TV Schedule: Friday March 18, 7:20 p.m. ET, TBS
Arena: Chesapeake Energy Arena-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Line: Texas A&M (-13)
After a four-game losing streak in early February, the Aggies rattled off an eight-game winning streak before losing to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final.
The Phoenix earned the automatic bid out of the Horizon League by winning the conference tournament, which included a win over bubble team Valparaiso. This is Green Bay’s first time in the Big Dance since 1996, which is Linc Darner‘s first full season as head coach.
What to Watch For: Texas A&M
Jalen Jones and Danuel House give the Aggies two capable wing scorers. Fellow senior Alex Caruso is the team’s fourth-leading scorer. He leads the team in assists (5.1 per game) and steals (2.0 per game).
Freshman center Tyler Davis is in line to be an important player for Texas A&M on Friday. He is the team’s third-leading scorer (11.1 points per game) and second-leading rebounder (6.1 per game), and the Aggies’ late winning streak coincided with a spike in his production (13.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game over seven games from Feb. 16 to Mar. 11). The Aggies need to control the glass and use their size advantage against Green Bay, and Davis will be a key part of that.
What To Watch For: Green Bay
Green Bay is averaging 84.2 points per game this season (sixth in the country), and it is the fastest-paced team in the NCAA tournament according to KenPom.com’s adjusted tempo metric (76.6 possessions per 40 minutes). Green Bay has eight players who average more than 13 minutes per game, and nine who average around 12 minutes per contest, so if it can push the pace consistently that depth should work to its advantage.
The Phoenix have just two players taller than 6-foot-8 on their roster (Karem Kanter and Henry Uwadiae), and they combined for less than 12 minutes per game with Uwadiae playing just 10 games all season. So this is a guard-driven team, which is not shocking given the feverish pace they play at.
Senior guard Carrington Love is the leading scorer for the Phoenix (17.7 points per game), and he fills the stat sheet (3.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game). Guard Jordan Fouse averaged 18.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game during Green Bay’s conference tournament run, highlighted by a big game against Valparaiso (25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists).
This game looks ripe for an upset, due largely to the pace Green Bay plays and the challenge that will be presented to Texas A&M if it goes cold offensively. But the Aggies have turned things around after a brief midseason downturn, and it’s hard to see them going down so quickly.
Prediction: Texas A&M 76, Green Bay 70