Saturday & Sunday NCAA Tournament Previews

HERE’S THE SATURDAY “DANCE CARD”

AS THE NCAA TOURNAMENT BOPS ITS WAY INTO THIRD-ROUND ACTION AND WE BRING YOU THREE OF THE MUST-SEE GAME PREVIEWS

Okay, so not everyone that won an NCAA Tournament second-round this past Thursday had to go overtime to get “mission accomplished” but it sure seemed that way, right?

A single-day, tourney-record four games went into OT Thursday with Connecticut, Saint Louis, North Dakota State and San Diego State all have their own “war stories” as to just how they copped second-round overtime wins and what about the fact the likes of Dayton, Louisville and Texas had to experience high-wire acts wins just to survive-and-advance here into these Saturday showdowns?

In case you were wondering, the Thursday games featured a dead-even split of favorites vs. underdogs as the 16 NCAA Tournament games went this way:

Seven favorites covered, seven dogs covered and there were a pair of pushes and no doubt there’s plenty of folks who were either on the right or wrong end of some proverbial half-pointers —some pro-Arizona State bettors had the Sun Devils “too early” and lost by a half-point; some wagered on Arizona State near game time and gobbled up 2½ points in that last-second 87-85 loss to Texas … now who says timing isn’t everything in life?

In today’s "Jim Sez" we’ll examine three of the top tilts on this Saturday “Dance Card” but first this key reminder …

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have been steamrolling their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and it ain’t gonna stop anytime soon!

Get with America’s #1 Handicapper for The Network March Madness Package that features all of the NCAA Tournament Games (and keep in mind the Jim Hurley Network banged out a sporty 20-10 record a year ago in the NCAA Tournament!) and also get the other post-season tournaments such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too.

And you get it all for only $149! You heard us right … just $149.

Get it either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 —plus don’t forget we’re banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.

NCAA TOURNAMENT —

Now let’s go through the NCAA Tournament here for third-round action …

ORLANDO —MIDWEST REGION:
#5 SAINT LOUIS (27-6) vs. #4 LOUISVILLE (30-5) —approximately 2:45 p.m. ET, CBS

The night action in central Florida was somethin’ else on Thursday night as first Saint Louis came from 16 points down to wrest away an 83-80 win/spread push against N.C. State and then Louisville’s nail-biting 71-64 non-cover win against 16½-point pup Manhattan followed —and no doubt U of L Cardinals fans were saying their private “thank you’s” to “Cool Hand” Luke Hancock for his two late-game dagger triples against the Jaspers.

The $64,000 question here is does Saint Louis leave Hancock alone —ever —from beyond the arc in this clash or can he assume that Jim Crews’ club will go with a gimmicky defense such as a box-and-one?

The Redbirds —who are attempting to become the first repeat national champ since Florida in 2007 —know they ain’t going anywhere in this tourney by shooting 36.4 percent from the field (that’s 20-of-55 made FGs) and conversely the Billikens can forget any/all hopes of landing the upset here if it shoots less than 50 percent from the charity stripe … can you believe that Saint Louis beat N.C. State while hitting on just 12-of-26 free throws as (normally) that’s no way to stage a comeback from your death bed!

In the other Orlando game, it’s …

#9 PITTSBURGH (26-9) vs. #1 FLORIDA (33-2), 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS

SPOKANE— WEST REGION:
#12 NORTH DAKOTA STATE (26-6) vs. #4 SAN DIEGO STATE (30-4) —6:10 p.m. ET, TNT

No question it was tough to tell what was the “best story” that came from Thursday’s thrilling action but you gotta put North Dakota State’s 80-75 OT win against 3-point fav Oklahoma right at or near the top of the charts, don’t you?

Not only did excitable head coach Saul Phillips’ Bison club force the extra session thanks to a Lawrence Alexander triple with 11 seconds left, but North Dakota State outscored the OU Sooners 14-9 in OT as little-used sub G Carlin Dupree stepped into the breach and made like a hoops version of “Rudy” with a key in-close shot to go along with a pair of gut-check free throws —now if everyone on this “first Thursday” of NCAA Tournament action would have canned their foul shots like Dupree and the Bison did (see 20-of-22 FTs overall) than the brackets would have looked a whole lot different!

