NCAA Tournament 2014: Round of 64 Schedule and Predictions for Breakout Players

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NCAA Tournament 2014: Round of 64 Schedule and Predictions for Breakout Players
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

There is no bigger stage than the NCAA tournament. 

OK, so there's no actual stage, but during the Big Dance, college basketball goes from being a sport that's pretty popular to one that's downright sinful to ignore. Everyone from soccer moms to the President of the United States will likely take in a game or two over the next several weeks, while common fans will watch as much as they possible can. 

As such, players who have quietly been producing all season but have only been recognized by local media and hardcore fans will finally get some of the national attention they deserve. 

Last March, it was guys like Mitch McGary, Khalif Wyatt, Arsalan Kazemi and the entire Wichita State team busting out in the limelight. 

Let's take a look at candidates to play that role this year. 

Note: All stats and rankings courtesy of kenpom.com (subscription needed) unless noted otherwise

 

All Your Bracket Essentials:

Bleacher Report

 

Round of 64 Schedule

2014 Round of 64 Schedule
Date 2nd Round Time (ET) TV Live Stream
Thu, March 20 (11) Dayton vs. (6) Ohio State 12:15 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (15) American vs. (2) Wisconsin 12:40 p.m. truTV March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (9) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Colorado 1:40 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (12) Harvard vs. (5) Cincinnati 2:10 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (14) Western Michigan vs. (3) Syracuse 2:45 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (10) BYU vs. (7) Oregon 3:10 p.m. truTV March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (16) Albany/Mt. St. Mary's vs. (1) Florida 4:10 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (13) Delaware vs. (4) Michigan State 4:40 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (10) Saint Joseph's vs. (7) Connecticut 6:55 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (15) Wofford vs. (2) Michigan 7:10 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (12) NC State/Xavier vs. (5) Saint Louis 7:20 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (12) North Dakota St. vs. (5) Oklahoma 7:27 p.m. truTV March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (15) Milwaukee vs. (2) Villanova 9:25 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (10) Arizona State vs. (7) Texas 9:40 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (13) Manhattan vs. (4) Louisville 9:50 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Thu, March 20 (13) New Mexico St. vs. (4) San Diego State 9:57 p.m. truTV March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (14) Mercer vs. (3) Duke 12:15 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (11) Nebraska vs. (6) Baylor 12:40 p.m. truTV March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (10) Stanford vs. (7) New Mexico 1:40 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (16) Weber State vs. (1) Arizona 2:10 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (11) Iowa/Tennessee vs. (5) Massachusetts 2:45 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (14) LA-Lafayette vs. (3) Creighton 3:10 p.m. truTV March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (15) Eastern Kentucky vs. (2) Kansas 4:10 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (9) Oklahoma State vs. (8) Gonzaga 4:40 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (9) George Washington vs. (8) Memphis 6:55 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (16) Cal Poly/Texas Southern vs. (1) Wichita State 7:10 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (11) Providence vs. (6) North Carolina 7:20 p.m. truTV March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (12) Stephen F. Austin vs. (5) VCU 7:27 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (16) Coastal Carolina vs. (1) Virginia 9:25 p.m. TBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (9) Kansas State vs. (8) Kentucky 9:40 p.m. CBS March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (14) North Carolina Central vs. (3) Iowa State 9:50 p.m. TNT March Madness Live
Fri, March 21 (13) Tulsa vs. (4) UCLA 9:57 p.m. truTV March Madness Live

 

Breakout Candidates

Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Good luck outworking Ryan Spangler on the interior. The redshirt sophomore forward doesn't have a whole lot of grace to his game, but he is a physical, bruising force who doesn't shy away from contact and has a nose for the ball coming off the glass. 

The double-double machine averages 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest. When he's in the game, he pulls down 12.3 percent of available offensive rebounds (104th most in the country) and 22.9 percent on the defensive end (77th most). 

Unsurprisingly for a somewhat undersized big man (6'8", 232 pounds) who makes a living by doing the dirty work on the inside, he is extremely under-appreciated. As The Wichita Eagle's Kellis Robinett noted, he was one of the bigger snubs from the Big-12 awards, missing out on all three all-conference teams:

Oklahoma likes to shoot the three-ball. Six players have knocked down at least 25 treys on the season, and as a team the Sooners connect on 37.9 percent of their shots from behind the arc. They play a fast pace and score a lot of points, and as a result, guys like Cameron Clark, Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard tend to receive most of the attention. 

But Spangler, the human vacuum who gives them an inside presence, is arguably the team's most important—and underratedplayer. 

Breakout Prediction vs. North Dakota State: 12 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks

 

Halil Kanacevic, Saint Joseph's

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Halil Kanacevic does it all. 

You want the 6'8", 255-pounder to pick on guys his own size? Fine, he can score from the post, and more impressively, he is a monster on the glass. Kanacevic is second in the Atlantic-10 with 9.0 rebounds per game, and that number has skyrocketed to a ridiculous 13.8 over his past five contests. 

His performance in the A-10 championship was particularly transcendent:

You want him to defend? He averages 1.6 blocks per game, good enough for sixth in the conference. 

You want him to play point guard? That's fine, too. It may not be accurate to call him a point forward because he spends more time in the post, but he can handle the ball and is an excellent passer; his 4.4 assists per game are fourth most in the conference. 

Put it all together and Kanacevic, who has two of the rare rebound-assist double-doubles (including one against Creighton) this season, ranks in the top 10 in the talented conference in rebounds, assists and blocks, making him one of the most unique players in America. He is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court. 

And according to head coach Phil Martelli, via Philly.com's Mike Jensen, perhaps his best attribute is one that doesn't fit in the box score:

He's one of the best bench players that I've ever had. If you could watch him, like if you could take your eyes off the action and put a camera just on him, he's talking every play, he's encouraging on every play. He's offering suggestions.

Rough around the edges, but he has a really wonderful basketball IQ, and he is a tremendous, tremendous teammate. This is a team full of great teammates; he might be at the top of the list, though.

Those are the type of compliments that tend to be delivered to players who don't put up numbers, but Kanacevic isn't your normal player. The country will learn that on Thursday. 

Breakout Prediction vs. UConn: 10 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 1 steal

 

Taylor Braun, North Dakota State

Elijah Van Benschoten/Associated Press

North Dakota State is quietly one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the country20th in the nation in Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency rankings and fifth in points per possession, per bbstate.com

It starts with Taylor Braun. 

The 6'7" shooting guard is a nightmare matchup. He has the size to shoot over most perimeter defenders at this level, and he does so with aplomb, knocking down 44.1 percent of his 3.1 three-point attempts per game. But if you try to body him up, he can also get by you, with 38.4 percent of shots coming at the rim, per hoop-math.com

With tremendous size and athleticism, he has the ability to score at all three levels of the court. 

Throw in his efficiency—he ranks 108th in America in true-shooting percentage—and propensity to contribute all over the floor—18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game—and there's not much to dislike. 

Breakout Prediction vs. Oklahoma: 24 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists

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