NCAA Bracket 2014: Predicting Blowout Victories in Second Round

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NCAA Bracket 2014: Predicting Blowout Victories in Second Round
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Upsets are all the rage when it comes to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but blowout victories are also a part of the picture in the first couple rounds of action.

No. 16 seeds are 0-116 against top-seeded opponents since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, but with the level of college basketball rising nationwide, many think the hex could be broken soon.

"I think it can happen anytime," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told Dana O'Neil of ESPN. "Really, it's just a matter of time."

For now, there seem to be plenty of blowouts when looking at matchups on paper. Here's a look at a couple of contests that shouldn't be close by the final buzzer when the second round takes place with 16 matchups on Thursday and 16 more on Friday.

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South: (1) Florida over (16) Albany

Date: Thursday, March 20

Time: 4:10 p.m. EDT

TV: TBS

Live Stream: March Madness Live

Not since the back-to-back champs of 2006-07 has Florida coach Billy Donovan put together this talented of a team.

Aside from early-season losses to Wisconsin and Connecticut, the Gators (32-2) have gone undefeated, including a 61-60 win over Kentucky in the SEC championship game. But picking the team's best player among this star-studded roster has been up for debate, as three different Gators earned SEC Player of the Year consideration from a panel of ESPN analysts.

Scottie Wilbekin (13 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 40% 3PFG) earned the SEC POY distinction from the Associated Press, but a good case could be made for forward Casey Prather (14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 61.2 FG%) and center Patric Young (11.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 55.1 FG%). Don't sleep on sharpshooting guard Michael Frazier II (12.9 PPG, 3.1 3PG, 45.5% 3PFG), either.

Meanwhile, Albany (19-14) enters as a massive underdog against the No. 1 overall seed after beating Mount St. Mary's, 71-64, in a First Four matchup on Tuesday.

According to Tim Wilkin of the Albany Times-Union, Albany coach Will Brown is already facing critics in his own family.

Australian sophomore guard Peter Hooley (15.8 PPG, 2.2 3PG, 40.7 FG%) leads an Albany attack that relies heavily on volume shooters, a formula that doesn't bode well for this matchup against the defensive-minded Gators, who allowed just 57.9 points per game, third-best in the country.

 

Midwest: (3) Duke over (14) Mercer

Date: Friday, March 21

Time: 12:15 p.m. EDT

TV: CBS

Live Stream: March Madness Live

Duke (26-8) is all too familiar with early upsets, as they fell victim to No. 15 Lehigh during the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed.

But the Blue Devils will face an unproven Mercer team (26-8) in what will essentially be a home environment, as the game will take place at Raleigh, N.C., about a 20-minute drive from Duke's campus.

Duke's top two players, ACC Freshman of the Year Jabari Parker (19.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 47.8 FG%) and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood (16.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.0 3PG) are enjoying their role in this year's NCAA tournament run, per Steve Wiseman of the Durham Herald-Sun.

“It’s something that isn’t going to be around too long,” Parker said. “You have to cherish it when you are on the court. There’s no time to be in awe or shock or looking at it with anxiousness. It’s looking at it when you are on the court. That’s what’s going to help me out in our play.”

Hood expects Duke’s opponents to play free and loose because there’s nothing to hold back for the future. For all of Duke’s success this season, including a runner-up finish at last weekend’s ACC Tournament, Hood knows what the Blue Devils (26-8) do from this point forward is how they will be judged.

“It’s the tale of your season,” Hood said. “Nothing else matters before this tournament — whether you had a great season or a good season. All that matters is what you do in the tournament.”

While Duke is battle-tested after going 5-5 against the RPI top 25 and through a season of play in the stacked ACC, Mercer has gone 0-2 against RPI top 50 teams, with its signature win coming on the road at Ole Miss in late December.

The Bears might have experience, good shooting and a strong leader in guard Langston Hall (14.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.4 3PG), but Mercer isn't used to this level of competition.

Look for Parker to have a big day for the Blue Devils as Duke buries Mercer in the first half.

 

Midwest: (4) Louisville over (13) Manhattan

Date: Thursday, March 20

Time: 9:50 p.m. EDT

TV: TNT

Live Stream: March Madness Live

Many were scratching their heads once the brackets were released on Selection Sunday, as Louisville was pegged as a No. 4 seed, despite coming in at No. 5 on the AP poll and No. 3 on the USA Today/Coaches Poll.

In fact, Louisville has even emerged as one of the leading favorites to win their second straight NCAA championship after Rick Pitino guided his team past Michigan in the 2013 title game, per VegasInsider.com.

Not to mention President Obama picked them to advance all the way to the championship game again.

The Cardinals are led by the stellar inside-out combo of guard Russ Smith (18.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.0 3PG) and forward Montrezl Harrell (14.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 61.4 FG%), while Pitino has another athletic and talented roster again this season.

Perhaps the thing that hurt Louisville (29-5) the most was its weak nonconference schedule, but there's no doubting the potential of this team.

As for Thursday's matchup, Pitino said he's not looking forward to facing former Louisville assistant and current Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, per Dan Wolken of USA Today.

Perhaps Pitino is already feeling sorry for the rout that is likely to occur in Orlando. Manhattan (25-7) has a streaky swingman in George Beamon (19.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 3PG) to keep an eye on, but the Jaspers don't look to have the top-to-bottom depth that Louisville possesses.

Watch for the Cardinals to flex their muscles for the college basketball world as they try to defend their title.

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