No. 4 Washington State vs. No. 13 Winthrop
WHERE/WHEN: Denver/7:20 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Expect a grind-it-out affair, with both teams preferring to rely on their defense for wins. Washington State isn’t particularly athletic, but the Cougars are well-coached and aren’t going to beat themselves. They need to make sure center Aron Baynes and forward Robbie Cowgill get involved early on offense. Winthrop needs guards Chris Gaynor and Michael Jenkins to use their athleticism to their advantage against the Cougars.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Washington State 10-7, Winthrop 1-4.
No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 George Mason
WHERE/WHEN: Denver/9:50 p.m.
THE BUZZ: George Mason is one of the all-time Cinderellas after its 2006 run to the Final Four, and two key players remain from that team: forward Will Thomas and G/F Folarin Campbell. Thomas has to come up big down low if the Patriots are to pull off another upset. Thing is, the Irish have some good big people of their own, most notably forward Luke Harangody. Guard Kyle McAlarney’s 3-point marksmanship makes for a nice complement to Harangody’s work in the low post.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Notre Dame 6-6, George Mason 1-2.
No. 3 Stanford vs. No. 14 Cornell
WHERE/WHEN: Anaheim, Calif./5 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Cornell shoots the 3-pointer extremely well. The Big Red hit 8.1 of them per game and shoot 41.4 percent from beyond the arc. Stanford will look to pound it inside to the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin. Cornell’s big men are at least serviceable, so this will be interesting if Cornell is hitting its 3-pointers. Watch for Cornell swingman Ryan Wittman; he is the son of former Indiana star Randy Wittman and Ryan is hitting no lie 47 percent of his 3-point attempts. Cornell also is excellent from the line.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Stanford 8-6, Cornell 1-1.
No. 4 Pitt vs. No. 13 Oral Roberts
WHERE/WHEN: Denver/3 p.m.
THE BUZZ: This is another game where the underdog needs to be hot from beyond the arc. In Moses Ehambe and Robert Jarvis, Oral Roberts has two key players hitting better than 40 percent of their 3-pointers. But Pitt’s size and overall strength are going to cause problems for Oral Roberts, which has no frontcourt offense. Oral Roberts senior center Shawn King is 6-10, but he’s foul-prone. Pitt will feast in the low post when King isn’t on the court.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Pitt 8-6, Oral Roberts 0-3.
No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Temple
WHERE/WHEN: Denver/12:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Temple is in its second season under coach Fran Dunphy, and he has made the Owls far more offensive-minded than they were under predecessor John Chaney. In swingman Dionte Christmas, the Owls have a bona-fide offensive star. Christmas has good size (6-5/205), a nice 3-point stroke and also can get into the lane and finish. Michigan State has underachieved a bit this season. But if guard Drew Neitzel and forward Raymar Morgan both play well in the same game, the Spartans are tough to beat.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Michigan State 4-5, Temple 3-4.
No. 6 Marquette vs. No. 11 Kentucky
WHERE/WHEN: Anaheim, Calif./2:30 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Marquette’s three-guard attack thrives on creating turnovers and easy baskets. Kentucky doesn’t have much frontcourt offense, so the Golden Eagles will look to attack UK’s backcourt. Don’t expect an offensive masterpiece. This should be a disjointed, hard-fought defensive affair. Marquette forward Lazar Hayward could provide the wild-card factor.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Marquette 6-8, Kentucky 5-8.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Portland State
WHERE/WHEN: Omaha, Neb./12:25 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Portland State is a scrappy bunch headed by a 5-foot-6 point guard, but the Jayhawks should roll to a win. Kansas’ backcourt will get a workout, though. In the 5-6 Jeremiah Dominguez and the ultra-athletic Donte Huff, Portland State has guards who can play. Dominguez is a 3-point bomber and a one-man press. Huff, while not much of a shooter, can get to the rim and finish. Portland State’s big men are going to be overwhelmed, though.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Kansas 8-2, Portland State 0-3.
No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 14 Cal State Fullerton
WHERE/WHEN: Omaha, Neb./9:40 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Wisconsin is one of the nation’s best defensive teams. The Badgers aren’t going to wow anyone with their athleticism, but they work hard on both ends and can bully opponents on the boards. Fullerton wants a fast pace, but isn’t going to get it. The Titans are small and proficient from 3-point range, led by Washington State transfer Josh Akognon. But their lack of size hurts them when they have to play a grind-it-out affair. Still, if Fullerton hits its 3-pointers, this could have some intrigue.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Wisconsin 6-4, Fullerton 1-2.
