The third round of the 2014 NCAA tournament is about to get under way, and fans can only hope the weekend’s action is half as exciting as the bracket-busting second round was.
With the 68-team field now narrowed down to 32 programs, it appears that some contenders are starting to emerge, while a handful of Cinderella teams are on the verge of playing spoiler to those favorites in every region.
Friday's and Saturday’s games will further determine which squads have what it takes to make a run all the way to the championship by cutting the field in half once again. Let’s take a look at where you can watch all that action take place, check out an updated bracket after the round of 64 and highlight a matchup you simply cannot miss.
|2014 NCAA Tournament - Third-Round Schedule and Picks|
|Saturday, March 22|
|12:15 p.m.||No. 1 Florida||No. 9 Pittsburgh||CBS||Florida|
|2:45 p.m.||No. 4 Louisville||No. 5 Saint Louis||CBS||Louisville|
|5:15 p.m.||No. 2 Michigan||No. 7 Texas||CBS||Michigan|
|6:10 p.m.||No. 4 San Diego State||No. 12 North Dakota State||TNT||NDSU|
|7:10 p.m.||No. 3 Syracuse||No. 11 Dayton||TBS||Syracuse|
|7:45 p.m.||No. 2 Wisconsin||No. 7 Oregon||CBS||Wisconsin|
|8:40 p.m.||No. 4 Michigan State||No. 12 Harvard||TNT||Michigan State|
|9:40 p.m.||No. 2 Villanova||No. 10 UConn||TBS||UConn|
|Sunday, March 23|
|12:15 p.m.||No. 10 Stanford||No. 2 Kansas||CBS||Kansas|
|2:45 p.m.||No. 8 Kentucky||No. 1 Wichita State||CBS||Wichita|
|5:15 p.m.||No. 6 North Carolina||No. 3 Iowa State||CBS||ISU|
|6:10 p.m.||No. 14 Mercer||No. 11 Tennessee||TNT||TENN|
|7:10 p.m.||No. 12 Stephen F. Austin||No. 4 UCLA||TBS||UCLA|
|7:45 p.m.||No. 6 Baylor||No. 3 Creighton||truTV||Creighton|
|8:40 p.m.||No. 8 Memphis||No. 1 Virginia||TNT||Virginia|
|9:40 p.m.||No. 8 Gonzaga||No. 1 Arizona||TBS||Arizona|
All Your Bracket Essentials:
Must-Watch Matchup: No. 12 North Dakota State over No. 4 San Diego State
The NDSU Bison have been one of the best stories of the tournament this year, as the No. 12 seed fought hard and had a bit of luck on its side when it stormed back to knock off No. 5-seeded Oklahoma on Thursday.
Now the Bison are dancing to the round of 32 with a chance to keep their run alive against the SDSU Aztecs. It’s going to be an age-old matchup of offense against defense when these teams take the court, and you aren’t going to want to miss it.
According to KenPom’s efficiency ratings, the Aztecs are the seventh-best team in the country at shutting down the opposition.
They showed a ton of grit when they held the New Mexico State Aggies in check during overtime to pull away in the second round and now must get ready to face a much more potent offensive opponent.
North Dakota State is ranked No. 22 in the nation on offense, leaps and bounds ahead of No. 47-ranked NMSU. If its players get hot from the field, it is going to be tough for the Aztecs to slow them down.
Lawrence Alexander is the star to watch in this one, as the NDSU product lit up the Sooners for 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
ESPN Stats & Info has the senior’s shot chart from the game against OU:
San Diego State didn’t show much of an ability to lock down star scorers in its opening March Madness performance, allowing Aggies star Daniel Mullings to eclipse his season average with 18 points on 46.1 percent field-goal shooting.
The Aztecs will also need star player Xavier Thames to play at a higher level if they are going to avoid being on the wrong end of a Cinderella run. Thames scored 23 points against NMSU but only hit on six of his 17 field-goal attempts and knocked down one of his seven three-pointers.
However, San Diego State is wary of being upset by unheralded programs. The team was surprisingly dumped from last year’s tournament by No. 15-seeded Florida Gulf Coast University and knows not to underestimate anyone:
Aztecs forward Winston Shepard explained that there are shades of 2013 to be found in this upcoming matchup, as per Genaro C. Armas of The Associated Press:
"In my eyes it's like last year all over again. We beat a good team in the first round, had a tough game, and we are playing a team that not a lot of people have heard of."
It’ll definitely be interesting to see if SDSU can avoid an upset for the second straight year. With the way that NDSU is playing right now, it’s not looking likely.
Expect a heated, back-and-forth game that comes right down to the wire, but ultimately, Alexander and his band of Bison are going to put enough points on the board to dance to the Sweet 16.
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