#1 Baylor vs. #8 North Carolina
Saturday, March 19th 11:10 AM CT, CBS
1 seed Baylor (27-6) cruised to a victory over 16 seed Norfolk State to secure a spot in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Bears excelled in all facets of their first game except for maybe fouls, where they picked up a decent amount in the first half. Still, they were able to secure their largest NCAA tournament victory margin in school history with an 85-49 victory. They now turn their attention to 8 seed North Carolina (25-9) who also impressed in their first game, beating 9 seed Marquette by 32 points. The Tar Heels will certainly be a tough out for the Bears, as they have won 7 of their last 8 games. And, as evidenced by their coach’s comments, they’re looking to come out very aggressively:
However, this is a matchup that favors the Bears for a few reasons. First, UNC also runs a limited rotation. They did not sub their starting five once in the second half of their game against Duke a few weeks ago. That bodes well for Baylor who is also limited to a seven man rotation thanks to injuries. Second, North Carolina ranks near the bottom of defensive metrics. The Bears have struggled some with tough defenses, but tend to flourish against weaker defensive squads. This will be the type of game Matthew Mayer, James Akinjo, etc. can really shine in. Mayer is coming off of a 22 point performance. Another scoring run like that from him would certainly bode well for the Bears in this game and potentially moving forward. Baylor is a 5.5 point favorite in this game. I like the Bears by a point or two over that mark.
#1 Kansas vs. #9 Creighton
Saturday, March 19th 1:40 PM CT, CBS
1 seed Kansas (29-6) easily moved past 16 seed Texas Southern in its opening game, winning 83-56 to advance to the second round. They now face 9 seed Creighton (23-11) who had to grit out a really close win over 8 seed San Diego State, 72-69. Beyond the usual physical exertion, that game also came at a significant cost for the Blue Jays as they lost their number 2 scorer and big man, Ryan Kalkbrenner, for the rest of the tournament due to a knee injury. That will not sit well as they face an explosive Kansas squad that is on a six game winning streak, including a Big 12 tournament title. And while KU big man David McCormack has had his ups and downs this season, he is certainly capable of taking advantage of a Creighton squad that is without their primary post player. Kansas is favored by 11.5 points in this one, which seems about right to me.
#3 Wisconsin vs. #11 Iowa State
Sunday, March 20th 5:10 PM CT, TNT
11 seed Iowa State (21-12) put on an absolute defensive clinic against 6 seed LSU in their first round game, winning 59-54. While the Cyclones were playing a newly head coachless Tigers and their offense still looked suspect, it was a great win for a team that only had two wins all of last season. They now take on 3 seed Wisconsin (24-7) in Milwaukee. That location is a big deal because there will be a ton of Badgers fans at this game (although it’s close enough that there should be a decent number of Iowa State fans too). Further, there were a ton of Wisconsin fans at the first round game which didn’t stop Colgate from giving Wisconsin everything they could handle for about 3/4ths of their game. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is a tough out as they split a regular season Big 10 title. One big thing to watch will be how Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis performs, as he’s nursing a minor ankle injury. He is the Badgers’ leading scorer, averaging 19.7 ppg. The question will be if Iowa State’s defense can do it again, as it is rare that the Cyclones can rely much on their offense. Ultimately, I think the Badgers just have too much offensive potential for Iowa State to totally stymy them.
#3 Texas Tech vs. #11 Notre Dame
Sunday, March 20th 6:10 PM CT, TBS
3 seed Texas Tech (26-9) absolutely routed 14 seed Montana State in their opening game, winning 97-62. For a Red Raider squad that has some issues with offensive consistency, they certainly didn’t look like they had any offensive concerns in their first game. Of course, as we learned in conference play, Tech is always at risk of randomly only scoring ~50 points. So that’s a concern. 11 seed Notre Dame (24-10) will be playing its third game of the week, as they won their play-in game against Rutgers in exciting, overtime fashion. They then routed 6 seed Alabama to make it to this game. Many thought the Fighting Irish didn’t deserve to be in the tournament at all, but so far they are making the most of their opportunity. However, for a team that might be dealing with fatigue, running into the stiff Red Raider defense is not an ideal matchup. I don’t expect Notre Dame to score anywhere near its last two totals of 89 and 78. The question will be if they can still score enough to outpace the Red Raiders. On paper, Tech should win this one, and I think the fatigue differential will show itself on top of that. Texas Tech is favored by 7.5 points. I do think it will be closer than that spread, but Tech should ultimately prevail.
73-67 Texas Tech
#3 Purdue vs. #6 Texas
Sunday, March 20th 7:40 PM CT, TNT
6 seed Texas (22-11) cleared 11 seed Virginia Tech in their first round match up in order to advance to the second round of the tournament. The Hokies were a trendy upset pick in that game, so that was a solid win by the Longhorns. However, they’ll face an even greater challenge now as they take on 3 seed Purdue (28-7). The Boilermakers took down 14 seed Yale in their opening round game. Yale kept it somewhat close until the second half when Purdue pulled away. The Boilermakers have had somewhat of an up and down season, and made it to the Big 10 title game before losing to Iowa. Purdue will lean on Jaden Ivey who averages an impressive 17.4 ppg. Texas will lean on its strong defense, which is near the top nationally. Ultimately, I expect the Boilermakers will just be able to out pace the Longhorns in this one. Purdue is favored by 3.5 points.
#1 Arizona vs. #9 TCU
Sunday, March 20th 8:40 PM CT, TBS
9 seed TCU (21-12) absolutely demolished 8 seed Seton Hall thanks to an early second half run. That run was even more impressive due to TCU’s star Mike Miles sitting for most of that stretch thanks to foul trouble. The Horned Frogs will need that offensive and defensive intensity once again if they want a chance against 1 seed Arizona (32-3). The Wildcats have had an exceptionally impressive season, only losing three times and entering this game on a seven game winning streak. Part of what makes the Wildcats so difficult is that they have a very balanced offense, with four players averaging over double digits. That’s led by Benedict Mathurin, who averages 17.4 ppg. However, TCU has the benefit of having played in a much tougher conference than the Pac 12, as evidenced by the Big 12 being perfect in their first round games. So we’ll see if the Big 12 conference grind pays dividends here for the Horned Frogs. While Mike Miles doing a better job of staying out of foul trouble will be important, I’ll be looking for big man Eddie Lampkin to keep balling out, as he’s been highly impressive down the stretch. This is a bit of a hot take, but after watching TCU dominate Seton Hall and Arizona sort of slow roast 16 seed Wright State, I like TCU to pull the upset here. Besides, they beat another 1 seed—Kansas—just a few games ago.