The next wave of second-round games in the 2014 NCAA tournament is on Friday, and even though many of the elite squads are in action, there should still be a sizable amount of drama in this dose of March Madness.
Three No. 1 seeds in Arizona (West), Wichita State (Midwest) and Virginia (East) will take to the hardwood and try to avoid history by being the first to lose to 16th-seeded opponents. They should all succeed, but some of the perceived favorites are in danger of being bounced in the round of 64.
Here is an overview of the bracket, Friday's full TV schedule and predictions for every game, with a focus on the upsets to watch for on Day 2.
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|Midwest||No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer||12:15 p.m.||CBS||Duke|
|West||No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska||12:40 p.m.||TruTV||Baylor|
|South||No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford||1:40 p.m.||TBS||Stanford|
|West||No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber St.||2:10 p.m.||TNT||Arizona|
|Midwest||No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Tennessee||2:30 p.m.||CBS||Tennessee|
|West||No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 UL-Lafayette||3:10 p.m.||TruTV||Creighton|
|South||No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky||4:10 p.m.||TBS||Kansas|
|West||No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma St.||4:40 p.m.||TNT||Oklahoma St.|
|East||No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 George Washington||6:55 p.m.||TBS||George Washington|
|Midwest||No. 1 Wichita St. vs. No. 16 Cal Poly||7:10 p.m.||CBS||Wichita State|
|South||No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin||7:27 p.m.||TruTV||VCU|
|East||No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Providence||7:20 p.m.||TNT||Providence|
|East||No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina||9:25 p.m.||TBS||Virginia|
|Midwest||No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas St.||9:40 p.m.||CBS||Kentucky|
Tennessee (11) over Massachusetts (6)
When the Minutemen won 16 of their first 17 games, there was no doubt they were headed to the NCAA tournament. The question was how high they would be seeded in representing the Atlantic 10.
Although the mid-major conference is deep and has six tournament entrants, that doesn't excuse UMass' stumble to the finish, as it went 8-7 in its final 15 contests. That creates a shroud of uncertainty around the Minutemen, who will be facing a formidable foe in Tennessee.
The Volunteers had to fight just to get into the second round, rallying from an early deficit against Iowa before dominating in overtime in a 78-65 first-round win. A healthy combination of size inside and quickness on the perimeter works in Tennessee's favor, led by forward Jarnell Stokes and guard Jordan McRae, the Vols' leading scorer.
BasketballInsiders.com's Alex Kennedy was impressed with Stokes' double-double performance against the Hawkeyes on Wednesday:
Tennessee's @JarnellStokes was huge during overtime. I'm a big fan of his game. He finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 20, 2014
Tennessee ranks 13th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, and have the length on the inside to bother bulky UMass forward Cady Lalanne.
Point guard Chaz Williams is the Minutemen's primary offensive catalyst, but he's just 5'9". He'll have a tough time penetrating with Stokes and Jeronne Maymon clogging the lane and the length of the Vols' guard rotation.
None of this bodes well for the higher-seeded UMass squad, who will actually be considered underdogs in this one and won't do enough on defense to prevent Tennessee from advancing to the round of 32.
Prediction: Tennesssee 70, UMass 58
Providence (11) over North Carolina (6)
Winners of conference tournaments can't always be trusted, but something about the way the Friars tore through the Big East with their backs against the wall suggests they won't be a one-and-done.
The Tar Heels have tradition and history on their side, which doesn't really mean much. All that matters is the matchup, and in terms of positional battles, there may not be many better ones than the point guards in this one.
UNC's Marcus Paige and Providence playmaker Bryce Cotton should put on a show and offset each other with their brilliance off the dribble and outside shooting ability. It's up to the supporting players for both teams to decide the outcome in this one.
Between versatile forward LaDontae Henton, big senior Kadeem Batts and Tyler Harris, there is some quick size in the frontcourt for the Friars to neutralize Tar Heels junior James Michael McAdoo.
Factoring in what each squad's personnel dictates, this should be a tight contest. What often ends up being the difference in such games is free-throw shooting. Providence is a sensational 78.1 percent from the charity stripe, while North Carolina is a meager 62.5 percent.
That should be enough to push the Friars to the third round, where a matchup with No. 3-seeded Iowa State likely looms in the East region.
Prediction: Providence 68, North Carolina 63
Stanford (10) over New Mexico (7)
Losing in the round of 64 as a third seed last year has to have the Lobos eager to prove themselves this time around, but the Cardinal will thwart that bid for redemption.
Coach Johnny Dawkins has the best guard on his side in Stanford's Chasson Randle, who will win the battle with New Mexico's Kendall Williams. The big disadvantage the Cardinal have here is the Lobos' superior size, headlined by Cameron Bairstow, who averages 20.3 points per contest.
It's been a stunning progression for Bairstow, as he improved by leaps and bounds before his junior and senior seasons. After seeing his points average jump from 3.7 to 9.7 as a junior, few could have fathomed what was on the horizon in 2013-14.
Which higher seed is likeliest to escape Friday with a victory?
"I don't think there's anybody who's come farther in four years," said New Mexico coach Craig Neal, per Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't think there's anybody who could have predicted what he's done this season."
To beset Bairstow, Stanford has Dwight Powell, a senior forward who is long, athletic and can not only disrupt Bairstow as a defender but also facilitates ball movement in the Cardinal's offense. A change in rotational philosophy has also seen Dawkins deploy three frontcourt players in the starting lineup—a rare development in modern college hoops—which has worked well. Dawkins feels his team wouldn't have punched a Big Dance ticket without the change.
"I don't think we'd be where we are if we hadn't made that decision," said Dawkins, per Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News. "It was a tough one, because we knew it would leave us in some situations where guys had different roles than they had last year."
Tough as it may have been to implement the fix, it's the perfect counter to make Bairstow's operation on the block bothersome.
But while the young men up front will be key for Stanford, it will be Randle sinking the clutch shots down the stretch and sending New Mexico home disappointed for the second NCAA tournament in a row.
Prediction: Stanford 62, New Mexico 58
If it seems ridiculous to pick three double-digit seeds to win on Friday, bear in mind that two such seeds advanced to the round of 32 within Thursday's first five games. No one beyond the top two seeds is safe—and if Florida Gulf Coast taught us anything in 2013, even the No. 2s may not get through unscathed.
Friday is full of bracket busters. Sometimes it can be frustrating to witness one's NCAA tournament predictions fall apart whilst being unable to do anything about it. However, that is what also makes March Madness so excellent. Embrace the volatility, and don't be shocked if all three of the aforementioned lower seeds get through this stage.