The hunt for a Sweet 16 spot for favored San Diego State won’t be easy:

Not only should the Aztecs assume North Dakota State’s best player Taylor Braun (just 11 points in 42 minutes before fouling out) will perform better here, but you wonder what might happen to Steve Fisher’s team should G Xavier Thames —one of the top five players in the country that doesn’t get a whole lot of national pub —not turn into Superman as his 23-point, 5-assist game was enough for SDSU to snag that 73-69 non-cover win against gritty New Mexico State in Round II action.

If Thames’ quickness on defense is the difference here, no one should really be surprised, alright?

SPOKANE— EAST REGION:
#12 HARVARD (27-4) vs. #4 MICHIGAN STATE (27-8) —approximately 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT

Okay, Harvard, now let’s see how smart you are!

Now that the Crimson’s won an NCAA Tournament game for the second year in a row —yes, we had to go back to the Princeton teams of Petey Carrill in 1983-84 to discover the last time an Ivy League crew won a “Big Dance” game in consecutive seasons —we’ll see what answers Tommy Amaker’s club has for this juggernaut Michigan State team that chewed up Delaware 93-78 on Thursday thanks to Adreian Payne’s whopping 41-point game that featured four consecutive made triples (before missing one) and 17-of-17 from the foul line.

Tom Izzo’s team has been picked by just about everyone in the civilized world (including President Barack Obama) as this year’s eventual champion, but this one offers up a real challenge to Sparty as Harvard swingman Wesley Saunders is athletic (loved his dipsy-do basket in the 61-57 win against 2½-point fav Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon) plus Harvard does sport the country’s 13th-best defense and so limiting these Big 10 guys with their field-goal attempts is right at the top of the “to-do list” here.

One X-factor at work:

If Michigan State reserve G Travis Trice (19 points on 7-of-8 FG shooting against Delaware) pumps energy into the Spartans’ overall game than Harvard’s in big, big trouble.

In the games in Buffalo, it’s …

#11 DAYTON (24-10) vs. #3 SYRACUSE (28-5), 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS
#7 CONNECTICUT (27-8) vs. #2 VILLANOVA (29-4), approximately 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS

In the games in Milwaukee, it’s …

#7 TEXAS (24-10) vs. #2 MICHIGAN (26-8), 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS
#7 OREGON (24-9) vs. #2 WISCONSIN (27-7), approximately 7:4 p.m. ET, CBS


THE NCAA TOURNAMENT’S SUNDAY SKED

By Jim Hurley:

Hey, don’t despair just ‘cause your NCAA Tournament brackets were wrecked days ago … there’s still plenty of reasons to watch what’s on tap for this Sunday schedule that includes the likes of Mercer and Stephen F. Austin (but just not Duke and VCU).

In fact, dig a little deeper into this Sunday card that features #1 seeds Virginia, Wichita State and Arizona and it’s a type of hoops heaven that finishes off the first full week of this year’s tourney.

We’ll get to three (3) big Sunday game previews in just a moment but first this reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have been steamrolling their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and it ain’t gonna stop anytime soon! Get with America’s #1 Handicapper for The Network March Madness Package that features all of the NCAA Tournament Games (and keep in mind the Jim Hurley Network banged out a sporty 20-10 record a year ago in the NCAA Tournament!) and also get the other post-season tournaments such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too. And you get it all for only $149! You heard us right … just $149. Get it either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 —plus don’t forget we’re banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.

NCAA TOURNAMENT
Now let’s go through the NCAA Tournament here for third-round action …

ST. LOUIS – MIDWEST REGION:
#8 KENTUCKY (25-10) vs. #1 WICHITA STATE (35-0) – approximately 2:45 p.m. ET, CBS

We’ll see following today’s action whether anyone’s singing “nobody’s perfect” but right here/right now the only unbeaten team in this year’s tourney surely has its collective game face on as evidenced by Friday’s take-no-prisoners 64-37 win against 17-point underdog Cal Poly.

Okay, so Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State crew is “playing angry” and especially after the know-nothing NCAA Tournament Committee stacked the Shockers’ region with so many toughies but had to like the way star Cleanthony Early (23 points and 7 rebounds in just 19 minutes) took charge in that second-round blowout and now he’ll be a major key against a Kentucky team that – at one point – got off seven different shots in a particular hit-the-offensive-backboards sequence in Friday’s 56-49 win/cover against 6 ½-point pup Kansas State.

