Elite Eight Rundown: Saturday, March 25th

For today’s Under The Radar postseason games along with coaching carousel updates – CLICK HERE

WEST REGIONAL (San Jose, CA) (all times Eastern)

#11 XAVIER VS #1 GONZAGA (TBS, 6:09 PM).  These two do not play regularly, but they have played on occasion and the two programs seem to have an awareness of one another.  Neither has been to a Final Four, and although many expected Gonzaga to be here, almost no one expected Xavier to make it this far.  Xavier is not the same team they were fifteen days ago.  In the last two weeks, they’ve beaten three protected seeds away from home, including a full strength Arizona team (well, almost) in their last game.  It ranks up there with some of the most improbable tournament runs ever.  We’ve seen #11 seeds make it this far (and even farther), but we’ve never seen one who only managed to beat one team (albeit two different times) in the last five weeks of the regular season.  As for Gonzaga, I can’t help but get the feeling they haven’t played a really good game in the tournament yet, but yet here they are.  If they do manage to put it together today and play like they did during much of the regular season, it could be a long day for Xavier.

 

MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City, MO) (all times Eastern)

#3 OREGON VS #1 KANSAS (TBS, 8:49 PM).  Kansas blew past a pretty good Purdue team in the second half, whereas Oregon won in a thriller against Michigan.  Both teams were in the Elite Eight a year ago, and both failed to advance to the Final Four.  Kansas is obviously a storied program and this year’s edition of it has looked as good as anyone else in the country despite their off the court issues.  Oregon has had a great two year run with back to back Elite Eights and first place finishes in the Pac Twelve.  If it ends today, then all I can say is that I hate it had to end with them not being at full strength.  To be fair to Kansas, I think I’d pick them to win this even if Oregon was at full strength, but I just hate to see a team that’s been so good (be it Oregon or anyone else) lose when they’re not able to be at their best.

 

PUPPET NOTES AND RAMBLINGS

-The games last night weren’t nearly as good as Thursday night.  I thought Butler would really squeeze North Carolina and that just didn’t happen.  The Tar Heels blew it open early, Butler couldn’t knock down the open looks that they did get and it was never really in doubt.

-South Carolina sprinted ahead of Baylor in a game that was also blown open early on, but this was much more of a surprise.  South Carolina has played magnificently in this tournament and Frank Martin deserves a ton of credit not just for what he’s done this year, but for how much that program has progressed since he took it over.  They had almost no tournament history or history of success to speak of and now their games are sold out, people are excited, and last night they blew out a Baylor team that had been having a spectacular season.  Now they’re one win away from the Final Four against a familiar foe in Florida.

-UCLA vs. Kentucky was expected to be the game of the night, and while it wasn’t a bad game, it wasn’t exactly down to the wire either.  Kentucky played one of their better games of the entire season in that they were able to score against UCLA (I know a lot of teams have done that, but UCLA was pretty solid on defense against Cincinnati), but they were also able to limit UCLA’s high powered offense.  Kentucky moves on to face North Carolina on Sunday in a game that should give us a rather large volume of viewers.

-The game of the night was between Florida and Wisconsin.  Coming into last night, there had been no overtime games, nor were there any games won on a buzzer beater.  Well, this game gave us both of those things.  The two teams seesawed back and forth, and after Wisconsin appeared to be completely dead at the end of regulation, they forced turnovers and hit a game tying three to force overtime.  Wisky got a lead early in overtime, and it was then Florida who had to come back.  Canyon Barry ran the length of the court to block a breakaway Badger layup prior to a game-tying shot by Florida. After one final defensive stop, they went the length of the court in four seconds and hit a game winning three pointer to knock out the Badgers.  This is the second year in a row that Wisconsin has lost in the Sweet Sixteen in rather dramatic fashion.

-If Xavier wins tonight, everyone in the greater Cincinnati area needs to be on the lookout for John Stalica!!  He may lose control!!  He may not be able to handle himself!!

