Montana State vs. (3) Texas Tech
On the air: 10:45 a.m., TNT
Line: Texas Tech by 15
Records: Montana State 27-7, Texas Tech 25-9
How they got here: Montana State won the Big Sky Conference’s automatic bid by defeating Northern Colorado, 87-66, in the conference championship. With seven victories against Top 20-ranked opponents — including two against Baylor — Texas Tech was able to weather its loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship.
Tournament history: This is Tech’s fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Red Raiders reached the 2019 NCAA Final, losing to Virginia. Montana State seeks its first NCAA Tournament victory in four tries.
Coaches: Tech’s first-year boss Mark Adams is a defensive guru who molded the 2019 team’s dominant unit. At 60.3 points allowed per game, Tech’s D ranks 11th nationally, while College Basketball Reference’s defensive rankings has Tech second overall. Danny Sprinkle was Montana State’s point guard on its previous NCAA Tournament qualifier — in 1996. In Sprinkle’s three seasons as head coach, Montana State is 56-32 (.636).
Players to watch: For Montana State, Xavier Bishop (13.8 ppg, 4.3 apg,), Jubrile Belo (13.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Amin Adamu (11.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg). For Texas Tech, Bryson Williams (13.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Terrence Shannon (10.4 ppg, 2.0 apg) and Kevin McCullar (9.7 ppg, 1.4 steals per game).
Bobcats update: Montana State began 2022 with 11 straight wins, dropped two of three, then reeled off six straight wins to reach this point. The Bobcats have been good at getting to the free-throw line this season, with more than 700 attempts, but they haven’t faced defenses the quality of Texas Tech.
Red Raiders update: Tech allowed fewer than 60 points in 15 games while facing the nation’s fifth most difficult schedule. Teams shot just 38.4 percent against the Red Raiders and committed an average of 16 turnovers. NBA draft analysts give a second-round grade to McCullar, a junior guard.
Next up: Winner plays Sunday against the winner of Friday’s Alabama-Notre Dame game.
(11) Notre Dame vs. (6) Alabama
On the air: 1:15 p.m., TNT
Line: Alabama by 4
Records: Notre Dame (23-10), Alabama (19-13)
How they got here: Alabama played the country’s toughest schedule, per College Basketball Reference. The Crimson Tide beat Gonzaga, a No. 1 seed, and four other ranked opponents. Notre Dame advanced to San Diego with a double overtime victory Wednesday night against Rutgers in a First Four game at Dayton, Ohio. At 37.8 percent, the Fighting Irish finished 18th nationally in 3-point accuracy.
Tournament history: Alabama is 23-23 with no Final Four appearances. Off 37 trips, Notre Dame owns one Final Four appearance, in 1978, under coach Digger Phelps, whose team lost to Duke in the semifinals.
Coaches: Mike Brey is in his 22nd season as Notre Dame’s head coach. He won the 2011 national Coach of the Year award. That year, Notre Dame earned a No. 2 seed and lost in the third round. In four years under Nate Oats, the Crimson Tide has reached the past three NCAA Tournaments. Oats was the SEC’s 2021 Coach of the Year.
Players to watch: For Notre Dame, Paul Atkinson (12.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Dane Goodwin (13.9 ppg, .456 3-point percentage) and Blake Wesley (14.4 ppg, 2.4 apg). For Alabama, Jaden Shackelford (16.7, 5.3 rpg), Jahvon Quinerly (14.3 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Keon Ellis (12.0 ppg, 1.9 steals per game).
Crimson Tide update: The team is sixth nationally in offense rebounding, led by Charles Bediako at two per game. The Tide last played on March 10, an SEC Tournament loss to Vanderbilt in which Alabama had 18 turnovers.
Fighting Irish update: Notre Dame lost five of seven games earlier in the season but bounced back to win 15 of 17 from mid-December to mid-February. Atkinson, a graduate transfer from Yale, is coming off his best statistical game of the year, leading his team with 26 points (13 of 15 shooting) and six rebounds. The Irish were outrebounded by 12 on Wednesday against Rutgers but committed just five turnovers in 50 minutes.
Next up: Winner plays Sunday against the winner of Friday’s game between Montana State and Texas Tech.
