What does the 2014 NCAA tournament possibly have left that could top what was a crazy second round? Between a last-second four-point play to tie the game, four overtime games in one day and a 16-point comeback in the second half, the full craziness spectrum has been pretty much filled.
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Every year, lip service is paid to the fact that the field looks more open than ever before. Still, the 2014 version truly feels so much more exciting than it's been in recent years.
None of the No. 1 seeds—aside from Wichita State—have looked good, and the Shockers have an absolutely brutal region. And who would've thought Pittsburgh and Oregon would be two of the most dominant teams in the second round?
All of it makes you wonder if there are too many surprises left?
The fans can only hope that there are.
Saturday's schedule looks to have some one-sided matchups, but enough potential upsets are there to keep things interesting.
|12:15 p.m.||No. 1 Florida||No. 9 Pittsburgh||CBS||FLA -5.5||Florida|
|2:45 p.m.||No. 4 Louisville||No. 5 Saint Louis||CBS||LOU -9||Louisville|
|5:15 p.m.||No. 2 Michigan||No. 7 Texas||CBS||MICH -5||Michigan|
|6:10 p.m.||No. 4 San Diego State||No. 12 North Dakota State||TNT||SDSU -3||NDSU|
|7:10 p.m.||No. 3 Syracuse||No. 11 Dayton||TBS||SYR -7||Syracuse|
|7:45 p.m.||No. 2 Wisconsin||No. 7 Oregon||CBS||WISC -5||Wisconsin|
|8:40 p.m.||No. 4 Michigan State||No. 12 Harvard||TNT||MSU -7.5||Michigan State|
|9:40 p.m.||No. 2 Villanova||No. 10 UConn||TBS||NOVA -3.5||UConn|
Sports Media Watch and VegasInsider.com
Note: Odds are courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Teams to Watch
No. 7 Connecticut
Nothing like an old Big East battle to get the blood flowing.
Shabazz Napier didn't have an efficient game in Connecticut's 89-81 win over St. Joseph's. He missed 15 of his 22 shots, despite scoring 20 points.
After the game, Napier commented that his number of misses won't adversely affect his confidence level, per John Wawrow of The Boston Globe:
"Just because I missed two shots, three shots doesn’t mean I'm not going to take the next one with a lot of confidence," the senior star said. "Today was a big dogfight, but we willed ourselves and just continued to push each other to get the win."
That attitude will come in handy against Villanova. The Wildcats are a tough team defensively, and they'll focus the majority of their attention on stopping Napier. He's a talented player, but he's gonna come across some rough patches.
If Napier can work through those and maintain a steady enough scoring presence, the Huskies should pull off the upset.
No. 4 Louisville
Perhaps Louisville took Manhattan a little too lightly. The Cardinals are the defending champions, and they were taken to the brink by the Jaspers. The only real difference was that Louisville had Russ Smith and Luke Hancock.
Adam Himmelsbach of The Courier-Journal argued that maybe the team needed this kind of close call in order to wake up and realize how fine the margin between a win and loss is in the NCAA tournament:
U of L coasted through the second half of this season, pummeling one opponent after another as it went.
And maybe this was the wakeup call that will help. Maybe there's no harm in taking a punch, as long as you stand back up.
Teams rarely make sustained runs through this tournament without slipping on at least one banana peel.
Hancock seems to think so, saying, "This is something we needed. We absolutely needed this."
Saint Louis will be a much sterner test. The Billikens have the eighth-best defense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy and are coming off a close call themselves, having made up a 16-point halftime deficit to beat North Carolina State.
Plenty of skeptics are questioning whether Louisville really did deserve to be a higher seed and whether it's been overhyped because of a run in the second half of the season in which it wasn't really tested.
The Cardinals have a great chance here to silence the doubters and prove that they do deserve the label of national title contender.
No. 12 North Dakota State
The best bet for an upset comes from North Dakota State. The Bison's 80-75 overtime win over Oklahoma belies how well they played and how much of the game they dominated. It never should've gone into overtime, and NDSU could've won by double digits.
San Diego State is a great defensive team, but the Aztecs offense is a major concern. They didn't shoot the ball very well against New Mexico State, and Xavier Thames scored 23 points on 17 shots.
The Bison are riding a wave of momentum at the moment, and Lawrence Alexander's performance down the stretch showed that they have a go-to player in the critical points of the game.
Don't be surprised when North Dakota State prolongs its NCAA tournament journey for at least another round.
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