March Madness doesn't care about the name on the front of the jersey but rather who puts it all on the court.
Following one of the most incredible opening rounds to the field of 64, the beginning of the second round was somewhat tame. While the likes of both No. 11 Dayton and No. 7 UConn pulled off upsets, the action on Saturday paled in comparison to Thursday and Friday.
All Your Bracket Essentials
But with the third round now turning to Sunday with several double-digit underdogs hoping to pull off more monumental upsets, the stage is set for yet another intense slate of games.
With eight teams already securing their berths to the Sweet 16, here is a look at the scores from Saturday and how next weekend's schedule will look.
|No. 1 Florida||No. 9 Pittsburgh||61-45|
|No. 4 Louisville||No. 5 Saint Louis||66-51|
|No. 2 Michigan||No. 7 Texas||79-65|
|No. 4 San Diego State||No. 12 North Dakota State||63-44|
|No. 11 Dayton||No. 3 Syracuse||55-53|
|No. 2 Wisconsin||No. 7 Oregon||85-77|
|No. 4 Michigan State||No. 12 Harvard||80-73|
|No. 7 Connecticut||No. 2 Villanova||77-65|
|South||Thurs, March 27||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA/No. 12 Stephen F. Austin|
|South||Thurs, March 27||No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford|
|West||Thurs, March 27||No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Arizona/No. 8 Gonzaga|
|West||Thurs, March 27||No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor/No. 3 Creighton|
|East||Fri, March 28||No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Virginia/No. 8 Memphis|
|East||Fri, March 28||No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 6 North Carolina/ No. 3 Iowa State|
|Midwest||Fri, March 28||No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky|
|Midwest||Fri, March 28||No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee/No. 14 Mercer|
No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Iowa State
It's tough to call North Carolina a Cinderella story, but after starting the season by looking putrid on offense, the Tar Heels have completely turned things around and now have a shot at reaching the Sweet 16 after missing out in 2013.
And with Iowa State now down one of its best players, with Georges Niang suffering a season-ending injury, the Heels have the odds in their favor. The Cyclones' official Twitter account reported the extent of the injury on Twitter:
Georges Niang has a foot fracture and will miss the remainder of the season.— Cyclone Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 22, 2014
Head coach Fred Hoiberg spoke about the sophomore following the announcement:
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
With the loss of Niang on the front line for Iowa State, the Tar Heels have a distinct size advantage. He was not only a huge scoring threat for the Cyclones but also a big body down low that played good defense and pulled down rebounds for the program.
Andrew Carter of the News & Observer notes that Niang was the tallest starter for the undersized Cyclones:
At 6-foot-7, Niang had been Iowa State's tallest starter. Other four: 6-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-6. Cyclones thin off the bench, too.— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) March 22, 2014
Perhaps one of the biggest players to benefit from the loss of Niang is North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo. With his talent and offensive ability down low against a multitude of smaller players, expect him to make his presence felt in the paint.
After being the only team from Tobacco Road to make it to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, expect the Heels to advance to the second weekend of play with a win over the Cyclones.
Prediction: North Carolina 68, Iowa State 64
No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Wichita State
Remember when Kentucky fans touted this freshman class at the beginning of the season? The Wildcats were not only going to win the national championship but go undefeated and finish 40-0 as the first team to ever accomplish the feat.
In fact, the fanbase was so confident in this happening that shirts with "Pursuit of Perfection" were made a bit prematurely, per Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal:
Well, that didn't exactly go to plan as the Wildcats struggled throughout the season and didn't even win their own conference behind the Florida Gators in the regular season and SEC tournament.
Rather than Kentucky being the story throughout the season, Wichita State became a fan favorite with 35 straight wins. As a result, the Shockers claimed the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament that the Wildcats thought was rightfully theirs.
While Kentucky comes into the tournament with its reputation on the line after not even making the field in 2013, the Shockers are toying with perfection like it's not a big deal.
Can Wichita State win the tournament?
Nick Wiggins spoke about the team treating the tournament like business as usual, per Ryan Fagan of Sporting News. "We’re not the team to back down or shy away from anybody," Wiggins said. "We’ve been through this last year, so this is just another run, another time we’ve got to prove to the world that we’re the team to beat, and I feel we are the team to beat."
The names on the jerseys may appear that the teams in this No. 1 vs. No. 8 seed matchup should be switched, but Wichita State will make it known that it is for real with a win over Kentucky on Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: Wichita State 74, Kentucky 68
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter. He has ice in his veins.