The first round of the NCAA tournament got under way Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, but what everyone is looking forward to are the second-round games taking place on Thursday and Friday.
This year, there is a lot of talk about the second-round matchups that were put together by the selection committee. There is a No. 5 seed that felt it should have been a higher seed and a No. 12 seed that should have clearly been placed higher. Both teams will face each other in the second round.
The parity of college basketball this season has been nothing like we have ever seen before, meaning that a majority of the second round games in the tournament could go either way. According to USA Today, there are 30 teams that could make the Final Four this year. That's something that would have been unheard of in years past.
There is going to be plenty of excitement on Thursday and Friday when the real madness ensues. Here are five second-round games to pay attention to.
Arizona freshman forward Brandon Ashley (21) and senior forward Solomon Hill against UCLA.
Thursday, March 21: No. 6 Arizona (25-7) vs. No. 11 Belmont (26-6), 7:20 p.m. ET, TNT
Arizona has not lived up to expectations this season and has dropped games it should have been able to win. On the other hand, Belmont, a mid-major from the Ohio Valley Conference, has been impressive this season by winning both its conference regular-season title and tournament title.
The Wildcats, led by Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, are an athletic team that is more than capable of being in the Sweet 16 this year. It simply comes down to them being able to score points and having the ability to control the boards. One weakness this Arizona team has had this season, though, is being able to defend the three-pointer.
This is where Belmont comes in. The Bruins are the fourth-best shooting team in the nation with a 49.4 field-goal percentage. They have the ability to knock shots down from anywhere. Senior guard Ian Clark is averaging 18.1 points per game this season and can be lethal from beyond the arc when he gets in the zone.
Arizona needs to be able to shut Clark down and play all 40 minutes if it wants to avoid the upset bug.
Many are predicting a potential upset in this game, but after Sean Miller's postgame rant about "touching the ball," he is going to have his team fired up and ready to go.
Prediction: Arizona 74, Belmont 69
Wisconsin's Jared Berggren (40), Mike Bruesewitz (31) and Ben Brust (1).
Friday, March 22: No. 5 Wisconsin (23-11) vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (26-8), 12:40 p.m. ET, tru TV
The Wisconsin Badgers are going to be dangerous in the NCAA tournament again. They took down top-10 teams Michigan and Indiana in consecutive days in the Big Ten tournament last week. They lost to Ohio State in the final, but they will have momentum heading into the dance.
Wisconsin is a physical team that runs a slower-paced offense and relies heavily on its defensive play. The Badgers, led by junior guard Ben Brust and senior forward Mike Bruesewitz, will have to make sure they shut down Ole Miss from scoring.
The Rebels were sitting on the bubble heading into the SEC tournament last week, but found it within themselves to make the final and knock off Florida 66-63 for an automatic tournament bid.
Ole Miss is led by junior guard Marshall Henderson, who is known for his colorful personality on the court as well as his lethal scoring sprees. Henderson is averaging 20.1 points per game this season and was red-hot in the SEC tournament by averaging 23.7 points in the Rebels' three games.
The Badgers will have to contain not only Henderson, but senior forward Murphy Holloway as well. Holloway scored 23 points and recorded 10 rebounds in the SEC tournament title game.
Bo Ryan's Wisconsin squad always seems to be a solid team in the NCAA tournament. It has made the Sweet 16 the past two years and will be looking to make it even further this year. It will be close game between these two teams, but the Badgers will prevail in the end.
Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Ole Miss 62
Notre Dame's Eric Atkins against Louisville in the Big East tournament semifinals.
Friday, March 22: No. 7 Notre Dame (25-9) vs. No. 10 Iowa State (22-11), 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS
Mike Brey's Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been inconsistent at times this season, but managed to get enough quality wins to make the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight year.
The Fighting Irish are led by one of the nation's leading rebounders, Jack Cooley. He has averaged 13.1 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game this season. Jerian Grant is also a leader of this team and has averaged 13.4 points per game.
Iowa State, one of the most talked-about teams in the Big 12 this season, have itself back in the NCAA tournament for a second straight year. The Cyclones continue to be revitalized under head coach Fred Hoiberg.
This is going to be a close game with Notre Dame relying heavily on its defense to stop an Iowa State team that is fourth in the nation in points per game.
As much as Iowa State has the potential to pull off the upset, the Fighting Irish will make key defensive stops in the remaining minutes of regulation and make crucial plays on the offensive boards, as they have done in other games this season.
Prediction: Notre Dame 77, Iowa State 75
North Carolina sophomore guard P.J. Hairston.
Friday, March 20: No. 8 North Carolina (24-10) vs. No. 9 Villanova (20-13), 7:20 p.m. ET, TNT
The North Carolina Tar Heels were inconsistent and did not gel as a team for a majority of the season, but down stretch have proven to be a good team.
They played tough against one of the best teams in the nation, Miami, in the ACC tournament championship. The Tar Heels ended up losing the game 87-77, but it provided them with confidence they have not had all season.
The Villanova Wildcats have pulled off multiple upsets this season in an always-loaded Big East Conference. The Wildcats are led by forward JayVaughn Pinkston and guard Ryan Arcidiacono. Pinkston has averaged 13.1 points per game, while Aridiacono has averaged 12.0 points per game this season.
Look for the North Carolina to take down Villanova because of its quick play on the perimeter and ability to make three-pointers. The Tar Heels will also likely use a full-court press because the Wildcats have struggled offensively against it and have proven to turn the ball over.
Prediction: North Carolina 78, Villanova 68
Oregon senior forward Arsalan Kazemi in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals.
Thursday, March 21: No. 5 Oklahoma State (24-8) vs. No. 12 Oregon (26-8), 4:40 p.m. ET, TNT
This is by the far the best second-round matchup of the NCAA tournament. We have Phil Knight’s Oregon Ducks vs. T. Boone Picken’s Oklahoma State Cowboys. Both, of course, are huge boosters for each of their alma maters.
These are two teams that should not be playing each other in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Oklahoma State should have at least been a No. 4 seed, and Oregon should have been no worse than a No. 10 seed.
The Cowboys were one of the top teams in the Big 12 this season and almost won the Big 12 regular-season title. They have freshman sensation Marcus Smart, who has proven to be one of the best shooters in college basketball by averaging 15.4 points per game.
The Ducks surprised the nation this season by contending for a Pac-12 regular-season title and winning a Pac-12 tournament title for the first time since 2007. Oregon is led by seniors E.J. Singler and Arsalan Kazemi.
What this game is going to come down to is the Oregon defense being able to shut down Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash.
After coming off a big Pac-12 tournament title, the Ducks are going to come in with momentum and take down Oklahoma State in a nail-biter.
Prediction: Oregon 78, Oklahoma State 76