Three No. 1 seeds and a bunch of other top teams are looking for a spot in the Sweet 16, but the NCAA tournament continues to prove that no one is safe.
Virginia, Arizona and Wichita State have tough battles in front of them with physical opponents who can knock them out of the tournament. Meanwhile, plenty of Cinderella stories are still alive, as four double-digit seeds will be competing on Sunday.
These battles, as well as excellent matchups in Iowa State vs. North Carolina and Creighton vs. Baylor, should make the second part of the third round the best day of the tournament.
Here is a look at picks and predictions for the final day of the first weekend.
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|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Pick||Pick ATS*|
|Kansas (2) vs. Stanford (10)||12:15 p.m.||CBS||Kansas||KAN (-6)|
|Wichita State (1) vs. Kentucky (8)||2:45 p.m.||CBS||Wichita St.||WICH (-4.5)|
|Iowa State (3) vs. North Carolina (6)||5:15 p.m.||CBS||Iowa St.||ISU (-1.5)|
|Tennessee (11) vs. Mercer (14)||6:10 p.m.||TNT||Tennessee||MER (+7.5)|
|UCLA (4) vs. Stephen F. Austin (12)||7:10 p.m.||TBS||UCLA||SFA (+9)|
|Creighton (3) vs. Baylor (6)||7:45 p.m.||truTV||Baylor||BAY (+3.5)|
|Virginia (1) vs. Memphis (8)||8:40 p.m.||TNT||Memphis||MEM (+6)|
|Arizona (1) vs. Gonzaga (8)||9:40 p.m.||TBS||Arizona||ARZ (-7.5)|
Odds via Vegas Insider
Top Games to Watch
No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 6 Baylor
Time is running out in Doug McDermott's career, so enjoy watching it while you can. He put together what appeared to be a relatively pedestrian performance in the second-round win over Louisiana-Lafayette, but it was really a historic effort:
Doug McDermott is just the 3rd Big East player since 2000 with 30 points & 10 rebounds in NCAA Tournament Game pic.twitter.com/yKcQTuCf7X— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2014
His best skill is forcing fans who are watching to get used to his incredible numbers. However, any game now could be the last of his career, and it seems like Baylor has a good chance of ending it on Sunday.
Few teams entered the tournament as hot as the Bears. They have now won 11 of 13 games, with the most recent loss coming in the Big 12 tournament finals. Baylor does utilize a zone, but its length could cause bigger problems for Creighton than you might expect.
David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest notes how well the squad played against Nebraska:
Defense (and a healthy Chery ankle) is why Baylor won 10 of its last 12 games. The length in BU's zone is giving the Huskers issues.— David Ubben (@davidubben) March 21, 2014
Most importantly, Baylor has a tremendous size advantage inside with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. This will create easy opportunities offensively and a big rebounding advantage on both ends of the court.
While Creighton's scoring ability will keep the game close, Baylor has what it takes to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Baylor 75, Creighton 72
No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 6 North Carolina
The big story in this game is how well Iowa State will fare without Georges Niang, who will miss the rest of the year after fracturing his foot in the last game, according to Jake Trotter of ESPN.com.
Niang had a game-high 24 points in the second-round game, but he will be missed, considering the Cyclones had only eight bench points. Still, head coach Fred Hoiberg remained positive with his message:
Hoiberg on Niang: "Obviously it's a very big loss for us. We're definitely going to miss what he and his skillset bring to this team."— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 22, 2014
Hoiberg: "Everybody is going to have to go out there ready to contribute. We're going up against a great team and a great coach."— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 22, 2014
Hoiberg: "Our guys are playing confident basketball. We've got several guys waiting for an opportunity & they may get that tomorrow night."— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 22, 2014
Of course, the combination of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim remains one of the top duos in the country. They can more than make up for the scoring loss of Niang, at least for one game.
On the other end, North Carolina had some rare balance in the last win but usually struggles to provide Marcus Paige with any help. If the Tar Heels are going to pull off a win, they need more consistent production out of James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson and others.
Still, the biggest issue is rebounding, which caused major problems for North Carolina in the two games before the start of the NCAA tournament. Iowa State ranked second in the country in defensive rebounds this year, and the Cyclones should limit the Tar Heels' second chances to help secure a close win.
Prediction: Iowa State 81, North Carolina 76
No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Kentucky
There are tons of storylines in this battle, but ESPN summed it up best with this tweet:
The matchup is set: the preseason #1 team in the country vs the only undefeated team in college hoops. Kentucky vs Wichita State.— ESPN (@espn) March 22, 2014
Jeff Goodman of ESPN is especially excited about the matchup:
OK, now it's time to get excited for the Wichita State-Kentucky matchup on Sunday afternoon. Cannot wait.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 23, 2014
Kentucky is full of raw talent that allows the squad to defeat any team in the country. Julius Randle started the year as an early favorite for national player of the year, while brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison have excelled as of late.
When the Wildcats are performing at their best, they will cause some serious problems for the No. 1 seed.
However, Wichita State has something that Kentucky does not have: experience. Senior Cleanthony Early is the team's top scorer and veteran leader who is always ready to make a big shot when needed. The squad is coming off a run to the Final Four and has returned most of the key players.
The 35-0 Shockers have the confidence to know they can win in the postseason and plenty of experience in finishing out games. While Kentucky might play well for most of the game, Wichita State should play well for all of it.
Fred VanVleet should keep making the right decisions late and help the Shockers pull out a close win.
Prediction: Wichita State 69, Kentucky 63
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