How can the third round of the NCAA tournament possibly live up to the excitement of the second round?
The round of 64 is always considered to be the most exciting two days of the year, but this season's version really went above and beyond. There were massive upsets, crazy finishes and some of the best comebacks (or collapses) you will ever see.
If you think the round of 32 will be a return to normal, you're sadly mistaken.
With eight spots in the Sweet 16 on the line, Saturday's games will be even more competitive. Every team has a taste of victory in the postseason and they will look to get a little more.
Here is a look at what to expect in the first half of the third round with picks for each game straight up and against the spread.
All Your Bracket Essentials
|NCAA Tournament March 22 Schedule|
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Pick||Pick ATS*|
|Florida (1) vs. Pittsburgh (9)||12:15 p.m.||CBS||FLA||FLA (-5.5)|
|Louisville (4) vs. Saint Louis (5)||2:45 p.m.||CBS||LOU||STL (+9)|
|Michigan (2) vs. Texas (7)||5:15 p.m.||CBS||MICH||TEX (+4.5)|
|San Diego St. (4) vs. North Dakota St. (12)||6:10 p.m.||TNT||SDSU||SDSU (-3)|
|Syracuse (3) vs. Dayton (11)||7:10 p.m.||TBS||DAY||DAY (+7)|
|Wisconsin (2) vs. Oregon (7)||7:45 p.m.||CBS||WIS||WIS (-5)|
|Michigan State (4) vs. Harvard (12)||8:40 p.m.||TNT||MSU||MSU (-7.5)|
|Villanova (2) vs. Connecticut (7)||9:40 p.m.||TBS||CONN||CONN (+3.5)|
|*spread info via Vegas Insider|
Top Teams on Upset Alert
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 7 Connecticut
When Shabazz Napier is playing well, Connecticut has a chance to win any game. The senior guard came through with a solid all-around performance against Saint Joseph's with 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. He led the team in each category during the year and found a way to contribute even when he was not having his best shooting night.
Additionally, he has proven a unique ability to come through in the clutch:
He will be able to give fits to former Big East rival Villanova, which cruised to victory over Milwaukee in the second round.
The Wildcats have one of the best scoring trios in the country between Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell. However, it was defense that came through in their opening win, as Milwaukee only made 28.6 percent of shots.
Still, Villanova has allowed shooters to run wild this year in its losses. Doug McDermott, Trevor Cooney and even Jaren Sina of Seton Hall made a bunch of shots from the outside. Between Napier, Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey and DeAndre Daniels, UConn can make plenty of three-pointers.
Add this to the low-post defense of Amida Brimah, and Villanova could be in trouble.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Dayton
Every team that matches up against Syracuse thinks it knows the secret to beating Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone. The reality is that everyone knows how to have success; it's execution that is usually the problem.
Dayton head coach Archie Miller explained his strategy to ESPN's Mike and Mike (via Hank Domin of Syracuse.com):
The big thing is to take our system, our style, do what we do against them and make sure we're locked in on the things we have to control. Against Syracuse, you can not turn the ball over. That's part of their deal against the zone. If you're not organized and you're not sharp, the turnovers lead to just run-outs, and that will kill you.
Secondly, you don't want to play against them in the half court. We have to push the ball as fast as we ever have all season, see if we can't get some movement early, some reaction early.
Pace will be a problem as Dayton is not a team that usually runs up and down the court. However, this can make a huge difference in the matchup as it would prevent Syracuse from setting up the defense.
Additionally, the Flyers can excel thanks to their ability to shoot the ball from long range. Jordan Sibert, Devin Oliver and Khari Price have all been consistent three-point shooters this season and can cause Syracuse problems with made baskets.
The Orange certainly looked good against Western Michigan, but they have struggled offensively to end the year. Heading into the NCAA tournament, they lost five of seven games while only reaching 70 points in one game.
If Dayton can make its shots it will find a way to outscore the higher seed in this game.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas
Texas was barely able to escape the opening matchup against Arizona State, needing a buzzer-beater to seal the win. However, this game-winning shot came on a tough offensive rebound and putback:
This is something the Longhorns have done all season long, ranking fourth in the nation in rebounding and third in offensive rebounding at 15.1 per game. Even when they take poor shots players like Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes are there to clean up the glass.
Myron Medcalf of ESPN jokingly provided analysis for the much-improved center:
The combination up front is going to give Michigan a lot of problems. The Wolverines are getting solid low-post play out of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, but these two are hardly rim protectors. Texas should get a lot of easy shots in this one.
On the other hand, Michigan has had one of the top offenses in the country all year and that should not change in the postseason. Nik Stauskas is a consistent star, but the team could be even better if Glenn Robinson III plays to his potential.
Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press detailed the forward's potential during a stretch in the first half:
If Robinson helps out offensively, there are few teams in the country that can beat Michigan. After a solid performance in the previous game, it seems like he is ready to keep that up to help the Wolverines edge Texas in an incredibly close battle.
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