The 2013 NCAA tournament is only going to intensify when Saturday tips off, and that goes double for its biggest games.
March Madness brackets are gradually busting and key matchups in the first slate from the round of 32 will keep this rolling. Will Gonzaga manage to collect itself and put on the show we saw all regular season?
What other mid-majors survive and advance? Or will the powerhouse conference schools begin to take over?
It's quite an even-keeled pool of teams because not only does that embody the madness, but it's more obvious in 2013 given the depth from the mid-major level.
VCU vs. Michigan
The Rams and Wolverines steamrolled to victories in the round of 64, so each enter this contest with an immense amount of confidence.
VCU showed its ability to score by putting up 88 against a sound Akron defense, as well as the knack for generating turnovers. Michigan, on the other hand, did struggle early versus South Dakota State but managed to pull away as the game progressed en route to a convincing win.
Here, the game within the game will be VCU's efficient offense against Michigan's suffocating defense. The Wolverines don't force an incredible number of turnovers; however, they minimize open look opportunities and crash the boards quite well.
As for the Rams defense, VCU will need to keep capitalizing off turnovers and preventing the Wolverines from controlling the tempo in transition. Michigan's offense is capable of adjusting paces while maintaining efficiency.
Memphis vs. Michigan State
Arguably the most exciting game to get ready for, Memphis and Michigan State features one of college basketball's most suffocating defense (Spartans) versus a high-powered offense (Tigers).
The Tigers possess the talent to come out the gates quite explosively, because they got up early on a tough Saint Mary's team on Thursday. Factor in the ability to consistently dish the rock and Memphis will work nicely in the half-court.
Coach Tom Izzo's crew, though, presents the challenge of equaling Memphis on the glass, locking down defensively and scoring at an efficient rate. Michigan State is astronomically more battle-tested from the regular season and is sounder on the defensive side.
The intriguing challenge for each school will be taking advantage of turnover opportunities. Memphis does a better job at providing itself with additional possessions to up the tempo. Michigan State, however, knows how to get physical at each end and win the battle inside.
Given the Tigers' overall athleticism and it will be interesting to see how everything unfolds within the paint.
Wichita State vs. Gonzaga
We saw the excellent potential of Wichita State's offense against Pittsburgh in the round of 64. On the contrary, Gonzaga was exploited by No. 16 seed Southern when it came to half-court basketball.
The Shockers have the blueprint to isolate the Zags, because shortening the game and minimizing chances will prevent the Bulldogs from finding a rhythm. And this is a favorable matchup for Wichita State, because it allows an average of just 60.5 points per game.
Combine that with allowing a 39.8 opponents' shooting percentage and the Shockers have the approach to isolate Gonzaga. And for the Bulldogs to avoid a colossal upset, pushing this pace into the 70s and 80s will get Wichita State on its heels.
Although the Shockers proved the ability to hit 70-plus, matching pace won't be easy as Gonzaga's offense remains one of the best in the country. It's simply a matter of the Shockers limiting the Zags' volume, whereas the Bulldogs must win the rebound battle and dominate in transition.
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