The first week of the 2014 NCAA tournament will conclude on Sunday with eight more do-or-die matchups.
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Third-round action on Sunday will narrow the field down to 16 teams. Title favorites Florida, Michigan State and Louisville have already secured berths in the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, 11th-seeded Dayton has punched the first Cinderella ticket, knocking off Ohio State and Syracuse by a combined three points to advance past the first weekend.
But eight tickets are left to be punched.
Below, we'll set you up with everything you need to know ahead of Sunday's loaded slate.
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Sun, March 23||(10) Stanford vs. (2) Kansas||12:15 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 23||(8) Kentucky vs. (1) Wichita State||2:45 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 23||(6) North Carolina vs. (3) Iowa State||5:15 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 23||(14) Mercer vs. (11) Tennessee||6:10 p.m.||TNT||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 23||(12) Stephen F. Austin vs. (4) UCLA||7:10 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 23||(6) Baylor vs. (3) Creighton||7:45 p.m.||truTV||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 23||(8) Memphis vs. (1) Virginia||8:40 p.m.||TNT||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 23||(8) Gonzaga vs. (1) Arizona||9:40 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
What to Watch For
Mercer, Tennessee Eye Cinderella Run
A day after No. 11 Dayton punched its ticket to the Sweet 16, No. 14 Mercer and No. 11 Tennessee will go head-to-head in a battle of Davids.
The experienced Bears won the Atlantic Sun Conference this March and start five seniors. And after knocking off the third-seeded Duke Blue Devils on Friday, Mercer will enter Sunday night's showdown with tremendous belief that it can march on.
Even in defeat, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski had no choice but to praise the Bears' experience, per The Washington Post's John Feinstein: "They’re men. They’re strong, and I don't just mean physically. They have a great coach. Honestly, what they did was beautiful to see. I applaud them and I applaud their fans for what they've done this season."
However, the Volunteers will be awfully tough to beat after winning two tournament games already. Tennessee, who knocked off No. 11 Iowa in Round 1 and No. 6 Massachusetts in Round 2, will be a 7.5-point favorite in this matchup and should have plenty of crowd support while playing in Raleigh, N.C.
The squad that fares better on the glass will likely decide the outcome. Both teams rank inside the top 40 nationally in rebounds per game, but Tennessee is among the best rebounding teams in the country, pulling down roughly 39 per contest.
Led by Jarnell Stokes, the Volunteers crushed the Hawkeyes on the boards, 37-30, and out-rebounded the Minutemen as well, 37-33. If Stokes and company can secure a few offensive rebounds and limit Mercer's second-chance opportunities on the other end of the floor, Tennessee will be marching on.
Stephen F. Austin Is Playing with House Money
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks have won 29 straight games after breaking fifth-seeded VCU's heart in the second round on Friday.
Trailing by four points late, the Southland Conference champions converted on a four-point play to force overtime. The Lumberjacks would prevail in overtime, setting up a third-round meeting with No. 4 UCLA. The come-from-behind win was so spectacular that it even earned a shout-out from former Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown:
Congrats to SFA. Great comeback. What a deal! Good luck moving forward— Mack Brown (@UT_MackBrown) March 22, 2014
But SFA still has a lot of work left to do in order to reach the tournament's second week. The Lumberjacks will be nine-point underdogs in San Diego and are set to face a high-scoring Bruins team that moves the ball well and can make shots from anywhere.
Although UCLA is somewhat vulnerable on the glass, it ranks fifth in the country in assists, 10th in team field-goal percentage and 12th in points per game.
Led by Jordan Adams and the uber-versatile Kyle Anderson, the Pac-12 tournament champions will likely be too much for SFA out West on Sunday.
Bulldogs, Wildcats Scrap for Final Sweet 16 Berth
Even if you have work early Monday morning, you won't want to miss Sunday's final third-round clash between No. 8 Gonzaga and West Region No. 1 seed Arizona.
Sean Miller's Wildcats looked vulnerable in their nine-point win over No. 16 Weber State on Friday, turning the ball over 12 times, missing seven of 16 free throws and surrendering seven three-pointers on the defensive end.
Arizona was also out-rebounded in the narrow escape.
Meanwhile, Mark Few's Bulldogs are coming off an impressive win over Oklahoma State, whom many considered a dark horse before the tournament started. Gonzaga, who ranks fifth in the country in team field-goal percentage (49.8 percent), has now won six straight games.
Three No. 1 seeds will be in action on Sunday, but it appears that Arizona is the one most likely to fall victim to an upset. Nonetheless, the Wildcats will be 6.5-point favorites in San Diego.
*Spread info according to Covers.com.
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