The drama of the NCAA tournament only gets more intense now that only 16 teams remain.
In the first three rounds of action, we saw three No. 3 seeds go down, two losses by No. 2 seeds and even No. 1 Wichita State failed to reach the second weekend. The top seeds are in even more jeopardy as they now face some serious competition.
On the other end of the spectrum, we also have three double-digit seeds looking to keep their magical run alive, although one is certain to end when No. 10 Stanford takes on No. 11 Dayton.
This is certain to be an exciting weekend of games as the 16 teams are whittled down to eight and eventually four. Here are three games to keep a close eye on in the upcoming round accompanied by predictions for each contest in the table below.
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|March 27||Stanford (10) vs. Dayton (11)||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Dayton|
|March 27||Wisconsin (2) vs. Baylor (6)||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Baylor|
|March 27||Florida (1) vs. UCLA (4)||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida|
|March 27||Arizona (1) vs. San Diego State (4)||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona|
|March 28||Michigan (2) vs. Tennessee (11)||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Michigan|
|March 28||Iowa State (3) vs. Connecticut (7)||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Iowa St.|
|March 28||Louisville (4) vs. Kentucky (8)||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Kentucky|
|March 28||Virginia (1) vs. Michigan State (4)||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan St.|
Top Teams on Upset Alert
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State
Once everyone acknowledged the craziness with the seeding after the brackets were released, Michigan State became one of the more popular picks in the entire tournament. On ESPN's Tournament Challenge, 47.1 percent of people picked the Spartans to reach the Final Four, with 14.6 percent picking them to win it all.
However, Virginia was nothing short of dominant in its last showing against Memphis, winning 78-60. All of a sudden, people started taking the Cavaliers seriously, like ESPN's Andy Katz:
Virginia looking every bit like a one seed. If this keeps up may be time to halt handing Michigan State East title. UVA deserves respect.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 24, 2014
Nicole Auerbach of USA Today is one of many now extremely excited for the upcoming matchup:
Virginia-Michigan State at the Garden is going to be really, really fun. Could be best game of the round.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 24, 2014
While the game might be close, one thing we can guarantee is that it will not be pretty. Virginia plays great defense, forcing opponents into tough shots and disallowing what are usually easy passes. This has helped the squad lead the nation with only 55.5 points allowed per game.
This means that we are going to see a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed shots and a close, low-scoring battle.
However, the Cavs have not faced many opponents with as much offensive talent as Michigan State. Players like Gary Harris and Adreian Payne can create their own shots and finish as well as anyone in the country.
As long as Keith Appling does not become a liability with his injured wrist, the Spartans should be able to pull this one out.
Prediction: Michigan State 61, Virginia 59
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor
Over the years, college basketball fans have become accustomed to Wisconsin's regular style of play that features great team defense and methodical offense that usually takes 34 of the 35 seconds on the shot clock.
However, Scott Drew has noticed something different with this year's offense, via Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
I thought the more film you watch, the more you’re impressed with how they got out and went and played in transition and how they look to score early.
Because definitely from afar, the thought process is more grind it out 35 seconds, really, really patient on the offensive end. They still do that but at the same time they’re very good in transition and I think he’s allowed his players to make plays and use their skill level and athleticism.
According to KenPom.com, Wisconsin surprisingly ranks fourth in offensive efficiency with a pace that is quicker than many of the teams remaining.
The problem for the Badgers is that Baylor has plenty of quickness as well to go with a great deal of size inside. Between Isaiah Austin's height at 7'1" and the strength of Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers, the frontcourt should be able to slow down Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky and others down low.
The Bears are clicking on both ends of the floor, leading to an impressive stretch as noted by the school's official Twitter account:
Baylor has trailed for only 7:24 of 240:00 game time (3.1%) over 6 postseason games this year. #SicMarch— Baylor Basketball (@BaylorMBB) March 25, 2014
Baylor is playing much better than a typical No. 6 seed and will prove it once again with a win this round.
Prediction: Baylor 67, Wisconsin 63
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee
By the seeds, this would be a pretty big upset. No. 11 Tennessee looked good in its three NCAA tournament games, but it has only defeated No. 14 Mercer, No. 11 Iowa and an overseeded No. 6 Massachusetts.
That being said, the Volunteers have been outstanding so far thanks to their strong defense and ability to grab rebounds. Against Mercer, they won the rebounding battle 41-19, giving themselves easy second-chance points to make sure it was never a close contest. Jarnell Stokes almost beat the opposing team himself with 18 rebounds and has totaled at least 13 boards in his past three games.
Heading into the tournament, this would have certainly been the biggest concern for Michigan. The Wolverines have struggled with their low-post defense since Mitch McGary went down with a back injury early in the season.
However, they might have finally found someone to replace the sophomore's impact in the postseason, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports:
Jordan Morgan is having a "Mitch McGary" type impact for Michigan. Through two NCAA games - 12.5 PPG, 10 RPG. Bar gets raised vs. Tennessee!— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 25, 2014
While Michigan still lost the rebounding battle against Texas, Morgan limited the damage and had an impressive performance on both sides of the court. He helped the Wolverines limit center Cameron Ridley to just six points after the big man averaged 11.2 per game during the year.
If he can provide a similar challenge to Stokes, offensive stars like Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert can do the rest to ensure a victory for Michigan.
Prediction: Michigan 78, Tennessee 72
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