Sweet Sixteen Rundown: Friday, March 24th

SOUTH REGIONAL (Memphis, TN) (all times Eastern)

#4 BUTLER VS #1 NORTH CAROLINA (CBS, 7:09 PM).  This is a fantastic match-up.  If you look at the top of Butler’s profile and you see the wins away from home against Arizona, Villanova and Xavier, then it actually beats what is at the top of North Carolina’s profile, so although UNC is favored, you absolutely cannot count out Butler.  In fact, an argument could be made that North Carolina hasn’t beaten a team away from home that’s as good as Butler and that this would be their single most impressive win of the year if they’re able to pull it off.  UNC is definitely talented, but they had to really sweat out their Round of 32 game against Arkansas.  Butler’s road to the Sweet Sixteen involved beating a #13 and a #12 seed, but they are definitely battle tested based on what they did throughout the season and they are capable of winning this.

#3 UCLA VS #2 KENTUCKY (CBS, approx. 9:39 PM).  These two met earlier in the regular season and UCLA picked up a huge win at Rupp Arena.  I personally don’t agree at all with UCLA being the weaker seed in this match-up, but that’s the call the selection committee made and it’s also the call that our mock Hoops HD committee made and I guess it really doesn’t matter a whole lot now.  UCLA has one of the most potent offenses in the country and although their defense was weak throughout much of the season, it’s been rather effective in this tournament.  At the same time, Kentucky has struggled offensively at times and also had to really sweat out a tough Wichita State team in the Round of 32.  It should be a fun one!

 

EAST REGION (New York, NY) (all times Eastern)

#7 SOUTH CAROLINA VS #3 BAYLOR (TBS, 7:29 PM).  South Carolina is coming off one of the biggest wins in their program’s history in what was a whistle-happy affair against Duke.  Baylor had to sweat out USC to get here, but all throughout the season Baylor has been the better team.  They appear to have both a size and athletic advantage coming into this one, but having said that South Carolina has played fantastic basketball in the first two rounds of this tournament, so you can’t count them out.

#8 WISCONSIN VS #4 FLORIDA (TBS, approx. 9:59 PM).  Wisconsin pulled off one of the more surprising upsets of the tournament when they knocked off Villanova in the Round of 32, whereas Florida pulled off one of the more surprising results of tournament when they completely blew Virginia off the floor.  Both of these teams are coming into this game with a ton of momentum, and both of them are more than capable of winning the next game if they’re able to win this game.

PUPPET RAMBLINGS/REVIEW

We had four games last night, which means we had eight halves of basketball, and seven of them were outstanding!!  Purdue actually jumped out to a lead over Kansas, and stayed with the Jayhawks in front of a very partial KU crowd all throughout the first half, but early on in the second half Kansas just hit the gas and never looked back.  It was the most impressive performance of the night.

I was very curious to see how Gonzaga would respond to West Virginia’s pressure defense, and although the Mountaineers were able to force turnovers, I think it was West Virginia’s ability to rebound and play smothering defense in the half court that kept them in the game.  Gonzaga came out with a strong defensive effort of their own as West Virginia could not get their shots to fall.  It came down to the final possession when West Virginia needed a three pointer to tie and force overtime, but just couldn’t get it off.  Gonzaga is back in the Elite Eight for the second time in three years, and will once again have a shot at advancing to their first ever Final Four.

Michigan and Oregon gave us another thriller that seesawed back and forth.  Oregon has shown they can win despite the injury by advancing to the Elite Eight for the second year in a row after Michigan missed what would have been a game winning shot at the buzzer.  It was an incredible postseason story and run for Michigan as they had the incident with their plane, then managed to win the Big Ten Tournament after playing their first game in practice uniforms, then pulling off the thrilling upset against Louisville in the Round of 32.  As for Oregon, you have to really be impressed with what they have done as well despite some of the adversity they’ve faced.

