Virginia Commonwealth brings its “Havoc” defense into a gluttonous No. 4-No. 5 matchup against Michigan in Auburn Hills, Mich., the day’s opening act at 12:15 p.m. Everything wraps up at 9:40 p.m., when upstart No. 12 seed Cal, which topped UNLV in the first round, faces Syracuse, which hosed Montana for the largest margin of victory by No. 3 seed or lower since seeding began.
Before we go any further, here’s the schedule:
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 VCU, 12:15 (CBS)
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 6 Memphis, 2:45 (CBS)
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 8 Colorado State, 5:15 (CBS)
No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 12 Oregon, 7:10 (TBS)
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 14 Harvard, 6:10 (TNT)
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Wichita State, 8:40 (TNT)
No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 6 Butler, 7:45 (CBS)
No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 12 California, 9:40 (TBS)
Here are some of today’s highlights:
South: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 VCU in Auburn Hills, Mich., 12:15 p.m. (CBS)
Coach Shaka Smart showed no mercy against his old friend Keith Dambrot, pressing until nearly the bitter end in Virginia Commonwealth’s 88-42 destruction of short-handed Akron. The Rams hardly have time to rest, however, with the dangerous Wolverines looming ahead. Michigan’s 71-56 win over South Dakota State was billed as a potential future NBA matchup between guards Trey Burke and Nate Wolters, but Wolters was held to 3-of-14 shooting and just 10 points and Burke mustered six on 2 of 12 shooting.
Expect Burke to be on his game against VCU’s vaunted “Havoc” defense, which forced 21 Akron turnovers. Michigan ranks first nationally in turnovers per game and turnover rate, so this one could shape into a classic slugfest, with a Sweet Sixteen berth on the line.
Midwest: No. 4 St. Louis vs. No. 12 Oregon in San Jose, 7:10 p.m. (TBS)
The Pacific-12-champion Ducks stuck it to the selection committee with a thorough dispatching of No. 5 Oklahoma State, proving once and for all that their No. 12 seed was one of the biggest oversights in recent memory. But Oregon, which has now won four straight, including a title game win over UCLA, must prove it belongs against Saint Louis, playing not only for its first Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history but for the memory of late coach Rick Majerus. The Billikens bulldozed New Mexico State by 20 points, setting a new program record with 28 wins.
Midwest: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 6 Memphis in Auburn Hills, Mich., 2:45 p.m. (CBS)
Josh Pastner’s sixth-seeded Tigers needed a last-second miss from Matthew Dellavedova to stave off upset-minded Saint Mary’s, but now they enter as heavy underdogs against Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Michigan State rolled over Valparaiso 65-54 behind 23 points and 15 rebounds from Derrick Nix.
Memphis has won seven straight dating back to Feb. 26, but how will it fare against its first power-confernece opponent since dropping Tennessee in early January? Michigan State has the obvious pedigree – Final Fours in 2009 and 2010, and a Sweet Sixteen berth last season – while the Tigers are looking for their first trip into the second weekend since 2009.
West: No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 14 Harvard in Salt Lake City, 6:10 p.m. (TNT)
Can the Crimson do it again? They already shocked a sleepy country late Tuesday night by dropping trendy favorite No. 3 New Mexico. Nate Silver only gives Coach Tommy Amaker’s squad a 14.7 percent chance to reach the Sweet Sixteen, but it’s hard to doubt a resilient group that’s overcome the departures of its two best players amid an academic cheating incident.
Arizona looked strong in routing No. 11 Belmont, silencing all doubts behind 23 points from Mark Lyons and a powerful advantage inside. Harvard’s undersized post players did a tremendous job bodying up the Lobos’ 6-foot-9 Cameron Bairstow and 7-foot-0 Alex Kirk, so Amaker will need a similar effort against the Wildcats, especially if the Crimson hope to continue an already magical run.
West: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Wichita State in Salt Lake City, 8:40 p.m. (TNT)
The Zags narrowly avoided becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, surviving in a 64-58 squeaker even before a very pro-Gonzaga crowd in Salt Lake City. The Zags haven’t reached the Sweet Sixteen since 2009, and need to get through a tough Wichita State team to do so.
The Shockers, winners of the No. 8-No. 9 matchup against Pittsburgh, 73-55, boast a stifling backcourt defense led by Tekele Cotton, and the nation’s fourth-ranked rebounding rate. Per ESPN Stats & Information, the last two times Wichita State won its NCAA tournament opener, the Shockers advanced to the second weekend with another win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Guard Allen Crabbe, California, Jr.
The Golden Bears’s leading scorer, Crabbe dropped a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds on fifth-seeded UNLV, keying Cal’s first-round upset in San Jose. If the Golden Bears want to extend their run to include a second straight upset – this time over No. 4 Syracuse – they’ll need the Pac-12’s leading scorer more than ever. Ever since mustering just eight points against Colorado, Crabbe has averaged 21.3 points per game on 43.8 percent shooting.
Guard Dominic Artis, Oregon, Fr.
As the 6-foot-1 freshman guard goes, so do the Ducks. He hasn’t scored much recently – 5.0 points per game over the past eight – and missed nine games earlier this season due to injury, but his jolts of energy have kept Oregon surging through the Pac-12 tournament and into March Madness. Playing in his native Bay Area, Artis’s 13 points and four steals were huge.
More on the NCAA tournament