Round 3 of the 2013 NCAA tournament will come to a close on Sunday evening, and there are several intriguing games on tap that have the potential to continue the madness in March.
Two of the No. 1 seeds are in action, but neither Kansas nor Indiana should have much trouble despite the Jayhawks' difficulties earlier in the week against Western Kentucky, a pesky No. 16 seed that only lost by seven.
Here is a breakdown of the three other showdowns that should be the most entertaining and closest in today's Round of 32 action.
(2) Duke Blue Devils vs. (7) Creighton Bluejays—Midwest region
This should be an absolute shootout, even with the rotation of guards Duke boasts that can defend the perimeter well. Creighton is the most efficient team in the nation offensively, shooting an astounding 50.8 percent overall and 42 percent from three.
The Blue Devils shoot the three at 40.5 percent, which is why this game promises to be extremely exciting.
Doug McDermott, the son of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, is sensational. He has outstanding three-point range to go with a savvy post game, which allows him to average 23 points per contest.
The matchup between McDermott and Duke star Ryan Kelly, who has a similar skill set, should be among the most exciting individual battles to watch in the entire tournament.
Unfortunately for the Creighton faithful, its squad boasts no one else who averages in double-figures, and McDermott will need a similar performance to the 27 points and 11 rebounds he put up in the Bluejays' second-round triumph over Cincinnati.
Both teams live and die by the jump shot for the most part, but if the Bluejays are to have any chance, senior center Gregory Echenique will have to do a number on Mason Plumlee in the paint.
If Plumlee can't get into an offensive rhythm, Duke will be forced to jack up three-pointers even more. However, expect the perennial powerhouse program to emerge victorious, as the Blue Devils have too many threats for Creighton to account for regardless of what McDermott does.
Prediction: Duke 85, Creighton 81
(3) Florida Gators vs. (11) Minnesota Golden Gophers—South region
A wonderful clash of national championship-winning head coaches defines this one. Billy Donovan's Gators figure to be heavily favored, but Minnesota woke up after a 5-11 finish to the regular season to crush UCLA by 20 in Round 2.
Tubby Smith is a fantastic coach in his own right, although he hasn't enjoyed near the success as he did at Kentucky during his time in the Twin Cities.
Donovan has won the past six contests against Smith, too (h/t ESPN).
As for the actual players, backcourt combo of Andre and Austin Hollins leads the Golden Gophers and are tough on the perimeter on defense.
Which game do you think will be closest on Sunday?
That should be a formidable challenge for Florida star Kenny Boynton, whose playmaking ability by getting to the hoop is the key to the Gators' offense.
Minnesota will play zone to combat what Boynton can do off the dribble, but it will have a hard time accounting for versatile big man Erik Murphy, whose 6'10" height and three-point range spreads the floor extremely well.
If the Golden Gophers give the Gators as many second-chance opportunities as they gave the Bruins in the opener, they will be in trouble. That shouldn't happen, but neither should another 80-plus showing from Minnesota's offense considering how well Florida plays on the defensive side.
This should be a low-scoring battle, but the clutch play of Murphy will be the difference.
Don't be surprised if this comes down to the final possession, with the Gators escaping thanks to having more viable scoring options on offense.
Prediction: Florida 68, Minnesota 66
(12) Ole Miss Rebels vs. (13) La Salle Explorers—West region
Neither of these teams should have advanced to this stage based on seeding, but that's why they play the games. The Rebels are catalyzed by a mercurial, trigger-happy shooting guard Marshall Henderson, whose hot second half helped Ole Miss beat Big Ten foe Wisconsin.
Even Miami Heat superstar LeBron James couldn't help chiming in while witnessing Henderson's refusal to cease shooting:
Man that dude Henderson from Ol Miss got the greenest light in basketball history!! Hahaha.— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 22, 2013
La Salle dominated Kansas State for much of its opening game of the tournament, before holding off a furious rally to win, 63-61. A small lineup of four guards is deployed by John Giannini, but the key to victory was forward Jerrell Wright.
The sophomore sank all six of his shots from the field and finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Typically, the trio of Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland drives the Explorers' attack.
Absent any substantial size up front, though, La Salle is likely in trouble against the SEC conference tournament champions.
Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner are going to be too much for the Explorers to handle, as Holloway is a dynamic scorer and both are stout defenders and exceptional rebounders.
That will limit Galloway and Duren to contested three-pointers, and the edge on the glass will afford Henderson second-chance opportunities he will likely need for the Rebels to get to the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Ole Miss 76, La Salle 70
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