Last but not least, the lowest remaining seed in the tournament is still in the tournament.  Xavier and Arizona seesawed back and forth last night as well, and it appeared to be over when Arizona built up an 8 point lead after the final media timeout.  But somehow Xavier, who had been getting dominated on the glass all night, came up with two consecutive defensive stops and converted on their end to get back into it.  After missing the front end of a one-and-one once the shotclock had been turned off, Arizona again had the ball with a chance to tie or win, but missed a three point attempt and Xavier managed to get a defensive rebound when it mattered and they dribbled out the clock.  They will face Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.  It’s rare that a team without football of any kind advances to the Final Four, but we will see it happen this year.  Recent examples include VCU (2011) and George Mason (2006) (both of whom were coincidentally #11 seeds just like Xavier).  We also saw Marquette do it in 2003 and Wichita State in 2009, but those are the only three examples I can think of off the top of my head.  Keep in mind that Butler does play football at the FCS non-scholarship level.  Xavier and Gonzaga don’t have football of any kind.

OTHER HISTORICAL NOTES (footnote, Chad Sherwood and John S.)

-Baylor looking for first Final Four since 1950.
-Oregon looking for their first Final Four appearance since 1939 – this was the first-ever sanctioned NCAA tournament which they won).
-Not only is South Carolina looking for their first Final Four ever, a win tonight would launch them into the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
-Both Xavier and Gonzaga are tied for the most NCAA Tournament victories (27) without an appearance in the Final Four. One program will come off this list tomorrow night – the next team on this list is Boston College with 22 NCAA Tournament wins.
-Xavier is also 2nd place all-time with 27 NCAA Tournament appearances without a Final Four. BYU remains #1 with 29 appearances and Missouri is 3rd with 25 such appearances.
-The East and West Regions will both give us a first time Final Four head coach, one of whom will play for the national title.  The Midwest could as well if Oregon/Dana Altman wins.  If Butler (Holtman) or UCLA (Alford) win the South, their coaches would be in the Final Four for the first time ever too.  In fact, Steve Alford has never made it past the Sweet 16 round.
OTHER COACHING NEWS
– It seemed inevitable, but Georgetown finally dismissed John Thompson III after 13 seasons. The atmosphere throughout the program seemed to get worse as the season wore on and finally reached critical mass after a couple of key departures this offseason.
– Pat Kelsey was announced earlier in the week as the next head coach at UMass, but abruptly did an about-face just prior to his introductory press conference at UMass. Kelsey has already returned to his original post as head coach at Winthrop.
– Cleveland State has announced that Dennis Felton will be their new head coach for the 2017-18 season. He will replace Gary Waters as head coach for the Vikings.

Sweet Sixteen Rundown: Thursday, March 23rd

For today’s Under The Radar postseason recap – CLICK HERE

For more extensive coverage and commentary, check out our latest Hoops HD Report by CLICKING HERE

MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City, MO) (all times Eastern)

#7 MICHIGAN VS #3 OREGON (CBS, 7:09 PM).  Michigan has been one of the bigger stories in college basketball.  Since their plane failed to take off and went skidding down the runway, they’ve won the Big Ten Tournament and won two games in the NCAA Tournament which included beating Louisville in Indianapolis late last week after trailing by double digits.  Oregon really sweated out Rhode Island and while they’re still a good team, they’re not quite the same without Chris Boucher.  If Michigan can hit from the outside, then their dream of a postseason run isn’t likely to come to an end just yet.

#4 PURDUE VS #1 KANSAS (CBS, approx. 9:39 PM).  Kansas has dealt with a ton of off the court issues and I keep waiting for it to derail the team.  But it hasn’t happened yet.  I’m now beginning to think that it won’t.  They just keep winning and keep looking impressive.  They didn’t have any trouble at all in their first two games, and although Purdue is better than both Michigan State and UC Davis, they still have to play in Kansas City.  Still, they did manage to beat a red hot Iowa State team in their last game, so an upset isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.

