Schedule and Predictions for Every Game on Sunday, March 24
After a wild Saturday, eight more teams get to punch their ticket to the second weekend on Saturday. Will we see another 1 seed go down? How many double-digit seeds will make the Sweet 16. Can Florida Gulf Coast build upon their wild Cinderella tale? Let's take a look at all eight match-ups for Sunday:
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Iowa State - 12:15 on CBS
Fred Hoiberg's squad has looked excellent at times, scoring almost 80 points per game, good for 4th in the nation; however, the times when they have looked the best, they have lost (see both overtime games in the regular season against Kansas). The Cyclones certainly proved they deserved a bid in their first round dismantling of Notre Dame 76-58; however, they are going up against one of the hottest teams in the country right now in Ohio State. The Buckeyes haven't lost since they were demolished at the Kohl Center against the Wisconsin Badgers on February 17, reeling off 9 victories (4 against ranked foes) and a Big Ten Tournament to-boot. Buckeyes continue their success in this one and win 74-63.
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 9 Temple - 2:45 on CBS
I have been skeptical of Indiana all year. I wondered what all the hype was about as I saw my underwhelming Wisconsin Badgers go 2-0 against them including a win in Assembly Hall in mid-January. Talent from top to bottom, 80 points per game, despite playing in the toughest defensive conference in the country, two of the top-five players in the country including arguably the best defender in the nation in Victor Oladipo and a realization that the only times I watched IU were when they were on the verge of losing. This is a team that won the Big Ten regular season outright and that speaks volumes about this team. Their slip-ups came against the Badgers twice (Tom Crean has never defeated the Badgers in his tenure at Indiana), at Illinois on a blown assignment at the end of the game, an overtime loss to Butler in Indianapolis in one of the wildest finishes I've seen, at "The Barn" against Minnesota, and to a streaking Ohio State squad at the end of the year. There is no such thing as a good loss, but Indiana does not suffer bad losses. Temple is hardly a bad team, as witnessed by their domination of NC State from tape to tape; however, it came at the price of Khalif Wyatt's thumb. Wyatt scored 31 against the Wolfpack; however, he injured his left thumb in the process. Though he claims he is OK, if he is not at 110%, the Owls have no chance of winning this game. Hoosiers win 78-60.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 North Carolina - 5:15 on CBS
Roy Williams faces his old team, the Tar Heels get a chance at revenge for last year's Elite Eight game, and Kansas gets a chance to prove that they deserve their top-seed. No short on story-lines, this virtual home-game for the Jayhawks (it's being played in Kansas City), is a very different game from last year's Elite Eight. While the Tar Heels lost Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and more, Kansas only lost Thomas Robinson. While Robinson is a big loss, Jeff Withey has grown into an excellent inside presence, and the Jayhawks have added potential number one pick Ben McLemore, who averages 16.4 points per game on 50.7% shooting. Jayhawks take this one 81-72.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 11 Minnesota - 6:10 on TNT
Florida is 0-6 in nine-point games. That would matter if this looked like it would be a tight one. Minnesota crushed a short-staffed UCLA team in their opening game but have looked mediocre at best since their win at #12 Illinois on January 9th. Since that time, they have compiled a 6-11 record with losses coming to Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa, and Purdue among others in that stretch. This one will get ugly, quickly. Florida blows by the Gophers 75-53.
No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast - 7:10 on TBS
Saying this game is tough to handicap is an understatement. Florida Gulf Coast was 1-3 against tournament teams coming into Friday; however, they beat Miami 63-51 way back in November. The Eagles play an up-tempo brand of basketball, and limited Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr. to 5-17 shooting and only 13 points. If they can do the same to all-Mountain West player Jamaal Franklin (who averaged 16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game), then the shoe might fit. Steve Fisher is an excellent coach and has turned a team around which went 5-23 in his first season as head coach, to a perennial favorite atop the Mountain West. Unfortunately for the Eagles, I think the Aztecs will be able to slow the game down and take this game 65-53.
No. 12 Ole Miss vs. No. 13 La Salle - 7:40 on TruTV
No projection of this game would be complete without an opinion of Marshall Henderson, he is the worst. If you don't know who Marshall Henderson is, read this Deadspin story to get a better idea. You will either think he is the greatest and most animated thing to ever happen to college basketball, or he showed up your team and you hate him. From an objective standpoint, I can say this, the young man is not afraid to shoot. Henderson opened the game 1-13 against the Badgers, yet ended with 19 points. If you don't succeed at first, try and try again is his mantra, and after 21 shots, almost anyone will score 19. Henderson is no short on confidence, and against a big and talented front-line for Wisconsin, the Rebels were able to out-rebound them 40-38 and grab 10 offensive boards. On the other side of the coin, they can't expect the Explorers of La Salle to shoot as poorly as the Badgers did. La Salle is playing their third game this week, and almost blew an 18-point halftime lead to Kansas State. Led by Roman Galloway, who had 15 first-half points against the Wildcats, La Salle will be a tough out for the Rebels; however, I think the Marshall Henderson's and the rest of the Rebels will take this one 78-72.
No. 2 Miami vs. No. 7 Illinois - 8:40 on TNT
When you think of consistency, neither of these two teams come to mind. Miami has looked excellent at times this season, knocking off Michigan State in November, beating Duke at home by 27, and winning the ACC regular season and conference tournament titles. On the same token, this same team lost by double-digits to Florida Gulf Coast (yes the same Florida Gulf Coast who knocked off Georgetown), lost to Indiana State, by 15 at Wake Forest (who went 6-12 in the ACC and 13-18 overall), and at home to Georgia Tech (6-12 in the ACC, 16-15 overall). They go up against Illinois who has looked frighteningly good at times, beating at the time #10 Gonzaga in Spokane by double digits, beating Ohio State by 19, and Indiana. This same team lost by 14 to Northwestern at home, and went 1-3 in their final regular season games. Led by Brandon Paul, a player who at times can score at will, and then disappears for long stretches of time, the Fighting Illini are only as good as he is. When he plays well (see their Big Ten Tournament win over Minnesota as a good example), they win. When he plays poorly (2-13 from the field in their Big Ten Tournament loss to Indiana), they lose. For Miami, it's not just one guy, but sometimes the team just doesn't click on offense or defense. When guards Durand Scott and Shane Larkin are on, they are on. They exploded for 43 combined points on 17-28 shooting against Duke in their win in January; however, struggled to find their shot in the Georgia Tech game, scoring only 29 between the two. Miami should take this one 74-66; however, if Illinois can get their perimeter game firing on all cylinders, watch out, as this could be a potential bracket-destroyer.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Creighton - 9:40 on TBS
The last game of the night is the most intriguing match-up for me. Yes, Duke has only lost once with Ryan Kelly in the lineup; however, since his 36-point outburst in his return against Miami, he has only scored 42 total points since, including only 8 in each of his last three games. They go up against one of the most potent offenses in the country in Creighton. No one shoots threes like Creighton does, and their 42.2% 3-point field goal percentage is otherworldly. Led by All-American Doug McDermott and three-point specialist Ethan Wragge, who has taken 11 two's all year (and shot 44.6% from 3), the Blue Jays have the recipe for taking down a giant. If their shots fall and if they can get to the free-throw line (where they shoot 75.6% and McDermott shoots 86.8%), then the Blue Jays can pull off the upset. I'm taking Creighton in this one 76-69 as Duke suffers another early exit.
I did pretty well with my predictions on Saturday, and let's hope I can carry the same success into Sunday. Good luck with your brackets and stay here for updates throughout the day.