The weak will be trimmed from the NCAA tournament herd on Sunday, and when the dust settles, the last 16 teams will be left standing.
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Eight teams have already booked their places into the next round. The big surprise was No. 11 Dayton beating No. 3 Syracuse. The Flyers appear to be that one team that comes from out of nowhere to make the Sweet 16 or even Elite Eight.
Given the unpredictability of this year's tournament, it's unlikely that Dayton will be the only team to spring a surprise in the round of 32.
Aside from the upset watch, Sunday features a few low seeds that will be looking to make statements with impressive wins.
|12 p.m.||No. 2 Kansas||No. 10 Stanford||CBS||KAN -6||Kansas|
|2:45 p.m.||No. 1 Wichita State||No. 8 Kentucky||CBS||WICH -4.5||Wichita State|
|5:15 p.m.||No. 3 Iowa State||No. 6 North Carolina||CBS||ISU -1.5||UNC|
|6:10 p.m.||No. 11 Tennessee||No. 14 Mercer||TNT||TENN -7.5||Tennessee|
|7:10 p.m.||No. 4 UCLA||No. 12 Stephen F. Austin||TBS||UCLA -9||UCLA|
|7:45 p.m.||No. 3 Creighton||No. 6 Baylor||TruTV||CREI -3.5||Baylor|
|8:40 p.m.||No. 1 Virginia||No. 8 Memphis||TNT||UVA -6||Virginia|
|9:40 p.m.||No. 1 Arizona||No. 8 Gonzaga||TBS||ZONA -6.5||Arizona|
Sports Media Watch and VegasInsider.com
Note: Odds are courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Teams to Watch
No. 3 Iowa State Cyclones
How will Iowa State cope without Georges Niang?
The Cyclones star will miss the rest of the tournament after fracturing his foot, per SportsCenter:
THIS JUST IN: Iowa State F Georges Niang has fractured his foot, is out for the rest of the season.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 22, 2014
Melvin Ejim and Fred Hoiberg acknowledged how much Niang's absence will hurt, but Ejim thinks it might spur the team on, per Cyclones Basketball:
Ejim on losing Niang: "He is a key contributor & he's one of our brothers. It gives us some added motivation going into the game tomorrow."— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 22, 2014
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
Iowa State was one of the most fun teams to watch during the regular season. Hoiberg has brought an up-tempo attack to Ames, and the end result has been the creation of one of the best offensive teams in the country.
Without Niang, though, the Cyclones are losing a third of what had been arguably the best trio of players in the country: Niang, Ejim and DeAndre Kane.
Before Niang went down, ISU looked like a Final Four team. It remains to be seen what its potential is in this tournament without him on the floor.
No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks
Speaking of players who are injured, Kansas head coach Bill Self confirmed Joel Embiid will be out for the Jayhawks' game against Stanford on Sunday, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman:
Jayhawks coach Bill Self told ESPN.com on Saturday that Embiid, who is nursing a back injury, has been ruled out of Sunday's third-round contest against the Cardinal. Embiid sat out the final two regular-season games and Self had maintained it was a "long shot" that he would be able to play in the team's second game this weekend.
It's no secret that Kansas is a worse team without Embiid. Andrew Wiggins is forced to shoulder much more of the scoring as well, per ESPN The Magazine:
Andrew Wiggins is averaging 7 MORE ppg in games w/o Joel Embiid. He'll have to carry KU until the 7-footer returns pic.twitter.com/o2Ql882mWt— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) March 21, 2014
The Cardinal will be a much tougher test than Eastern Kentucky was in the second round. Dwight Powell has regressed a bit from last year, but he's still averaging 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. At 6'11", he can cause major problems for the Jayhawks inside.
No. 1 Wichita State Shockers
Now is the time for Wichita State to ascend.
The Shockers can win their next 200 regular-season games, but if they lose to Kentucky, they'll remain in mid-major purgatory for the time being. Look at what that's gotten them so far.
The selection committee sent a message to WSU when it placed the team in the same region as the Wildcats, defending champion Louisville and Michigan—the best No. 2 in the tournament. The committee can claim it was only coincidence, but putting all of those schools into one region isn't happenstance.
If Wichita State beats UK, it will earn much-needed respect. Going forward, everybody will see the Shockers as a major power in college basketball.
No. 1 Arizona Wildcats
If Arizona can get past Gonzaga, the Wildcats look like a nailed-on Final Four team. The next-best team in the West Region is Wisconsin, and the Badgers may have a hard time against a better offensive team than Oregon.
The No. 1 seed had a tougher time than expected against No. 16 Weber State. A 68-59 win was hardly a ringing endorsement for the Wildcats.
They'll be looking to set the record straight against the Bulldogs.
These schools have history with one another. In 2003, Arizona beat Gonzaga in double overtime to advance to the Sweet 16.
"Sean texted me in the middle of the night," Bulldogs head coach Mark Few said, per Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star. "He was watching on some replay, maybe ESPN Classic, the Zag/Arizona game and we were texting back and forth about that. He said yesterday 'I think we jinxed each other by doing that.’ We ended up playing each other again."
Will history repeat itself?