 

WEST REGIONAL (San Jose, CA) (all times Eastern)

#4 WEST VIRGINIA VS #1 GONZAGA (TBS, 7:39 PM).  Gonzaga ran out to a huge lead against Northwestern in their last game, but had to hold on for dear life down the stretch.  Still, Gonzaga has been nothing but impressive all season long.  The Saint Mary’s team that gave Arizona a scare was blown out by Gonzaga not once, not twice, but three times.  Having said that, Gonzaga hasn’t really played a team that plays the pressure defense that West Virginia does, so it could be a real challenge for them.  Handing the pressure and controlling the tempo will be key.  It’s a really interesting match-up to say the least.

#11 XAVIER VS #2 ARIZONA. (TBS, approx 10:09 PM).  Xavier was unspectacular from pretty much February until the start of the conference tournament, but since then they’ve beaten Butler (who is a protected seed), nearly beaten Creighton, and then blown past Maryland and Florida State in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.  Logic would indicate that they just don’t have what it takes to beat an Arizona team that was playing as well as any of the #1 seeds down the stretch, but given how strong Xavier has played in the last two weeks, I wouldn’t count them out just yet.  Having said that, Arizona has looked rather impressive as well.  They did win the Pac Twelve Tournament and beat both Oregon and UCLA along the way, who are also a pair of protected seeds.  Another element of intrigue is that Sean Miller used to coach at Xavier, and Chris Mack was his top assistant.

 

PUPPET RAMBLINGS

-This isn’t too unusual, but no UTR teams made it out of the first weekend, and Gonzaga is the only non-Power 5/Big East team remaining.  I LOVE the NCAA Tournament, and I love how each team builds its own storyline as they play their way through the tournament.  Having said that, when we get down to the Sweet Sixteen, and even more so the Final Four, a part of me feels like I’m at the point of the concert where the band its playing their biggest hit.  You love the song, but you also know the show is about to end.

It will also come as no surprise to those who follow the site when I say that the teams I find myself almost intrinsically attached to from year to year are the Under the Radar teams.  Chad and I actually created the weekly Under the Radar podcast simply because we wanted to talk about those teams on at least a weekly basis throughout the season.  We didn’t care if anyone watched or listened.  In fact I don’t think we expected that anyone would (although we’ve since learned that people have been).  So, when all those teams are gone, it feels like another part of the season is over despite how exciting everything is now.  But, it’s not done entirely.  The CIT Tournament has always been fun to watch, and John Stalica’s coverage of it has been great.  We’ve seen Cal State Bakersfield advance deep into the NIT after holding on for a win against UT Arlington (who had a great season and could have made some noise in the NCAA Tournament had it not been for injuries).  UCF is also deep in the NIT, and it’s been fun to watch them throughout the year.  I’m as excited about the rest of the NIT and CIT (for different reasons) as I am about the rest of the NCAA Tournament.

But, the NCAA Tournament has been great.  The viewership has been up, and there have been some great storylines, particularly Northwestern’s first appearance and how exciting (and strange) both of their games were, to Michigan’s improbable run of success since the airplane incident, to Xavier’s jar of ashes and how they’ve turned things around after a disappointing February, to Gonzaga who has been highly ranked all year and is still trying to reach their first ever Final Four, to South Carolina’s huge win over Duke for their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since the Field expanded to 64, to Kentucky’s exciting win over Wichita State, to UCLA’s explosive offense, to so many other stories.  Enjoy it while you can!!  As sad as I’ll be to see it end, I’m incredibly excited to see how it will end!

The Hoops HD Report: Sweet Sixteen Edition

Chad and the panel look back at the First and Second Rounds of the tournament, and preview all of the Sweet Sixteen and potential Elite Eight action coming up this week.  We discuss what our favorite games have been so far, along with the biggest surprises and who we like going forward…

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the show…

Second Round Rundown: Sunday, March 19th

For other news, notes and previews of other postseason games – CLICK HERE.

While the first round of the NCAA Tournament was mostly free of upset carnage, the second round games would not be spared. Villanova and Florida State were the main victims yesterday, and even Florida surprised Virginia with the margin of victory in that contest.

