Breaking down Friday’s can’t-miss games

Here are Friday’s key March Madness 2023 games to watch:

No. 10 USC vs. No. 7 Michigan State: 12:15 p.m., CBS

In a tournament featuring Alabama and its unseemly response to a shooting, consider pulling for Michigan State and its Hall of Fame coach, Tom Izzo.

After a February campus shooting killed three students, Izzo spoke out against gun violence at a candlelight vigil in East Lansing.

He’s as close to a sure thing as there is in March, having won at least one game in eight of his past 10 NCAA Tournaments with the Spartans.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo

No. 15 Vermont vs. No. 2 Marquette: 2:45 p.m., CBS

No team in the country has been a bigger surprise than Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles, who were picked to finish ninth in the Big East preseason poll yet went on to capture the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles.

Guard Tyler Kolek, second in the country with 7.7 assists per games, makes this explosive offense hum.

No. 11 N.C. State vs. No. 6 Creighton: 4 p.m., TNT

Another Big East team takes the court when Creighton, a popular sleeper pick in brackets, matches up with the high-scoring Wolfpack out of the ACC.

N.C. State (78.2) and Creighton (76.6) are two of the higher-scoring teams in the country, so if you’re looking for a track-meet game, this could be it.

Keep an eye on N.C. State’s backcourt tandem of Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner, who combine to average nearly 35 points a game.

No. 11 Providence vs. No. 6 Kentucky: 7:10 p.m., CBS

Kentucky coach John Calipari
Kentucky coach John Calipari
Getty Images

Kentucky fans don’t have fond memories of the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament appearance last year, when they were stunned as a 2-seed by 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s in overtime.

Ever since then, Kentucky coach John Calipari has been battling critics of his team, which was on the bubble much of the year before a late-season surge.

He’ll rely on big man Oscar Tshiebwe, whose 30 points last year weren’t enough to prevent the first-round upset.

Coach Ed Cooley’s Friars out of the Big East are looking to build off last year’s run to the Sweet 16.

No. 13 Kent St. vs. No. 4 Indiana: 9:55 p.m., TNT

Former Knicks coach Mike Woodson is back in the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year, possessing one of the most dominant players in the country, senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who’s a menace in the paint and as a ball-handler.

The Golden Flashes haven’t won a tournament game since 2002, but MAC teams have pulled off March Madness upsets recently, including Buffalo in 2019 and Ohio in 2021.