After scoring 41 points Thursday, what will Adreian Payne
have in store for his next game Saturday? (Young Kwak/AP)
The past two days feel like a dream. They came and went so fast, with no time to catch your breath. Yet here we are, left with the 32 teams still alive with chances to head into next weekend with their NCAA championship hopes blooming. Some of them are predictable, like Florida and Louisville. Still others, like North Dakota State and Dayton and Mercer (Mercer!), not so much.
Saturday's games have some truly intriguing matchups and offer us a bit of a slower pace than the first round insanity. With just eight games, you won't need as many second screens (at least until the night goes crazy), and you can probably keep your remote an arm's length away for more than a few seconds at a time.
Let's preview some games, shall we?
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South Region: No. 9 Pittsburgh (26-9, 11-7 in ACC) vs. No. 1 Florida (33-2, 18-0 in SEC)
Pittsburgh team preview and prediction | Florida team preview and prediction
How to watch: 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: For all the struggles of some of the power conference teams over the first two days, one team that had no trouble at all in its opening round game was Pittsburgh. The Panthers destroyed Colorado in arguably the biggest landslide win so far. The Panthers are rewarded with top-seeded Florida, which had a tough time against Albany. The Gators should have a bit more focus Saturday.
Midwest Region: No. 5 Saint Louis (27-6, 13-3 in Atlantic 10) vs. No. 4 Louisville (30-5, 13-5 in AAC)
Saint Louis team preview and prediction | Louisville team preview and prediction
How to watch: 2:45 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: The Billikens really should have lost to NC State, and the Cardinals easily could have lost to Manhattan. But both teams survived to play each other in the round of 32. Saint Louis' calling card has been defense all year, but it faces a tough challenge in Louisville, a team that defends just as well and can more effectively turn defense into offense than SLU.
Midwest Region: No. 7 Texas (24-10, 11-7 in Big 12) vs. No. 2 Michigan (26-8, 15-3 in Big Ten)
Texas team preview and prediction | Michigan team preview and prediction
How to watch: 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: Points, points, points. This won't be the slower, sludgy game Michigan played against Wofford. The Wolverines are going to try to get the Longhorns to run. The hero of Texas' game against Arizona State, Cameron Ridley, could play a big part Saturday as the Longhorns try to establish some presence inside instead of playing pop-a-shot against Michigan.
West Region: No. 12 North Dakota State (26-6, 12-2 in Summit) vs. No. 4 San Diego State (30-4, 16-2 in Mountain West)
NDSU team preview and prediction | SDSU team preview and prediction
How to watch: 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT
What to watch for: You can be forgiven if you didn't stay up late enough to watch San Diego State escape with a win over New Mexico State. It was a long day for everyone. The Aztecs got all they could bargain for and more from the Aggies, and now they're drawing a Cinderella in North Dakota State, which knocked off a well-rounded team in Oklahoma. The Bison are experienced and calm, but they'll be put to the test against a great defense in SDSU.
South Region: No. 11 Dayton (24-10, 10-6 in Atlantic 10) vs. No. 3 Syracuse (28-5, 14-4 in ACC)
Dayton team preview and prediction | Syracuse team preview and prediction
How to watch: 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: The Orange looked like their former selves in their first round game against Western Michigan. The defense was working, the shots were falling and Syracuse was confident again. It needed that in a big way. Syracuse will take on Dayton, an extremely confident team that just knocked off in-state foe Ohio State. The Flyers might have a long day against that zone, but they have the athletes to make a run.
West Region: No. 7 Oregon (24-9, 10-8 in Pac-12) vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (27-7, 12-6 in Big 10)
Oregon team preview and prediction | Wisconsin team preview and prediction
How to watch: 7:45 p.m. ET, CBS
What to watch for: Two extremely efficient offenses that do it in very different ways. Wisconsin likes to pass it around until it gets a shot it wants. Oregon will throw a stick of dynamite at the wall and jump through before the explosion is even done. In the end it could come down to defense. Which team is going to force the other to make the most mistakes leading to easy transition opportunities?
Midwest Region: No. 12 Harvard (27-4, 13-1 in Ivy) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (27-8, 12-6 in Big Ten)
Harvard team preview and prediction | Michigan State team preview and prediction
How to watch: 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT
What to watch for: The Crimson executed against a tough Cincinnati team that likes to bully people around. Now they'll get a shot at a surprise championship favorite in the Spartans. Michigan State needs to exercise patience on defense and guard until the possession is over (a problem the Bearcats had trouble with) and use its possessions wisely. Harvard may be a double-digit seed, but it sure doesn't play like one.
Midwest Region: No. 7 UConn (27-8, 12-6 in AAC) vs. No. 2 Villanova (29-4, 16-2 in Big East)
UConn team preview and prediction | Villanova team preview and prediction
How to watch: 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS
What to watch for: Old Big East rivals with superior guard play facing off in the last game of the day? On potential alone, this could be the best game of Saturday. UConn needed overtime to beat Saint Joseph's and looked shaky on defense against the Hawks. That can't happen again if the Huskies want to pull the upset. The Wildcats are too good offensively.
HAMILTON: Recapping the best moments of the first two days of March Madness