The NCAA tournament's round of 32 hasn't shaped up exactly as anticipated, but the unpredictability of excitement of March Madness promises to create some incredible moments on Saturday.
With teams just one victory away from a prestigious Sweet 16 appearance, players and coaches are going to leave it all out on the floor. The second round was fantastic, but look for the third-round intensity to be amped up even more.
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There is plenty of upset potential, so high seeds will have to be on full alert as they try to get past upstart teams such as Dayton, Harvard and North Dakota State.
Here is a look at the full schedule for Saturday's round of 32 games along with predictions for all eight contests on tap.
Third-Round Day 1 Viewing Info
Day 1 of the NCAA tournament's third round can be live streamed on NCAA.com.
Third-Round Day 1 Picks
Games to Watch
No. 9 Pittsburgh vs. No. 1 Florida
No. 1 seeds were able to maintain their all-time undefeated record against No. 16 seeds in the round of 64, but greater challenges certainly await in the third round. The Florida Gators are the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament after going undefeated in SEC play, but they have an extremely difficult opponent on their hands in the form of the Pittsburgh Panthers.
After a win over North Carolina and a narrow defeat to Virginia in the ACC tournament, Pitt came to play in Orlando, Fla. as it decimated Colorado in the second round. Florida, on the other hand, looked lethargic for much of its game against Albany, although it was able to win by a 12-point margin by the time it was all said and done.
According to Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com, a similar effort simply won't cut it against Pittsburgh:
ESPN's Dick Vitale is in full agreement as he lauded the Panthers for their mental toughness, which is something the Gators must counteract:
There is no question Pittsburgh has the ability to knock off Florida, particularly if the combination of forwards Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna play like they did against the Buffaloes. At the same time, Florida should have enough beef in the paint, including Patric Young and Dorian Finney-Smith, to counteract Pitt's post offense.
Add in the fact that Florida will have the best player on the floor in the form of Casey Prather, and the Gators should have enough to survive a big scare.
No. 12 Harvard vs. No. 4 Michigan State
The East Region brings college basketball fans a particularly intriguing matchup between perhaps the most popular Cinderella team in the entire bracket and one of the chic picks to win it all. No. 12 Harvard did what many expected in the round of 64 by dispatching of No. 5 Cincinnati, while Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans continued to roll with a win over No. 13 Delaware.
Michigan State won the Big Ten tournament in somewhat surprising fashion and may very well be in better form than any other team right now. That goes double for senior forward Adreian Payne, who dropped 42 points and made all 17 of his free-throw attempts against the Fightin' Blue Hens. The Spartans utilized a one-man show of sorts, while the Crimson proved that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
It was impossible to not be impressed by Harvard's win over Cincy, and Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin had a courtside seat. According to Mike Griffith of MLive.com, Cronin doesn't believe that teams should be fooled by the fact that Harvard plays in the Ivy League.
In my mind, (Thursday's) game was anything but an upset. They got a great team. Tough draw for us. In my opinion they're one of the best teams we played all year ... (Harvard) had us playing from behind all night, and it allowed them to do some things offensively because we were trying to come from behind all night. They're a high major team. They got real players. They got high major players. They can play against anybody. They're a very good team.
One can only assume that Izzo is well aware of how dangerous the Crimson are. Few coaches have had more tourney success than Izzo, so the Spartans are well equipped to deal with a hungry team like Harvard. The Crimson are going to hang in there, but Payne, Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Michigan State's elite core will prove to be too much for Harvard to handle.
No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 2 Villanova
Connecticut and Villanova have had some great Big East battles over the years, and even though the Huskies have moved on to the American Athletic Conference, the rivalry still exists. UConn has come out on top more often than not when these teams have met, but the Wildcats are favored this time around as a No. 2 seed.
Nova enjoyed a fantastic season, but it squandered a chance to nab a No. 1 seed by inexplicably losing to a mediocre Seton Hall team in the Big East tournament. Villanova rebounded with a 20-point win over No. 15 Milwaukee in the round of 64, bu the Huskies pose a much stiffer challenge.
UConn has won six of its past eight games, and it owns victories over tournament teams like Florida, Harvard, Memphis and Cincinnati. The Huskies are battle tested, and while they don't have the same depth of scoring that Nova does, they have a dominant player in guard Shabazz Napier. Connecticut won a national title a few years ago thanks almost exclusively to the play of Kemba Walker, and Napier is similar in many ways.
The Huskies looked so good down the stretch against Saint Joseph's in the round or 64 that CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello is confident in an upset.
The most impressive part of UConn's win over St. Joe's was the manner in which it closed things out. According to Seth Davis of CBS Sports, the Huskies were nearly flawless from the charity stripe.
If this game comes down the wire like many expect, then the advantage goes to a Connecticut team that seemingly thrives under pressure.
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