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March Madness 2024 viewer's guide: What to watch and skip on Friday

Cameron Brink, Zach Edey and Angel Reese are all in action during first-round games

March is here, and Friday is the busiest day of the NCAA tournament.

Both the men's and women's fields will be in play with a full slate of first-round action in each bracket. You'll be watching your favorite teams, of course. But there's a lot to sift through beyond those games, so let us be your guide.

Here's what to watch and what you can skip from a loaded Friday slate.

Friday afternoon

Men's schedule (All times Eastern)

12:15 p.m. — No. 8 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 9 Northwestern (CBS)

12:40 p.m. — No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 Colgate (truTV)

1:45 p.m. — No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 UAB (TNT)

2 p.m. — No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 15 Western Kentucky (TBS)

2:45 p.m. — No. 1 UConn vs. No. 16 Stetson (CBS)

3:10 p.m. — No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 11 New Mexico (truTV)

4:15 p.m. — No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Yale (TNT)

4:30 p.m. — No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Colorado (TBS)

Women's schedule (All times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. — No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Michigan State (ESPN2)

Noon — No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Maine (ESPN)

1:30 p.m. — No. 6 Louisville vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee (ESPN2)

2 p.m. — No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 16 Presbyterian (ESPN)

2:30 p.m. — No. 7 Duke vs. No. 10 Richmond (ESPNews)

3 p.m. — No. 1 Texas vs. No. 16 Drexel (ESPNU)

3:30 p.m. No. 4 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Marshall (ESPN2)

4 p.m. — No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Rice (ESPN)

4:30 p.m. — No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 13 Portland (ESPNews)

Must-see: Colorado's a compelling No. 10 seed with a freshman who could be be a top-3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Cody Williams plays a secondary offensive role on a veteran-laden Colorado roster, but is capable of scoring from inside and out as a 6-foot-8 wing who shoots 42% from 3-point distance. With four upperclassmen who average double figures led by All-Pac 12 senior KJ Simpson (19.6 points per game, 45.3% from 3-point distance), Colorado has a dangerous offense that can take advantage of a Florida defense that ranks 84th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency.

Florida, meanwhile, has the firepower to match. All-SEC selections Zyon Pullin (15.6 points per game, 44.7% from 3-point distance) and Walter Clayton Jr. (17.1 points) lead an offense that ranks sixth in the nation with 85.1 points per game. This one has shootout written all over it.

Must-skip: UConn steamrolled its way to a national championship and followed it up with a run to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Stetson is not a threat. Look for this one to be over early.

Most likely potential upset: This would be an upset in seed only. No. 11 New Mexico actually opened as a 2.5-point favorite over Clemson. The Lobos are fresh off a tournament championship in a Mountain West Conference that produced six NCAA tournament teams. They rank 22nd in both KenPom and Net rating, metrics that suggest that they're actually worthy of a No. 6 seed. They boast three All-MWC players, including Co-Freshman of the Year JT Toppin.

Clemson's no pushover. PJ Hall was second in All-ACC voting only to RJ Davis and led his Tigers to an upset of Davis' Tar Heels in February. But this is a tough draw for a No. 6 seed.

Angel Reese and the Tigers face a tough path to defending their 2023 championship. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Angel Reese and the Tigers face a tough path to defending their 2023 championship. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images) (Eakin Howard via Getty Images)

Player to watch: Angel Reese is back after leading LSU to the program's first national championship in a thriller over Iowa and Caitlin Clark a year ago. The Tigers are contenders again after a second-place finish behind undefeated South Carolina in the SEC earned them a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Reese, the Most Outstanding Player of last year's tournament, returned with another strong campaign that earned her second-team All-America honors. She enters tournament play averaging 19 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

The Tigers are set up for a potential Elite Eight rematch with Iowa in a loaded Albany 2 region. But first, they'll have to avoid falling upset to 14th-seeded Rice.

Friday evening

Men's schedule (All times Eastern)

6:50 p.m. — No. 8 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Texas A&M (TNT)

7:10 p.m. No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 Vermont (CBS)

7:25 p.m. No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 16 Grambling State (TBS)

7:35 p.m. No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 13 College of Charleston (truTV)

9:20 p.m. No. 1 Houston vs. No. 16 Longwood (TNT)

9:40 p.m. — No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 James Madison (CBS)

9:55 p.m. — No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 TCU (TBS)

10:05 p.m. — No. 5 Saint Mary's vs. No. 12 Grand Canyon (truTV)

Women's schedule (All times Eastern)

5:30 p.m. — No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 9 Florida State (ESPN2)

6 p.m. — No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 Vanderbilt (ESPNU)

7 p.m. — No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Drake (ESPNews)

7:30 p.m. — No. 7 Iowa State vs. No. 10 Maryland (ESPN2)

8 p.m. — No. 3 Oregon State vs. No. 14 Eastern Washington (ESPNU)

10 p.m. — No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 15 Norfolk State (ESPN2)

10:30 p.m. No. 6 Nebraska vs. No. 11 Texas A&M (ESPNU)

Must-see: 1 vs. 16 matchups are generally must-skip fodder. But Purdue isn't your average No. 1 seed. The last time we saw Purdue in the NCAA tournament, it lost to Fairleigh Dickinson as the second No. 1 seed in tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed.

The previous No. 1 seed to lose such a game was Virginia in 2018 to UMBC. The Cavaliers bounced back the next season to win the program's first national championship. Purdue's following a similar path in returning the core of last year's upset victims featuring reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey. It's surely looking to those Cavs for inspiration.

This in all likelihood will be a standard 1-16 blowout. But the same could have been said about the Fairleigh Dickinson game. All eyes will be on the Boilermakers to see how they answer the bell.

Zach Edey and Purdue will be under intense scrutiny after last year's first-round exit. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Zach Edey and Purdue will be under intense scrutiny after last year's first-round exit. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images) (Michael Hickey via Getty Images)

Must-skip: Houston looked its worst on Saturday in a blowout loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 championship. But we're not worried about the Cougars against Longwood, which finished 6-10 in the Big South regular season. Longwood is the type of team Houston can hold below 40 points.

Most likely potential upset: The dreaded 12-5 matchup is a tough one for Wisconsin. James Madison won 31 games this season, including a victory over Wisconsin's Big Ten rival Michigan State. The Dukes feature a dangerous backcourt scorer in Sun Belt Player of the Year Terrence Edwards Jr. (17.1 points per game), who dropped 25 on the Spartans.

The Badgers are playing well, having won three Big Ten tournament games before losing a shootout to Illinois in the conference championship. They beat NCAA tournament No. 1 seed Purdue on Saturday. They'll need to maintain that level of play to fend off the upset-minded Dukes.

Player to watch: Stanford senior center Cameron Brink is one of the best players in the country and a strong candidate to go second in the upcoming WNBA draft behind Caitlin Clark. A double-double machine, the 6-4 senior forward averaged 17.8 points, 12 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game en route to her second Pac 12 Player of the Year award and her third All-America team.