College hoops fans can only hope Sunday's NCAA tournament action is on par with the previous three days. We've seen an abundance of upsets, drama and spectacular plays.
The matchups on tap for Sunday look like prime candidates to keep the madness rolling.
Here's a look at the schedule and predictions for the final day of the third round. Just below the table is a closer look at three of the more compelling games on the schedule.
(Click here to see the updated bracket.)
|NCAA Tournament Schedule and Predictions for Sunday, March 23|
|No. 12 Stephen F. Austin vs. No. 4 UCLA||7:10 p.m. ET||UCLA|
|No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 2 Kansas||12:15 p.m. ET||Kansas|
|No. 6 UNC vs. No. 3 Iowa State||5:15 p.m. ET||Iowa State|
|No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Memphis||8:40 p.m. ET||Virginia|
|No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 8 Gonzaga||9:40 p.m. ET||Arizona|
|No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 3 Creighton||7:45 p.m. ET||Baylor|
|No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Kentucky||2:45 p.m. ET||Kentucky|
|No. 11 Tennessee vs. No. 14 Mercer||6:10 p.m. ET||Tennessee|
|Schedule per ESPN, predictions from Brian Mazique|
Andrew Wiggins Will Continue to Raise His Draft Stock Against Stanford
The Kansas Jayhawks have a tough assignment ahead of them with the Stanford Cardinal, but behind Andrew Wiggins' stellar play, KU will advance.
He is showing in every passing outing why he was so coveted coming out of high school.
Wiggins has been huge in the month of March. In six games, he's averaging 22.6 points and 6.3 rebounds, and he's making 46 percent of his shots. With Joel Embiid out for an unspecified amount of time, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman via ABC News, the Jayhawks need Wiggins to be a star, and he's been just that.
His leadership will help to lead Kansas over the Cardinal and continue to raise his stock with NBA scouts.
Per ESPN.com's Chad Ford (Insider account required), the Philadelphia 76ers have had Wiggins atop their board all season. In Ford's ongoing Tank Rank series, he writes:
"In the midst of a 20-game losing streak, the Sixers have had Wiggins atop their board all year and believe he’d be the perfect complement to Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Thaddeus Young. The athleticism on that team would be crazy."
Whether the lottery balls bounce the Sixers' way remains to be seen, but with Duke's Jabari Parker's disappointing performance in his team's upset loss to Mercer on Friday, and with Embiid's health a question, Wiggins is close to solidifying the top spot in the draft.
A strong game against Stanford will just about do it.
Does head coach Bill Self want Wiggins to bolt? Of course not, but he knows it's nearly a forgone conclusion. Check out this tweet from Andrew Baker of 6 Sports in Lawrence, Kan.:
Self has little to no chance to hold on to Wiggins for another year.
If the freshman plays the way he has over the last three weeks and gets the same help inside from Jamari Traylor (17 points and 14 rebounds) and Perry Ellis (14 points and 13 rebounds) that he received in the second round against Eastern Kentucky, Stanford won't be able to hold Wiggins back either.
Free Throws Will Finally Come Back to Bite Tar Heels
The reason I picked Villanova to top North Carolina in the second round was because of the Tar Heels' inability to make free throws. Behind a good performance from the stripe (69 percent)—for them—and a 40-26 edge on the glass, the Tar Heels pulled out a two-point win to move on.
It's hard to see Carolina being as fortunate against the Iowa State Cyclones.
The Cyclones will be without forward Georges Niang. He suffered a foot fracture against North Carolina Central in the second round. He led all scorers with 24 points and is one of the team's better rebounders.
Georges Niang has a foot fracture and will miss the remainder of the season.— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 22, 2014
That said, the Cyclones are well-coached by Fred Hoiberg. Their offense is fast-flowing and high-powered.
North Carolina will have a difficult time containing Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane. The Tar Heels will be under tremendous pressure to dominate the glass to give themselves a chance to keep pace.
The game will again be close, and at some point the poor free-throw shooting of North Carolina (62 percent as a team) will come back to bite it.
Young Wildcats Will Hand Shockers First Loss of Season
The last thing this tournament field wants to see is the Kentucky Wildcats find their stride and consistency. From a talent standpoint, the team is still stacked. There's a reason John Calipari's team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason.
Wichita State is the only undefeated team remaining in the country. It still doesn't get the respect it deserves. The Shockers play lockdown defense (58.9 points allowed per game), scrap and make clutch shots from the perimeter.
That said, Kentucky's talent level is above the Shockers. It must play together on offense and defense and remain poised in the second half to win what will almost certainly be a close game.
Another key is the inside play of the Wildcats' bigs.
Julius Randle was on a mission against a tough Kansas State team in the second round. He tallied 19 points and 15 rebounds and had a blocked shot. Willie Cauley-Stein added eight boards and four blocks off the bench.
Can the Shockers match up inside with Kentucky?
My answer is no.
Remember, Wichita State hasn't beaten a ranked team all season. Ron Baker is the team's leading rebounder with nine per game, but he's only 6'3".
A motivated and jelling Kentucky team will win this game on length and overall talent.
All stats per Statsheet.com unless otherwise noted.
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