Huffpost College
Jordan Schultz Headshot

March Madness Friday Preview: The Rise Of Jabari Parker, Doug McDermott And Kentucky's Issues

Posted: Updated:
MARCH MADNESS
Duke freshman Jabari Parker (left), Kentucky head coach John Calipari (middle) and Creighton superstar Doug McDermott are all worth watching on Friday. | Getty Images
Print

Thursday's first full day of action in the NCAA Tournament was everything as advertised. Dayton stunned in-state foe Ohio State in a terrific opening 11-6 upset game, while 12-seed Harvard upended Cincinnati -- as predicted -- proving that last year's Crimson upset of New Mexico was no fluke. Meanwhile, we have yet to get our first ever 16-seed over a 1! Let's take a look at the five key storylines heading into Day Two.

Points Galore

If you like scoring, Friday's first game of the day is your ticket. Mercer (26-8) against Duke may not sound like the best, but this will be a flat-out track meet. The Bears average more than 79 points per game, and feature one of the tournament's most underrated guards in Langston Hall. Duke, also 26-8, scores 79 per game as well, thanks in large part to the stellar duo of Rodney Hood and blue chip freshman forward Jabari Parker. Mercer wants to run, and it will be interesting to see if Coach K and the Blue Devils also play at a frenetic pace.

Track Meet

Talk about points and pace. Coach Shaka Smart and VCU's "Havoc" defense against Stephen F. Austin will be an incredible matchup between two of the tournament's quickest and most entertaining teams. The Lumberjacks have not lost since November, and force opponents into shooting faster than any team in America. Neither team has any tangible size, but don't tell them. This will be a high-paced affair and the team that punches back the most will come away victorious.

Dream Point Guard Matchup

bryce cotton

North Carolina standout sophomore Marcus Paige will have his hands full with Providence senior Bryce Cotton (pictured above), a diminutive, yet highly explosive scorer who averages more than 21 points for the Friars. Cotton's ability to get into the lane and make plays helped propel Providence to its first Big East tourney title since 1994. Just as impressive, Cotton averages an almost unfathomable 39.9 minutes per game. Both guards are extremely quick and excel in the open floor, and Paige's rare ability to dominate a game offensively makes him truly special. Despite somewhat similar playing styles, also consider that while Paige was a McDonald's All-American, Cotton had just one scholarship offer.

Doug McDermott Is Must-Watch TV

Not since Jimmer Fredette has college basketball seen a player so polarizing. McDermott, who leads the nation in scoring and has an outside chance of becoming its second-leading scorer of all time behind Pistol Pete, is the rarest of breeds. A senior who stuck around to play for his father, the Creighton head coach, McDermott is the most complete offensive player you will ever see in college. He can shoot the three, post-up, pass, use either hand, run pick-and-roll, and do pretty much anything else. Our advice is quite simple: Enjoy him while you can!

Which Kentucky Will Show Up?

Head coach John Calipari has admitted to backing off his guys and has been visibly less demonstrative on the sidelines. The Wildcats, despite the nation's top-ranked recruiting class -- including potential top pick Julius Randle -- have recently found some consistency after a brutally poor stretch where they lost to four non-tournament teams, including lowly South Carolina. What it comes down to is quite simple: Will Kentucky guys play for one another, or for themselves, because in terms of talent, there aren't many teams that have as much. The challenge will be formidable, because Kansas State has a battle-tested coach in Bruce Weber, who will make things difficult for 40 minutes.

Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure and catch my NBC Sports Radio show, Kup and Schultz, which airs Sunday mornings from 9-12 ET, right here.

Around the Web

NCAA College Basketball Schedule - CBSSports.com

Reese's® Final Four Friday® | NCAA.com

NCAA College Basketball Schedule, College ... - ESPN.com

March Madness: TV information, matchups for Friday's conference tournament ...