Recap – Buffalo

West Virginia got off to a fast 10-0 start against Notre Dame in the first game of the day and were able to keep the Irish for getting no closer than 3 points for most of the day. They beat the Irish 83-71 and will take on Gonzaga in the West Region in San Jose next Thursday.

The biggest surprise from yesterday again involved Villanova. They reverted back to their old ways of stumbling in 2nd round games, and fell victim to a baseline runner by Nigel Hayes in the closing seconds of their 65-62 loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers move on to the East regional in New York and will face Florida on Friday.

Recap – Salt Lake City

The most controversial game took place in the game between Gonzaga and Northwestern. The Wildcats were in the process of cutting a 20-point deficit down to 5 points late in the 2nd half. However, on the ensuing Northwestern possession, a Gonzaga player stuck his hand through the rim and blocked Northwestern’s shot. Not only was goaltending NOT called, Chris Collins would get a technical for Northwestern after protesting the no-call. It completely changed the complexion of the game and allowed Gonzaga to survive with a 79-73 victory. The NCAA did concede in a written statement that there was a blown call. It was actually funny to see Collins’ facial expression in the postgame press conference while a moderator read the statement prior to Collins’ comments on the game.

In the nightcap, Arizona was able to hold off a late Saint Mary’s run and escaped with a 69-60 victory. While this denied us a potential Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s rematch in the West Region final, it does give us a Xavier-Arizona rematch from the Sweet 16 two years ago.

Recap – Orlando

If it weren’t for the Wisconsin win over Villanova, Xavier’s domination of Florida State would easily have ranked as the biggest upset of the day. The Musketeers were used to getting out to decent leads at halftime but lost a number of games this season after giving up a scoring run to the opposing team to the start of the 2nd half. This was a complete role reversal where Xavier extended their lead to 25 points and never let the Seminoles show any semblance of competitiveness in the final 20 minutes of the game. As mentioned earlier, Xavier’s reward is a trip to San Jose next Thursday to play Arizona in the West Regional.

As happy as Xavier fans were, Florida fans had to be even more elated. They played Virginia relatively even for the first 10 minutes of the game (it was a 13-13 tie at that point) and allowed the Hoos only 26 points in the game’s final 30 minutes. The Gators will advance to the East Regional in New York and will play Wisconsin on Friday.

Recap – Milwaukee

10-0. That is Butler’s record as the higher-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament after their 74-65 win over Middle Tennessee last night. The Blue Raiders got within 3 points at the 4-minute mark in the 2nd half, but never got any closer after a 3-pointer from Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz with 3:29 remaining in the game. Butler moves on to the South Regional in Memphis and will play the winner of today’s North Carolina-Arkansas game.

The best game of the day from an entertainment standpoint was the finale between Purdue and Iowa State. The Boilermakers led by as many as 19 points with 14:30 to play, but the Cyclones went on a 34-13 run to take a 2-point lead with under 3 minutes to play. Purdue never panicked and were able to reclaim the lead on the ensuing possessions. Despite a missed free throw in the closing seconds, Purdue got an offensive rebound and were able to hit 2 final free throws to seal an 80-76 win against Iowa State. Purdue advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 7 years and will play the Kansas/Michigan State winner in the Midwest Regional in Kansas City on Thursday night.

TODAY’S SECOND ROUND MATCHUPS

(7) MICHIGAN VS (2) LOUISVILLE (12:10 PM, Indianapolis, IN – CBS).  This is a rematch of the 2013 national championship game and although the stakes aren’t quite that high, they’re still pretty damn high.  Michigan really caught fire in the Big Ten Tournament and has been playing at a high level ever since.  Louisville has been pretty solid throughout the year, but their biggest wins have come at home so this is hardly a shoe-in for the Cardinals.

(10) WICHITA STATE VS (2) KENTUCKY (2:40 PM, Indianapolis, IN – CBS).  Wichita State won a defensive struggle against Dayton and to have any sort of a chance today they’ll need to get their offense cranking.  Kentucky outlasted Northern Kentucky and had some offensive struggles of their own.  This is a popular upset pick and whether or not it happens it will be fun to see what Wichita’s defense can do against Kentucky’s athleticism.

