Friday, March 18, 2011

Saturday's Round of 32 Preview

Eight more games on the slate for Saturday's NCAA men's basketball tournament as the Madness moves into Day 3. Here's a quick look at each of Saturday's games. 

East Region: No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 5 West Virginia, 12:15 p.m., CBS

This is a rematch of one of last year's Elite Eight contests, though neither squad has too many, if any, impact players back from last year. Much like last year, Kentucky would seem to have an advantage in pure talent and athleticism, so it will be interesting to see if Bob Huggins can outwork John Calipari once again.

Should be fun to see how Kentucky's much-ballyhooed freshman point guard, Brandon Knight, responds after his dud of a game on Thursday against Princeton. Last year's top-rated high school point guard finished with only two points on 1-of-8 shooting, only his second single-digit scoring output this season.

After that first single-digit game (six points against UConn on Nov. 24) Knight bounced back to post one of his most complete stat lines of the season (23 points, six rebounds, six assists) in a win over Boston University. 

Southeast Region: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 UCLA, 2:45 p.m., CBS

Much like the first game on Saturday, this one features two programs with recent history between them ... though no current players were around to experience it. On its way to back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007, Florida upended UCLA in both the Final Four and championship.

Florida is coming off a 28-point win in its first game, while Ben Howland's UCLA club almost blew a 20+-point lead in the second half against Michigan State.

Southwest Region: No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 13 Morehead State, 5:15 p.m., CBS

We've actually now gotten one of these 12-13 matchups in three of the past four tournaments, so you may want to store that morsel away for next year's bracket.

Anyway, this one should be a walk for Richmond. The Spiders pulled off the toughest upset there is in the tournament, converting the 12-over-a-5 upset that everyone expected to happen. Usually when everyone jumps on the bandwagon of an underdog, it doesn't work out, but Richmond showed why everyone thought they were the real deal.

West Region: No. 2 San Diego State vs. No. 7 Temple, 6:10 p.m., TNT

We should be in store for a fun one, as the Aztecs could be prone to an upset here against the Owls, one of March's perennial upset-makers.

San Diego State has a clear talent advantage and is one of the nation's best rebounding teams in the country. Coach Steve Fisher tends to be a "roll the ball out" type of coach, but it has worked for him this year as the Aztecs have consistently taken good shots (47-percent shooting this season) and fantastic care of the ball (11 turnovers per game).

But Temple will be ready -- the Owls played several top teams this season and beat Georgetown, 68-65, as well as other major-conference schools (Georgia, Maryland, Seton Hall and, now, Penn State).

Southeast Region: No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Butler, 7:10 p.m., TBS

Expect this one to not make it out of the 50s, as both teams like to slug it out down low and make the most of each possession.

The most important thing in this game will be whether or not Butler's Matt Howard can stay out of foul trouble. In the past, the big man has struggled to stay on the floor when Butler takes on big-time opponents. If Howard can give Butler 25-to-30 minutes, that might be enough for Shelvin Mack and Co. to pull off the upset and send our first top seed home. 

Southeast Region: No. 3 BYU vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, 7:45 p.m., CBS

Jimmer Time. Let's go.

Gonzaga is long and athletic, but they sure did BYU a favor by knocking off rugged St. Johns. However, Fredette will need some help -- and probably some rest -- to get through to the Sweet 16.

Fredette has played all 40 minutes in his team's last four games and it has shown a bit in his shooting. If we take out Fredette's 52-point performance within this stretch, the senior has shot 27-of-71 (38 percent) while logging such heavy minutes. Fredette needs someone else to step up and help him; Noah Hartsock (4-of-6, 10 points against Wofford) and Charles Abouo (five points in only 16 minutes, foul trouble) are likely candidates to (hopefully) step up. 

Southeast Region: No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas State, 8:40 p.m., TNT

Well, Bo Ryan's Badgers managed to bounce back and score more than 33 points in their opening round victory.

But Kansas State is the team to watch in this contest. Of late, Frank Martin's club has become the team everyone though it could be when the season opened. Kansas State has won seven of its last eight games and Jacob Pullen (24.1 points per game during the stretch) has really hit his stride. 

West Region: No. 3 UConn vs. No. 6 Cincinnati, 9:40 p.m., CBS

Didn't take us long to get a Big East rematch in the tournament, did it?

These two clubs met only once in the regular season, a 67-59 victory for the Huskies. In that game, UConn shot a blistering rate from the field (50 percent from the floor, 53 percent from 3), but struggled to create separation. The Bearcats could pull off the upset if they take better care of the ball and shoot a better percentage from when these two teams first met; Cincy shot 24 percent from deep and committed 17 turnovers in the loss. 

-- Michael Kelly

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