The second full day of the 2014 NCAA tournament has a high standard to live up to after Thursday's games had everything from big individual performances, overtimes and buzzer-beating winners. It was action that lived up to the name March Madness.
Another 16-game slate is on tap for Friday, which will complete the round of 32. Once again there are several games that would land in the toss-up category, and there's usually a couple more that end up that way as underdogs push for an upset.
So let's check out all of the key bracket information for the Big Dance. That's followed by a complete schedule for Friday's games and then a breakdown of the most intriguing games taking to the floor on Day 2 of Round 2.
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|Midwest||3 Duke vs. 14 Mercer||12:15 p.m. ET|
|West||6 Baylor vs. 11 Nebraska||12:40 p.m. ET|
|South||7 New Mexico vs. 10 Stanford||1:40 p.m. ET|
|West||1 Arizona vs. 16 Weber State||2:10 p.m. ET|
|Midwest||6 UMass vs. 11 Tennessee||2:45 p.m. ET|
|West||3 Creighton vs. 14 La.-Lafayette||3:10 p.m. ET|
|South||2 Kansas vs. 15 Eastern Kentucky||4:10 p.m. ET|
|West||8 Gonzaga vs. 9 Oklahoma State||4:40 p.m. ET|
|East||8 Memphis vs. 9 George Washington||6:55 p.m. ET|
|Midwest||1 Wichita State vs. 16 Cal Poly||7:10 p.m. ET|
|East||6 UNC vs. 11 Providence||7:20 p.m. ET|
|South||5 VCU vs. 12 Stephen F. Austin||7:27 p.m. ET|
|East||1 Virginia vs. 16 Coastal Carolina||9:25 p.m. ET|
|Midwest||8 Kentucky vs. 9 Kansas State||9:40 p.m. ET|
|East||3 Iowa State vs. 14 North Carolina Central||9:50 p.m. ET|
|South||4 UCLA vs. 13 Tulsa||9:57 p.m. ET|
Oklahoma State vs. Gonzaga
These types of games are always difficult to forecast. On one side, it's an Oklahoma State team that went just 8-10 in Big 12 play, but finished strong and certainly doesn't lack talent. On the other side, it's a Gonzaga squad that dominated the less-competitive WCC.
The Cowboys are generating more hype, mostly due to the presence of Marcus Smart, a star in the making. Yet the Bulldogs are embracing the lack of attention, as Kevin Pangos explained in comments passed along by the Associated Press (via USA Today):
Last year we were being talked about like Wichita State is this year. People were criticizing us and praising us, and there was a lot of talk. This year we're floating under the radar, which is fine by us—No. 8 seed, nothing guaranteed, and we're just trying to take care of business. We learned last year that at this time anything is possible, but it is a little bit of a different feeling.
Pace is going to play an important role in determining a winner. Oklahoma State, a guard-oriented team, should want to get up and down the floor, while Gonzaga features a more balanced offensive attack and would benefit from a slower game.
A moderate or slow pace, which increases the importance of each possession, would also allow the Zags to take advantage of their fifth-ranked field-goal percentage. So as long as they are able to stop the Cowboys from getting out in the open floor and finding a rhythm, they should survive and advance.
Stephen F. Austin vs. VCU
As usual, the 5-12 matchups were highly entertaining on Thursday. All three of them went right down to the wire, with the No. 12 seeds coming out on top twice and nearly pulling off a sweep before a late comeback by Saint Louis. The remaining game should follow suit in terms of entertainment level.
What will be Friday's best game?
VCU has developed into a very interesting team come tournament time on a yearly basis. The high-pressure defensive style the Rams play under Shaka Smart is extremely effective at forcing opponents into mistakes.
The good news for Stephen F. Austin, aside from its 28-game winning streak, is the fact it ranks eighth in assists per game. It shows the Lumberjacks know how to move the ball around on offense effectively and without a high rate of turnovers.
Ultimately, it's a game that should go right down to the wire. Given Stephen F. Austin's ability to protect the ball and the fact its roster features four different players scoring at least 12 points per contest, another upset by a 12 seed could very well be on the horizon.
Pick: Stephen F. Austin
Kansas State vs. Kentucky
Kentucky was ranked No. 1 when the preseason rankings were released in early November. The Wildcats have endured a lot of ups and downs since that point, but it's impossible to deny the amount of raw talent on the roster, led by Julius Randle.
Perhaps the most important factor for Kentucky is not looking ahead. There are a lot of people already looking ahead to a potential clash between the Wildcats and Wichita State in the next round, including Gary Parrish of CBS Sports:
Possible Round of 32 between Wichita State and Kentucky in St. Louis? Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 16, 2014
Between that possible high-profile game and Kansas State's three-game losing streak, it would be easy for Kentucky to overlook the (other) Wildcats. But Kansas State is a strong defensive team with a leading scorer in Marcus Foster who's capable of taking over a game.
Kentucky showed what it's capable of by pushing top-seeded Florida to the limit in the SEC title game. If it plays at that level against Kansas State, it will advance. Anything less and the anticipated matchup with Wichita will probably go by the wayside.