No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Kansas State
WHERE/WHEN: Omaha, Neb./7:10 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Two of the best players in the nation will be on view when uber-freshmen Michael Beasley of Kansas State and O.J. Mayo of USC meet up. Beasley is one of the leading contenders for national player of the year honors. He is a double-double machine and simply a beast in the low post. But he doesn’t have near as much help as Mayo, who has become a more well-rounded player as the season has progressed. Mayo played his best basketball of the season down the stretch. USC has a ton of good athletes and those guys play excellent defense. Beasley will get his points, but will any other Wildcat be effective on offense?
RECORD VS. FIELD: USC 7-8, Kansas State 3-8.
No. 8 UNLV vs. No. 9 Kent State
WHERE/WHEN: Omaha, Neb./2:55 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Two mid-majors square off in the dreaded 8-9 game. UNLV, which made a nice NCAA run last season, has a legitimate star in guard Wink Adams. UNLV does a lot of the little things well, but the Runnin’ Rebels lack size and have to rely heavily on their perimeter offense. Kent State is a solid team that plays good defense. Haminn Quaintance is one of the country’s best defensive big men and leads a team that always gives great effort. Kent State can struggle offensively, especially when guard Al Fisher’s shot isn’t going down. Fisher has a lot of talent but frequently plays out of control. Watch Kent State guard Chris Singletary, whose offensive production should be important in this one.
RECORD VS. FIELD: UNLV 3-3, Kent State 3-2.
No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 16 Mississippi Valley State
WHERE/WHEN: Anaheim, Calif./9:55 p.m.
THE BUZZ: A top seed playing in what essentially is a home game against an opponent that should’ve been in the play-in game? What that adds up to, of course, is a rout. Valley lost, 71-26, to Washington State in late November, and this could get that ugly if Bruins coach Ben Howland lets it.
RECORD VS. FIELD: UCLA 14-2, Valley 0-3.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Belmont
WHERE/WHEN: Washington, D.C./7:10 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Good news for Duke in that the teams that beat Belmont in the first round in each of the past two seasons ended up advancing to the Final Four. While this would be a monumental upset if it won, Belmont should be able to keep it close. The Bruins hit more than 10 3-pointers per game and no one is scared to put it up from long range. While Duke’s inside game isn’t a strength, it certainly won’t be a weakness against a small Belmont squad. Belmont goes 10 deep and loves to run backdoor cuts.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Duke 8-4, Belmont 0-3.
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Georgia
WHERE/WHEN: Washington, D.C./12:20 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Georgia is one of the biggest feel-good tournament stories in recent memory winning twice in a league tourney in one day? but the fact remains that the Bulldogs were bad during the regular season. Xavier is well-balanced offensively, with five guys averaging in double figures. The Musketeers really can get after opponents defensively, as well. If Georgia lets Xavier dictate the pace, this could get ugly. The Bulldogs won’t be able to keep up with the Musketeers.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Xavier 6-4, Georgia 4-9.
No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Baylor
WHERE/WHEN: Washington, D.C./2:50 p.m.
THE BUZZ: A young Purdue team was the biggest surprise in the Big Ten this season. Four freshmen play key minutes, led by guard E’Twaun Moore and forward Robbie Hummel. Purdue plays aggressive defense and forces a bunch of turnovers; the Boilermakers also are proficient from 3-point range. Baylor wants a fast pace but isn’t likely to get it. The Bears struggled with consistency in the last half of the season and need a big game from their guards, both in terms of scoring and not turning it over.
RECORD VS. FIELD: Purdue 4-3, Baylor 5-8.
No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Arizona
WHERE/WHEN: Washington, D.C./9:40 p.m.
THE BUZZ: WVU’s Joe Alexander was one of the hottest players in the nation down the stretch, and he’s going to be a handful for Arizona to defend. The Mountaineers shoot a lot of 3-pointers, and their frontcourt guys are especially dangerous. Arizona has not played particularly well of late, but guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Chase Budinger should make the Wildcats a tough out. While the Wildcats will have trouble with Alexander, the Mountaineers will have trouble with Bayless. This has the potential to be an entertaining shootout.
RECORD VS. FIELD: WVU 5-9, Arizona 6-10.
No. 8 BYU vs. No. 9 Texas A&M
WHERE/WHEN: Anaheim, Calif./7:25 p.m.
THE BUZZ: BYU has a nice inside-outside duo in Trent Plaisted and Lee Cummard, who has great range and is highly efficient. The Aggies will look to get as physical as possible on defense. BYU prefers a fast pace, but A&M will try to slow it down and make it a grind-it-out affair. The Aggies have struggled with offensive consistency all season.
RECORD VS. FIELD: BYU 2-5, Texas A&M 5-7.