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NCAA Tournament Friday Preview and Open Thread: Michigan State Opens Up

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Six Big Ten teams kick-start their 2016 NCAA Tournament journeys today. What do the matchups look like?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Big Ten only had two teams in action. Of course, Michigan kicked off the tournament for the conference by beating Tulsa in the play-in game. Now, there's no looking back. Michigan State, Iowa, Maryland, Wisconsin and Michigan are scattered throughout Friday's action. We'll take a look at each upcoming game.

(2) Michigan State Spartans vs. (15) Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (1:45 PM CT on CBS)

Many have picked Michigan State to win it all, and the Spartans are certainly playing as well as anyone in the country (coming off a Big Ten Tournament Title). Michigan State is a double-digit favorite, but the Blue Raiders won't roll over.

Middle Tennessee State is 24-9 overall, 13-5 in Conference USA and has won six in a row. Michigan State ought to win, but Tom Izzo won't let the Spartans take anyone lightly in March.

(7) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (10) Temple Owls (2:10 PM CT on TRUTV)

Iowa's an interesting case. The Hawkeyes started hot in the Big Ten, and cooled considerably. In fact, Iowa lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament (to Illinois), and have lost six of its last eight. Iowa has talent and veteran leadership, which usually equate to success in March.

Iowa's favored to beat Temple, but the Owls are nearly the reverse of the Hawkeyes (winners of five of their last seven). So, the question becomes: Which Iowa team will show up?

(5) Maryland Terrapins vs. (12) South Dakota State Jackrabbits (3:30 PM CT on TBS)

Maryland's similar to Iowa. They haven't reached their full potential. The Terrapins boast tons of talent; now's the time to put it all together. The Terrapins find themselves in the ever dangerous 5-12 matchup, against a veteran team that can really shoot. (The Jackrabbits have five guys who shoot over 35 percent from three.)

Maryland fans must be encouraged by the team's performance in the Big Ten Tournament, beating a pesky Nebraska team and losing a tight game to the eventual champion Michigan State. Melo Trimble's been inconsistent, and possibly battling a nagging injury, but if he returns to his early season form, Maryland could make a run.

(7) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (10) Pittsburgh Panthers (5:50 PM CT on TNT)

Wisconsin in the tournament was pretty hard to fathom two months ago. The Badgers were 1-4 in the Big Ten, not looking particularly great. (They finished 12-6 in conference.) Despite losing to Nebraska in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament, the Badgers earned an at-large bid, and now take on a frisky Pittsburgh team.

Wisconsin is only favored slightly over the Panthers. Pittsburgh finished in a tie for ninth in the ACC (at 9-9). I suspect the similar styles of Wisconsin and Pittsburgh will produce a grinder.

(6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (11) Michigan Wolverines (8:40 PM CT on CBS)

Michigan defeated Tulsa in one of the first four games 67-62. Now, the competition ramps up significantly, but the Wolverines have been playing well. Although they didn't shoot the ball particularly well against Tulsa, Michigan won two Big Ten Tournament games before bowing out in the semi-finals (against Purdue).

Notre Dame can score, but Michigan can also shoot, or has perimeter shooters who can get hot. Some consider playing a game in the first four actually helps. (See Wichita State last night.) One or two from that grouping usually makes a run, perhaps Michigan is one of those teams this season.