(16) Wright State vs. (1) Arizona
On the air: 4:27 p.m., truTV
Line: Arizona by 21
Records: Wright State 22-13, Arizona 31-3
How they got here: Wright State tied for third in the Horizon League before winning the conference tournament. Arizona won the regular-season and tournament titles in the Pac-12 Conference.
Tournament history: This is Wright State’s fourth appearance; the Raiders won their first game Wednesday in the play-in game over Bryant. Arizona has made 37 tournament appearances, though two were later vacated by the NCAA. The Wildcats have been to four Final Fours, winning the title in 1997.
Coaches: Wright State’s Scott Nagy is in his sixth season, with a record of 131-62 (.679). Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd is in his first season.
Players to watch: For Wright State, Tanner Holden (20.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Grant Basile (18.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Trey Calvin (14.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.3 apg). For Arizona, Bennedict Mathurin (17.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Azuolas Tubelis (14.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Christian Koloko (12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg).
Raiders update: After qualifying for the tournament, Wright State traveled all of 13 miles for the play-in game at Dayton, where Holden exploded for 37 points and 11 rebounds in a 93-82 win over Bryant. Holden made 14 of 16 free throws, which hardly was surprising — he leads the nation with 215 attempts from the line (79 percent). The Raiders’ best win this year was in December at NC State, but they were blown out by tournament teams Purdue (86-52) and Akron (66-48). Stopping Arizona’s high-powered offense with the nation’s 256th-ranked defense could prove troublesome.
Wildcats update: Arizona was one of the surprise teams in the country this year, with a rookie head coach leading them to a No. 1 seed. Tubelis is 6-11 and Koloko is 7-1, but this is not a plodding team. The Wildcats rank third in the nation in scoring and field goal percentage and second in scoring margin. The question hanging over Arizona is the status of point guard Kerr Kriisa (10.1 ppg, 4.9 apg), who left the locker room in a wheelchair last week after injuring his ankle. Lloyd said Thursday it will be “a game-time decision” whether Kriisa plays. “We’ll see … I think he’s close,” Lloyd said. It’s possible he could start the game on the bench (and stay there if Arizona doesn’t need him).
Next up: Winner plays Sunday against the winner of Friday night’s late game between TCU and Seton Hall.
(9) TCU vs. (8) Seton Hall
On the air: 6:57 p.m., truTV
Line: Seton Hall by 1
Records: TCU 20-12, Seton Hall 21-10
How they got here: TCU finished tied for fifth in the Big 12 regular season standings and lost to Kansas in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Seton Hall tied for fifth in the Big East regular season standings and lost to UConn in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Tournament history: This is TCU’s ninth appearance. The Horned Frogs are 5-8 all-time, the last win coming in 1987 when the team’s head coach was a senior on the team. This is Seton Hall’s 15th appearance. The Pirates have a 16-13 overall record in the tournament, including a runner-up finish to Michigan (losing 80-79 in OT) for the 1989 national title.
Coaches: TCU’s Jamie Dixon is in his sixth season with the Horned Frogs, sporting a 116-83 record. Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard is in his 12th season with the Pirates, with a 225-160 record.
Players to watch: For TCU, Mike Miles (15.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.9 apg), Damion Baugh (10.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.4 apg), Emanuel Miller (10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Eddie Lampkin (6.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg). For Seton Hall, Jared Rhoden (15.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Bryce Aiken (14.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg), Myles Cagle (9.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Kadary Richmond (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg).
Horned Frogs update: This is the first meeting between the teams, though Dixon faced Seton Hall 11 times (winning seven) during his time as head coach at Pitt. TCU’s biggest challenge will be limiting turnovers, where the team ranks tied for 311th in the nation with 14.5 per game. Horned Frogs sophomore guard Mike Miles is being eyed as a potential second-round pick in the NBA Draft. TCU ranks 10th in the nation in offensive rebounds with 12.97 per game.
Pirates update: Seton Hall started strong — winning nine of its first 10 games — and finished strong — winning six in a row before a loss to UConn in the Big East tourney. Everyone looks up to senior Ike Obiagu, a 7-foot-2 center from Nigeria, who isn’t much for offense (2.6 ppg), but makes opponents think twice about coming down the middle (3.3 bpg). The Pirates have made 50 more three pointers — 228-178 — than TCU this season.
Next up: Winner plays Sunday against the winner of Friday’s game between Wright State and Arizona.