Every year the NCAA tournament's round of 64 provides the most thrilling two days in sports. From unthinkable individual performances to shocking upsets, college basketball doesn't get any better than the opening rounds of the Big Dance.
With the tournament set to get underway on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio (don't wait to print out a bracket), many amateur bracketologists are already looking ahead to this weekend's potential third-round games.
Below we'll highlight a trio of top matchups that fans could see in the round of 32 this weekend.
Top Overall Seed Faces a Test on the Boards
The Midwest Region is hands-down the toughest bracket in this year's tournament, as it features three of the greatest programs in college basketball in Louisville, Duke and Michigan State, as well as three legendary coaches in Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo.
But Pitino's Cardinals, the top overall seed in this year's tourney, could be in for an early scare in the third round if they match up with eighth-seeded Colorado State on Saturday. The Rams will take on Missouri in the round of 64, but are the favorite to advance because of their outstanding prowess on the glass.
That's where Colton Iverson and company could wreak the most havoc on Louisville this weekend.
Colorado State ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding this season, and features two players in Iverson and Pierce Hornung who are averaging over nine boards per game in 2012-13. If Peyton Siva and the Cardinals aren't on the top of their game from the opening tip, the Rams could provide us with 2013's most memorable bracket-busting upset.
Wildcats and Badgers Battle Again Out West
It was just two years ago that Kansas State and Wisconsin met in Tucson, Ariz. in the round of 32 in the 2011 NCAA tournament in what was a thrilling showdown.
The two teams went back and forth throughout, and despite a 38-point effort from Wildcats star Jacob Pullen, the Badgers came away with a five-point win to advance to the Sweet 16. A potential third-round clash between these two schools in 2013 promises to match that game's intensity.
The edge in this rematch would have to go to Bo Ryan's Wisconsin squad however. Although Kansas State sits slightly higher in the RPI rankings, the Badgers boast five wins over RPI Top 25 teams this season compared to the Wildcats' one victory.
Wisconsin wins ugly, and also possesses the senior leadership to make a deep run in this year's tournament. If the Badgers can outlast Ole Miss on Friday, and Kansas State avoids an upset, this much-anticipated matchup will become a reality.
Roy Williams Takes on His Old Team
Roy Williams led the Kansas Jayhawks to four Final Four appearances while coaching in Lawrence from 1988 to 2003. But on Sunday, it's possible that for the second straight year Williams will be leading the North Carolina Tar Heels up against his old team in the NCAA tournament.
The eighth-seeded Tar Heels nearly won the ACC tournament this past weekend, and will be favored to knock off Villanova in the round of 64 on Friday, just as Kansas will be against No. 16-seeded Western Kentucky.
If both teams win, that will set up a colossal third-round clash pitting two of college basketball's most prestigious programs against one another for a second consecutive year. Bill Self's Jayhawks got the better of Carolina in the Elite Eight a year ago, beating the Tar Heels to advance to the Final Four.
Five years ago, Williams and the Heels fell to Kansas in the Final Four, getting blown out by the Jayhawks in San Antonio. It's safe to say that Williams hasn't had a great amount of success against his former team in the Big Dance.
So look for a heated battle in Kansas City this weekend if both teams can advance to the round of 32 as they are expected to do.
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