The South Carolina women begin their title defense, while a couple of No. 12 seeds have us on upset watch in the men’s tournament.
March 17, 2023Updated 11:31 a.m. ET
The women’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament finally gets going, while we’re on our second day of first-round action for the men. Follow along with the bracket and live scores, and check out our picks for the Friday games we don’t want to miss (all times Eastern):
No. 8 South Florida vs. No. 9 Marquette
11:30 a.m., ESPN2
The opening game of the women’s tournament features South Florida and Marquette, who played together in Conference USA and the Big East for 18 seasons but haven’t met since 2013. Marquette went 21-10 on the season, including a win over UConn in February. South Florida went 15-1 in the American Athletic Conference and won the regular-season title for the second time. On the line in this game: A date against undefeated South Carolina.
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 16 Norfolk State
2 p.m., ESPN
Norfolk State is led by forward Kierra Wheeler and guards Camille Downs and Deja Francis. The Spartans are in the tournament for the first time in 21 years after winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Their reward? A matchup with defending champion South Carolina, owners of a perfect 32-0 record and led by reigning national player of the year Aliyah Boston and coached by Dawn Staley. South Carolina needs six wins to repeat as champs.
No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 U.N.L.V.
3 p.m., ESPNU
U.N.L.V., one of the hottest teams in the country, is currently riding a 22-game winning streak that includes the Mountain West tournament title, though the Rebels are 0-2 all time versus Michigan. U.N.L.V. is playing in its second consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament after last making the field in 2002. Michigan made it to the Elite Eight last year, so the pressure is on its Big Three, Leigha Brown, Laila Phelia and Emily Kiser, each of whom is averaging at least 16 points per game. The winner here will face either No. 3 LSU or No. 14 Hawaii.
No. 8 Southern California vs. No. 9 South Dakota State
8 p.m., ESPN News
South Dakota State missed the tournament last year but had become a fixture before then; this is its 11th trip in 18 years since joining Division I. The Jackrabbits hold wins over Louisville and Kansas State this year and ended the season with a 21-game winning streak. Southern California is back in the field for the first time since 2014. Forward Rayah Marshall is averaging a double-double, with 12.6 points and 11.4 rebounds. The teams have played each other twice before, but not since 2006.
No. 5 St. Mary’s vs. No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth
2 p.m., TBS
St. Mary’s tied with Gonzaga for the regular-season title in the West Coast Conference, though the Gaels lost to the Bulldogs in the tournament final. St. Mary’s is a No. 5 seed for the second consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament, which remains the highest seeding for the school. Virginia Commonwealth made the Final Four in 2011, kicking off a seven-year streak of tournament appearances. The Rams haven’t posted a losing season since 1998-99.
No. 4 UConn vs. No. 13 Iona
4:30 p.m., TBS
UConn started the season with 14 straight wins and finished by winning eight of its last nine games, but the Huskies lost in the Big East semifinals to Marquette. Iona also posted a 14-game winning streak, ending the season with a win over Marist in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. Iona is coached by the Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, who also coached at Kentucky, Louisville and Providence, as well as in the N.B.A. UConn guard Jordan Hawkins is projected as a first-round N.B.A. draft pick this year.
No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence
7:10 p.m., CBS
Kentucky lost in the first round last year to 15-seed St. Peter’s, one of the biggest upsets in tournament. Are the Wildcats vulnerable to an upset again? Kentucky finished its season with a loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament game. Providence tallied a nine-game winning streak during the season and notched double-overtime wins against both Marquette and Creighton. Modelers are giving Providence a better chance than public brackets, according to The Upshot’s bracket tool.
No. 5 Miami vs. No. 12 Drake
7:25 p.m., TBS
Though Miami took the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular-season crown with a 15-5 record in conference play, the Hurricanes’ blemishes included losses to Georgia Tech and Florida State. Miami may be without forward Norchad Omier, who injured his ankle in the A.C.C. tournament. Drake won 13 of its final 14 games and is led by guard Tucker DeVries, who averages 19 points a game.