The madness and drama are sure to carry over into the weekend as the 2014 NCAA tournament continues on Saturday with eight matchups tipping off third-round action.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
Title favorites Florida, Michigan State and Louisville will all be in action as well as a handful of Cinderellas, highlighted by No. 11 Dayton, who stunned No. 6 Ohio State in Buffalo, N.Y. in Thursday's opening game to kick off the madness.
With tip off fast approaching, here we'll get you set with everything you need to know to stay on top of the action.
|2014 NCAA Tournament 3rd-Round Day 1 Schedule|
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Sat, March 22||(1) Florida vs. (9) Pittsburgh||12:15 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 22||(4) Louisville vs. (5) Saint Louis||2:45 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 22||(7) Texas vs. (2) Michigan||5:15 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 22||(12) North Dakota State vs. (4) San Diego State||6:10 p.m.||TNT||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 22||(11) Dayton vs. (3) Syracuse||7:10 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 22||(7) Oregon vs. (2) Wisconsin||7:45 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 22||(12) Harvard vs. (4) Michigan State||8:40 p.m.||TNT||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 22||(7) Connecticut vs. (2) Villanova||9:40 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
What to Watch For
Florida Looks to Extend Winning Streak
The overall top-seeded Gators will aim to extend their 27-game winning streak on Saturday afternoon in Orlando, Fla. when they take on ninth-seeded Pittsburgh for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Billy Donovan's Gators were sluggish in their second-round win over No. 16 Albany, but they can ill-afford another slow start against Jamie Dixon's Panthers. Pittsburgh crushed No. 8 Colorado by 29 points on Thursday, forcing 17 turnovers and shooting 51 percent from the field. Therefore, if the Gators aren't careful, they could be headed for an early exit despite cruising through the regular season.
But assuming Florida can continue to turn up the heat defensively and create offense out of its defense, the Gators will be favored to win this matchup and march onto the next round.
Florida will be a five-point favorite, according to Covers.com.
Defending Champions Face Tough Test
After avoiding No. 13 Manhattan's upset bid on Thursday, Rick Pitino's defending champion Louisville Cardinals will take on fifth-seeded Saint Louis in the Midwest Region.
The Billikens were on the brink of elimination against 12th-seeded NC State on Thursday night, but they took advantage of the Wolfpack's struggles at the foul line to force overtime and pull out the win. Led by Rob Loe and Jordair Jett, who combined for 40 points in Round 2, Saint Louis is a topflight defensive team capable of beating anyone when it's making its free throws.
It goes without saying that the Billikens will have to improve on their 12-of-26 shooting effort from the charity stripe in the second round in order to have a chance at upending Russ Smith and Louisville.
But nonetheless, Saint Louis won't have to worry about mustering up motivation for Saturday's showdown, per The Courier-Journal's Jeff Greer:
The Billikens were the No. 4 seed in Louisville's region last season, and they were a popular choice to meet U of L in the Sweet 16. Then Oregon upset Saint Louis. So, Saturday's showdown is the game SLU wanted last year.
"We really did want it last year," Saint Louis senior forward Rob Loe said. "We've got a second chance. We have to have the energy and the execution."
Louisville has won seven straight NCAA tournament games dating back to last March and despite having lost some key pieces from last season's title team, the Cardinals will be awfully tough to send home this spring.
Dayton, Harvard and North Dakota State Eye Sweet 16
Dayton, Harvard and North Dakota State each sprung massive upsets on Thursday. Now, the three Cinderella squads take aim at the Sweet 16.
The 12th-seeded North Dakota State Bison will be the first of three teams to take the court on Saturday. Saul Phillips' squad will go up against fourth-seeded San Diego State, who avoided an upset bid by No. 13 New Mexico State in the second round.
An hour after Taylor Braun and the Bison tip off, 11th-seeded Dayton will battled third-seeded Syracuse in the South Region. The Flyers knocked off in-state rival Ohio State on Thursday and have all the tools to shock the Orange and reach the tournament's second week.
And as head coach Archie Miller points out, his team isn't prepared to back down this March, per The New York Times' Zach Schonbrun:
I don’t think we came here like it was a circus act. I don’t think we came here trying to hopefully hang in there and go home, and, boy, it was a great run.
In the second-to-last game of the day, Tommy Amaker's 12th-seeded Harvard Crimson will attempt to defeat a title favorite in fourth-seeded Michigan State. The Spartans are a popular pick to cut down the nets next month and are led by senior center Adreian Payne, who went off for 41 points in the second round.
But if the Ivy League champions can improve at the foul line and find a way to knock in more than six three-pointers, they'll have a chance to bust some more brackets in prime time on Saturday.
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