Maybe the best thing about that Wildcats’ win was John Calipari’s crew only shot 4-of-15 from beyond the three-point arc and only 14-of-21 from the free-throw line and still won relatively easily but here stat-sheet stuffing frosh Julius Randle (19 points and 15 boards against K-State) must flex his muscles and get the aforementioned Early into foul woes too.
 
In the other game in St. Louis, it’s #10 Stanford (22-12) vs. #2 Kansas (25-9), 12:15 p.m. ET

SAN DIEGO - WEST REGION:
#8 GONZAGA (29-6) vs. #1 ARIZONA (31-4) – approximately 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS

Most in-the-know folks believed the NCAA Tournament’s West Region was the “easiest” to navigate but the Arizona Wildcats are not buying that junk!

In fact, Sean Miller’s team already got a major run for its money in Friday’s 68-59 non-cover win against frisky Weber State – remember the ‘Cats were down 7-0 before they knew what hit ‘em – and now here comes a well-oiled Gonzaga crew that chopped up 4-point fav Oklahoma State to the tune of 85-77 in second-round play.

Note that Arizona was its usual nasty defensive self in that win against Weber State with 11 blocked shots and also note the Big Sky champs shot just 30.2 percent from the floor (that’s 16-of-53 made FGs) but can the Pac-12 guys reject tough lefty post player Sam Dower here and will Arizona’s combo of Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon (a combined 34 points on 13-of-23 FG shooting in that second-round win) get off many free looks against this underrated Zags defense?

Tell us right now that Mark Few’s club will get a major boost off the bench from G Kyle Dranginis (12 points and some heady play against Okie State) and we’ll tell you the Bulldogs have a real legit shot to steal this one as 6 ½-point underdogs.

In the other game in San Diego, it’s #12 STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (32-2) vs. #4 UCLA (27-8), 7:10 p.m. ET

SAN ANTONIO - EAST REGION:
#6 NORTH CAROLINA (24-9) vs. #3 IOWA STATE (27-7) – 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS

It’s an absolute crying shame that the Iowa State Cyclones – the Big 12 Tournament champs and a real oft-forgotten power team in this year’s Big Dance” – won’t be full strength for this third-round game deep in the heart o’ Texas as everyone by now knows F George Niang (broken foot) won’t be playing the remainder of this year’s tourney.

Niang – who poured in 24 points in Friday’s 93-75 win/cover against 10-point dog N.C.-Central -- busted a bone in his right foot and that’s a real killer when you consider that Fred Hoiberg’s club is – more or less – a six-player unit with no real wiggle room when it comes to depth.

Hey, North Carolina suffered an injury woe such as this two years ago when lefty G Kendall Marshall suffered a broken wrist and that basically sabotaged the Tar Heels’ bright hopes of winning it all and so now I-State must overcome the loss of Niang and trust that Melvin Ejim (17 points and 8 boards versus Central) and mates can get “mission accomplished” against a North Carolina team that continues to either not shoot well from the free-throw line or not shoot enough foul shots as evidenced by a 9-of-13 mark in last Friday’s hang-on-for-dear-life 79-77 non-cover triumph against 4 ½-point pup Providence.

Maybe the best thing to come out of that game for Roy Williams’ squad is that the Heels hauled down 17 offensive rebounds (James Michael McAdoo accounted for a team-high five of ‘em) and unless a physically fit Iowa State squad can keep McAdoo and mates off the glass on that end of the floor, then the ACC guys might just bust their way into this year’s Sweet 16 party … we’ll see!

In the other San Antonio game, it’s #6 BAYLOR (25-11) vs. #3 CREIGHTON (27-7), approximately 7:45 p.m. ET

In the games in Raleigh, it’s …
#14 MERCER (27-8) vs. #11 TENNESSEE (23-12), 6:10 p.m. ET
#8 MEMPHIS (24-9) vs. #1 VIRGINIA (29-6), approximately 8:40 p.m. ET

NOTE: Much more NCAA Tournament News/Notes & Analyses in the next edition of Jim Sez!

22
Aug

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