(9) MICHIGAN STATE VS (1) KANSAS (5:15 PM, Tulsa, OK – CBS).  Had Michigan State played as well all season as they did in their First Round game against the Miami Hurricanes, they would not be on the #9 line.  This is a program that has a history of advancing deep into the tournament as a lower seed and Kansas is having their own off-the-court issues, so an upset is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Despite all their issues, Kansas is playing at a very high level.

(8) ARKANSAS VS (1) NORTH CAROLINA (6:10 PM, Greenville, SC – TNT).  UNC absolutely trashed Texas Southern on Friday and as good as Arkansas is, they still appear to be overmatched in this one.  I never want to say that an upset is impossible, but the Razorbacks will have to play their best game of the year to pull this off. This is also a rematch from their 2nd round matchup in 2015 where North Carolina came out a winner.

(11) RHODE ISLAND VS (3) OREGON (7:10 PM, Sacramento, CA – TBS).  Oregon was a Final Four caliber team prior to losing Chris Boucher in the Pac-12 conference tournament.  Rhode Island has played really well since the start of the Atlantic Ten Tournament and quite frankly should have been playing that well all year.  If they had, they’d have done much better than a #11 seed.  Having said that, had they played like this all year they probably end up as a #6 seed and end up in this game anyway.  An upset is likely if Rhody plays as well as they have been, but don’t count Oregon out entirely because even though they’re not at full strength they’ve still looked pretty good.

(11) USC VS (3) BAYLOR (7:45 PM, Sacramento, CA – TruTV).  USC beat a very good SMU team in the Round of 64 and denied us what would have been an intriguing regional match-up between two former Southwest Conference rivals.  USC has been hot and cold this year and I don’t see them having quite enough to take down Baylor, but we’ll see how it comes out.

(7) SOUTH CAROLINA VS (2) DUKE (8:40 PM, Greenville, SC – TNT).  DUKE AND CAROLINA ARE FINALLY MEETING IN THE TOURNAMENT!!  Oh, wait.  Wrong Carolina.  Duke has been red hot since they began play in the ACC Tournament and South Carolina will really have to play over their heads in order to pull off the upset.  Having said that, the game is right in their backyard (not to mention that any remaining North Carolina fans will be cheering for them) and the Gamecocks are coming off one of their more impressive showings of the year, so it’s not a given for the Blue Devils.

-#6 CINCINNATI VS #3 UCLA (9:40 PM, Sacramento, CA – TBS).  Cincinnati had an incredibly impressive performance against a K-State team who had been playing pretty well.  UCLA wrestled with Kent State a little bit but blew it open in the final ten minutes of their game.  On the court this one should be interesting.  We’ve got Cincinnati’s strong defense, and UCLA’s amazing offense.  Cincinnati was able to score against Kansas State and they should be able to today as well.  This is just a great match-up.

First Round Recap and Second Round Rundown: Saturday, March 18

For other news, notes and a brief preview on other postseason games – CLICK HERE

Recap – Indianapolis

Both of the 7/10 games were very competitive, and Michigan was able to beat Oklahoma State 92-91 with a white-hot shooting performance from 3-point land. Wichita State and Dayton also went back-and-forth most of the night, but the Shockers won an NCAA Tournament game for the 5th straight year with their 64-58 win over the Flyers. Neither Louisville nor Kentucky had cakewalks in their openers (especially Kentucky), but they ended up beating Jacksonville State and Northern Kentucky in their NCAA debuts yesterday.

Recap – Greenville

Seton Hall and Arkansas exchanged runs in their opener yesterday, and a controversial (at least in the eyes of Seton Hall and the broadcasters) flagrant foul call tipped the scales in favor of Arkansas and their eventual 77-71 victory. They will face a North Carolina team who skated by Texas Southern. (Joel Berry did get a brief injury scare for the Tar Heels, though.) Duke had no trouble with Troy in their opener, and South Carolina was able to erase a 10-point deficit in the first half and ended up running away with a 93-73 victory over Marquette in front of their homestate fans.

