NCAA Tournament 2014: Schedule and Predictions for Saturday's Top Games

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 20:  Patric Young #4 reacts with teammate Casey Prather #24 of the Florida Gators in the second half against the Albany Great Danes during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 20, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 16 teams that survived Thursday's craziness are now ready for third-round play in the NCAA tournament. It's already been a highly entertaining edition of March Madness, and things should get even better with the matchups becoming even more intriguing.

Whichever teams are able to come out on top Saturday will stand just four wins away from capturing the national title. A key question is whether any of the Cinderella candidates—and there are three double-digit seeds in action—can keep the dream alive.

Based on the action so far, it should be another thrilling day of games from start to finish. Let's check out all of the important bracket information, followed by a look at Saturday's schedule and some predictions for the top contests on the slate.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials

Bleacher Report

 

Saturday's Schedule

3rd Round - Saturday's Schedule
RegionGameTime (ET)
SouthNo. 9 Pittsburgh vs. No. 1 Florida12:15 p.m.
MidwestNo. 5 Saint Louis vs. No. 4 Louisville2:45 p.m.
MidwestNo. 7 Texas vs. No. 2 Michigan5:15 p.m.
WestNo. 12 North Dakota St. vs. No. 4 San Diego St.6:10 p.m.
SouthNo. 11 Dayton vs. No. 3 Syracuse7:10 p.m.
WestNo. 7 Oregon vs. No. 2 Wisconsin7:45 p.m.
EastNo. 12 Harvard vs. No. 4 Michigan State8:40 p.m.
EastNo. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 2 Villanova9:40 p.m.
NCAA.com

 

Pittsburgh vs. Florida

The round of 64 results made this game a lot more interesting. Pittsburgh crushed Colorado, rushing out to a 13-0 lead en route to a 29-point win, while Florida certainly wasn't at the top of its game as it edged 16th-seeded Albany by 12.

It should serve as a wake-up call for the Gators. The only reason they were able to finally gain control of the game was by using their size against the smaller Great Danes, as noted by ESPN Stats and Info. That type of overall performance against a better team would have likely led to a loss.

The well-rounded Panthers put the clamps down defensively against Colorado. They forced the Buffaloes into 17 turnovers, which turned into a lot of easy chances at the other end. In turn, they shot nearly 51 percent from the field.

The pressure to make sure they don't put on a similar showing falls on Florida senior guard Scottie Wilbekin. He must lead an efficient offensive attack while limiting mistakes and creating open looks for Michael Frazier II and Co. If he does, the Gators should rebound and advance.

Prediction: Florida by four

 

Saint Louis vs. Louisville

Neither of these teams played anywhere near as well as they are capable of in their tournament openers. Saint Louis needed an improbable late rally to sneak past NC State, and Louisville was on upset alert for a vast majority of its game against Manhattan.

The Cardinals are a popular pick to make another deep run into the tournament and maybe even grab a second straight title. Their showing on Thursday certainly wasn't at that level. Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com passed along comments from Russ Smith, who explained why the game was so close:

We played the best we could. Manhattan knew us and anticipated everything we were going to do. They played a perfect game and couldn't have scripted it any better.

Saint Louis would already be heading home if not for some major help from NC State. The Wolfpack went to the line 37 times but made just 51 percent of their attempts. All of those missed free throws opened the door for the comeback.

The question becomes which team is better suited to bounce back on short rest. While Billikens senior guard Jordair Jett illustrated he's willing to leave it all on the floor, it's hard to pick against the battle-tested Cardinals at this stage.

Prediction: Louisville by eight

 

Harvard vs. Michigan State

Michigan State became a trendy Final Four pick after the Spartans came out on top in the Big Ten tournament. It showed they were peaking at the right time after some rough patches in the middle of the season, and their opening win over Delaware did nothing to change that outlook.

They will face a tricky test from Harvard, though. The Crimson showed why they are dangerous in their minor upset of Cincinnati. They didn't shoot well (43 percent) and had more turnovers than assists, but they were often suffocating on the defensive end to make up for it.

If Harvard gets hot from the field, Michigan State could find itself on upset alert. Guards Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard are the two players the Spartans must contain. They combined for 22 points in the second round, and both are strong outside shooters.

The good news for Michigan State is the game should be played at its preferred slower pace. It lets them focus on ball movement, which allowed Adreian Payne to get a lot of open looks as he poured in 41 points against Delaware. He probably won't match that output, but he should do enough to push the Spartans into the Sweet 16.

Prediction: Michigan State by 10