Utah State or TCU? How to pick 8 vs. 9 matchup in 2024 March Madness bracket

With the difference between an 8 seed and 9 seed being razor thin, 8-vs-9 matchups are often entertaining and almost always impossible to predict. The 2024 March Madness bracket features more of the same.

In the Midwest Region, 8-seed Utah State, winners of the Mountain West Conference regular-season title, is set to take on 9-seed TCU, which put together an impressive resume while competing in the Big 12.

It came up short in the Mountain West semifinals, but Utah State (27-6, 14-4 MWC) enters the NCAA Tournament having won eight of its last 10 games while TCU (21-12, 9-9 Big 12) has lost four of its last six, including a 15-point loss to Houston in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals.

When the big dance begins, regular season and conference tournament results go out the window as each team enters the tournament with a clean slate and the objective of winning six (or seven) games.

Here’s what you need to know about the matchup between Utah State and TCU, including metrics, rankings, key players, season breakdowns and more.

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Utah State vs. TCU odds

Utah State vs. TCU will be played Friday, March 22, the second day of the Round of 64. TCU opens as a betting favorite, per BetMGM.

Below are the details of the game, including betting odds, time, TV and venue:

  • Odds: TCU (-3.5)
  • Date: Friday, March 22
  • Time: 9:55 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Arena: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

STREAM: Watch 2024 NCAA Tournament games live with Sling

Utah State (27-6, 14-4 MWC)

The Utah State Aggies were one of the nation’s hottest teams for most of the 2023-24 season, getting out to a 19-2 start before running into a few roadblocks to close the year. With that in mind, the Aggies still finished with an impressive 27-6 record, including 14-4 in the six-bid Mountain West Conference.

As the MWC has established itself as one of the more respected conferences in college basketball, Utah State is among the class of the bunch, spending eight weeks in the AP top 25. An MWC regular-season title is no small feat.

Most impressive about Utah State’s resume is a lack of bad losses, as its 8-6 record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents meshes beautifully with a spotless 17-0 record against Quad 3 and Quad 4 opponents.

It’s the third tournament appearance in four years for Utah State and the first under first-year head coach Danny Sprinkle, who came to Logan, Utah after leading Montana State to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Sprinkle will look to lead the Aggies to their first tournament win since 2011.

  • NET ranking: 38
  • KenPom ranking: 48
  • Quad 1 record: 4-5
  • Quad 2 record: 4-1
  • Quad 3 record: 7-0
  • Quad 4 record: 10-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 39
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 68

Key players

Great Osobor, F, Jr. (6-8, 250): 18.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.9 apg

Ian Martinez, G, Sr. (6-3, 185): 13.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.7 apg

Darius Brown II, G, Sr. (6-2, 192): 12.4 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.4 rpg

Mason Falslev, G, Fr. (6-3, 203): 11.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg

Isaac Johnson, C, Jr. (7-0, 227): 6.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.8 apg

MORE: Buy tickets to 2024 March Madness games

TCU (21-12, 9-9 Big 12)

This is the third straight NCAA Tournament appearance for Jamie Dixon’s Horned Frogs, who picked up a few signature wins throughout the season, including back-to-back top-10 upsets of Oklahoma and Houston in January.

TCU finished with a .500 record in an über-competitive Big 12 Conference, closing the season with a tough two-point loss to UCF. The Horned Frogs opened the Big 12 Tournament with a key victory over Oklahoma before falling to Houston in the quarterfinals.

Like its opponent, the metrics indicate that TCU didn’t pick up any bad losses this season — the team posted an 8-0 record against Quad 3 and 4 opponents while its 8-12 record in Quad 1 and 2 were also deemed tournament-worthy by the committee.

After a season competing in one of college basketball’s tougher conferences, TCU is battle-tested and will look to go on a run in the Midwest Region.

  • NET ranking: 42
  • KenPom ranking: 33
  • Quad 1 record: 5-11
  • Quad 2 record: 3-1
  • Quad 3 record: 5-0
  • Quad 4 record: 8-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 44
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 31

Key players

Emanuel Miller, F, Sr. (6-7, 215): 15.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.7 apg

Jameer Nelson Jr., G, Sr. (6-2, 205): 11.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.6 rpg

Micah Peavy, G, Sr. (6-8, 215): 11.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.7 apg

JaKobe Coles, F, Jr. (6-8, 215): 9.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg

Ernest Udeh, C, Soph. (6-11, 260): 4.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.3 apg

Utah State vs. TCU prediction

Teams from two of the nation’s most respected conferences have an opportunity to show just how battle-tested they are after the regular season.

For Utah State, things begin with center Great Osobor, one of two Aggies to follow Sprinkle from Montana State to Utah State, the other being all-conference guard Darius Brown II. 

At 6-8, 250, Osobor is one of the nation’s better rebounders and could present matchup problems for TCU — the junior forward posted a double-double in 15 of his first 33 games this season.

TCU is led by fifth-year forward Emanuel Miller, the older brother of Timberwolves rookie Leonard Miller. The elder Miller earned second-team All-Big 12 honors with averages of 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. After taking an awkward fall in the Big 12 Tournament, Miller is expected against Utah State.

The NBA DNA doesn’t stop with Miller, as senior guard Jameer Nelson Jr. was the Horned Frogs’ leading playmaker with 3.3 assists per game.

Stylistically, metrics indicate that the two teams are in a similar sphere on the offensive end while TCU has a stronger defensive profile. Both teams faced NCAA Tournament-level competition throughout the year and should be unfazed by the increased intensity of the NCAA Tournament.

If Miller is able to go, his health could be the determining factor in the outcome of this game.

History of 8 vs. 9 matchups in NCAA Tournament

Look no further than last year to see why 8-9 matchups are viewed as a coin flip. In 2023, two 9 seeds prevailed, including Florida Atlantic, which rode the momentum from the opening round all the way to the Final Four.

Here’s a look at the recent history of 9 seeds toppling 8 seeds in the opening round:

Year Result
2023 Auburn 83, Iowa 75
2023 FAU 66, Memphis 65
2022 Memphis 64, Boise State 53
2022 TCU 69, Seton Hall 42
2022 Creighton 72, San Diego State 69
2021 Wisconsin 85, UNC 62
2019 UCF 73, VCU 58
2019 Baylor 78, Syracuse 69
2019 Oklahoma 95, Ole Miss 72
2019 Washington 78, Utah State 61
2018 Alabama 86, Virginia Tech 83
2018 Kansas State 69, Creighton 59
2018 Florida State 67, Missouri 54
2017 Michigan State 78, Miami 58
2016 Butler 71, Texas Tech 61
2016 Providence 70, USC 69
2016 UConn 74, Colorado 67
2014 Pittsburgh 77, Colorado 48
2013 Temple 76, N.C. State 72
2013 Wichita State 73, Pittsburgh 55
2012 St. Louis 61, Memphis 54
2011 Illinois 73, UNLV 62
2010 Wake Forest 81, Texas 80
2010 Northern Iowa 69, UNLV 66
2009 Siena 74, Ohio State 72
2009 Texas A&M 79, BYU 66

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