The story lines continue to pour in after another exciting, impressive day of March Madness on Saturday where we continue to realize no one is safe.
The ACC and Pac-12 remain unbeaten in the NCAA Tournament while the Big East struggled on Saturday, advancing only one of it's four teams to the Sweet 16. There was North Carolina State (an eight seed) shocking number one seed Villanova and a thriller overtime game in Pittsburgh between Notre Dame and Butler. D'Angelo Russell couldn't get by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and T.J. McConnell and Cincinnati fought Kentucky as hard as they could before running out of gas. The two Cinderella teams, Georgia State and UAB, failed to get by major conference foes and 11 seeded UCLA, who wasn't even supposed to be in the dance advanced to the next round.
And now we advance to Sunday where the Sweet 16 will be completely formed thanks to eight more intriguing match-ups including two special ones in Charlotte.
How/Where to watch:
12:10 pm ET CBS #2 Virginia vs. #7 Michigan State (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson)
Approx. 2:40 pm ET CBS #1 Duke vs. #8 San Diego State (Nantz, Raftery, Hill, Wolfson)
5:15 pm ET CBS #2 Kansas vs. #7 Wichita State (Marv Albert, Chris Webber, Len Elmore)
6:10 pm ET TNT #3 Oklahoma vs. #11 Dayton (Ian Eagle, Doug Gottlieb, Evan Washburn)
7:10 pm ET TBS #2 Gonzaga vs. #7 Iowa (Spero Dedes, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio)
Approx. 7:45 pm ET TruTV #1 Wisconsin vs. #8 Oregon (Albert, Webber, Elmore)
Approx. 8:50 pm ET TNT #4 Maryland vs. #5 West Virginia (Eagle, Gottlieb, Washburn)
Approx. 9:40 pm ET TBS #4 Louisville vs. #5 Northern Iowa (Dedes, Gminski, Maggio)
Top Game Previews:
#2 Virginia (ACC At-Large) vs. #7 Michigan State (Big Ten At-Large) East Region
Justin Anderson, who injured his finger earlier in the season, is starting to round back into his All-American type of form after scoring 15 points in the second round against Belmont. If he can keep improving coming off the injury, Tony Bennett's squad can reach Indianapolis especially after seeing Villanova fall to North Carolina State in Pittsburgh. The East region is now wide open.
Virginia does not play a "fun" style of basketball to watch but they control pace, play some of the best defense in the country and their point guard, London Perrantes, does not turn the ball over.
Meanwhile, the Spartans always seem to peak come March thanks to one of the best coaches in the game in Tom Izzo. Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson and Travis Trice have all been here before and they actually defeated the Cavs last year at Madison Square Garden with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line.
Also, the Spartans do all the things that are part of the recipe to upset Virginia as they get out in transition (before the defense is able to set up) and they can shoot the three very well (avoid the 'Pack Line' defense where Virginia doubles the bigs in the paint). This is actually what Duke was able to do in the win over Virginia back in January so the Spartans have a shot to pull a big time upset to advance to the second weekend.
#2 Kansas (Big-12 At-Large) vs. #7 Wichita State (MVC At-Large) Midwest Region
Head coach Gregg Marshall has been trying to schedule this match-up for a long time but Bill Self says it just doesn't benefit the Jayhawks to play a team in-state and possibly lose. These two foes haven't played each other since 1993 and it just so happens that they are matching up on the biggest stage with a Sweet 16 spot on the line.
The Jayhawks have been very inconsistent this season as they have struggled to find a low post threat and they rely too much on the three point shot. With Perry Ellis (injured) and Cliff Alexander (ineligible) out, the Jayhawks have to count on Landen Lucas and Jamari Traylor to find some rhythm to help out Frank Mason Jr, Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre, who hold down the perimeter play.
The Shockers defeated the Indiana Hoosiers in the opening round but it wasn't easy as Fred VanVleet had to score 27 points with Ron Baker struggling from the field, 3-for-13. Baker is going to have to have a much stronger game if the Shockers are going to defeat their in-state "rivals."
#4 Northern Iowa (MVC Automatic Bid) vs. #5 Louisville (ACC At-Large) East Region
The Panthers are the best team no one talks about as they go ten deep, move the ball well, shoot the ball from outside and play solid defense. On top of that, Seth Tuttle is a stud and Nate Buss has really improved his game down the stretch to give the team an extra dimension off the bench.
Their opponent, the Cardinals, could be in big trouble. Rick Pitino has admitted multiple times this season that his team is just not that good and all they want to do is survive and advance. That's exactly what happened against UC Irvine as a late steal by Terry Rozier lifted them to victory in a game where they couldn't stop 7'6" big man Mamadou Ndiaye in the second frame.
The Cardinals don't shoot the ball with a high efficiency, they lost one of their best defenders and players in Chris Jones due to sexual assault charges and they aren't deep or balanced, but if Wayne Blackshear can play like he played against the Anteaters (19 points and big plays down the stretch) then the Cardinals will have a better chance to pull an "upset."