Recap – Tulsa

Baylor fans had every right to be very nervous after they trailed New Mexico State by 2 points at halftime, but they kicked into another gear and ended up winning by a comfortable 91-73 score. They will face USC in the second round – the Trojans were able to pull off yet ANOTHER double-digit comeback against SMU yesterday. The nightcap featured Kansas winning going away against UC-Davis and another huge swing game similar to the aforementioned Marquette-South Carolina game. Michigan State fell behind by 10 points to Miami in the 1st half, but they ended up winning going away with an easy 78-58 victory.

Recap – Sacramento

The four games in Sacramento had brief glimpses of competitiveness, but the winners in all 4 games were never seriously challenged. Oregon and Rhode Island won comfortably in the afternoon session over Iona and Creighton. Cincinnati saved some glimmer of respectability for the American with their win over Kansas State and UCLA ended up winning going away against Kent State.

SECOND ROUND RUNDOWN

(5) NOTRE DAME VS (4) WEST VIRGINIA (12:10 PM, Buffalo, NY – CBS).  Notre Dame really had to sweat out Princeton in their first game and has a much taller order today.  West Virginia’s game against Bucknell was no picnic for them either.  It’s an old Big East rivalry renewed!

(8) WISCONSIN VS (1) VILLANOVA (2:40 PM, Buffalo, NY – CBS).  Nova had no serious problems taking down the #16 seed and Wisconsin pulled away from Virginia Tech down the stretch.  Wisky showed quite a bit of promise earlier in the season and were even ranked in the top ten, but they didn’t look like the heavyweight many of us thought they were.  Still, they do have it in them to challenge Nova.

(8) NORTHWESTERN VS (1) GONZAGA (5:15 PM, Salt Lake City, UT – CBS).  It took Gonzaga about a half to wake up in their first game, but they blew it open in the second half.  Northwestern won one of the more exciting games of the tournament so far as they knocked off Vanderbilt after being fouled intentionally despite being behind.  It’s been a great season and story for Northwestern, but chances are it ends today.  Still, it’d be great if it were to continue.

(11) XAVIER VS (3) FLORIDA STATE (6:10 PM, Orlando, FL – TNT).  Xavier was rather disappointing in the latter part of the regular season, but they played well in the Big East Tournament and looked good in their first round win against Maryland.  Florida State got past Florida Gulf Coast in a game that was exciting to watch.  They have a very strong post game and are very athletic, and that should give Xavier a lot of trouble.

(12) MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS (4) BUTLER (7:10 PM, Milwaukee, WI – TBS).  Middle Tennessee didn’t have too much trouble against Minnesota and is actually the lowest remaining seed.  Butler put away Winthrop without too much trouble in their game.  Despite Middle only being a #12 seed, this should be a very good game as both teams are certainly capable of winning it.

(7) SAINT MARY’S VS (2) ARIZONA (7:45 PM, Salt Lake City, UT – CBS).  Saint Mary’s has had a very good season, but I don’t see them having what it takes to take down an Arizona team that’s good enough to win it all.  Still, it’s an interesting match-up.  This is the kind of game I’d like to see the Gaels get to play in the regular season.

(5) VIRGINIA VS (4) FLORIDA (8:40 PM, Orlando, FL – TNT).  Florida didn’t have too much trouble against East Tennessee State whereas Virginia had to overcome an early deficit to outlast UNC Wilmington.  It should be a defensive struggle, and it’s pretty much a toss-up as far as who could win it.

(5) IOWA STATE VS (4) PURDUE (9:40 PM, Milwaukee, WI – TBS).  Iowa State is on a rampage right now, and as good as Purdue is, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cyclones ran over them.  The winner will most likely take on Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen (assuming Kansas gets by Michigan State) and although Kansas will be favored Iowa State would certainly have a chance.