The start of the second round (or round of 64) is the actual beginning of the real NCAA tournament, with the first day presenting us, as the number one seeds in the East region (Villanova) and Midwest (Kentucky) kick off their road towards the national championship. Notre Dame, Iowa State, Arizona and North Carolina also begin.
#14 Northeastern vs #3 Notre Dame (Midwest)
This is the first time for Northeastern in the tournament since 1991, following a 12-6 season in their conference. The Fighting Irish are more than about just making it; considering their 14-4 season in the ACC, they have an outsiders shot of going deep in this tournament, led by Jerian Grant, aiming to make the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2003.
#14 UAB vs #13 Iowa State (South)
Few teams are as hot as the Cyclones right now. Not just winning the Big 12 tournament, but winning five games in a row after trailing by at least 10 points in each of them shows a lot of character, and a team that has the mental toughness, not to mention talent, to go a long way in this tournament. UAB are the third-youngest team in division one this season, usually making for easy prey.
#14 Georgia State vs #3 Baylor (West)
The Panthers are hoping R.J. Hunter can be the difference maker against a Baylor team that finished 11-7 in the gauntlet that is the Big 12, and are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, most of it due to the presence of Rico Gathers, averaging 11.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
#15 Texas Southern vs #2 Arizona (West)
Arizona feel they have the best shot at making the Final Four (haven’t been there since 2001) since Sean Miller became the head coach, with the presence of Brandon Ashley, along with Stanley Johnson and the play of Richard Hollis-Jefferson making the difference. Texas Southern might be a problem after a good season in the SWAC and plenty of experience on their side.
#11 Texas vs #6 Butler (Midwest)
Butler have been very good against ranked teams this season while Texas had a four-game losing streak in February spanning 11 days that almost took them out of the NCAA Tournament picture. While Butler look like a better team, size might be an issue for the Bulldogs, without a single player over 6’9.
#11 UCLA vs #6 SMU (South)
UCLA is fighting the perception left from that 39-point loss to Kentucky, helped by winning 12 of their last 18 games in a tough Pac-12 and a solid RPI, led by Normal Powell, averaging 16.4 points per game. Nic Moore is the difference maker for the Mustangs, losing just three times since the beginning of December, although they don’t have a single win over a ranked team this season.
#11 Ole Miss vs #6 Xavier (West)
The Rebels are already on some sort of roll following their win over BYU in the First Four. Despite going only 9-9 in the Big East this season, Xavier’s familiarity with SEC teams (wins over Alabama and Missouri, loss to Auburn) and some impressive performances this season against Georgetown, Seton Hall and Butler make them favorites in this one.
#10 Ohio State vs #7 VCU (West)
VCU hit the tournament after winning the conference tourney in the A-10, which included beating a ranked Davidson by 20 points. Ohio State have lost four times in the last month, including twice to Michigan State but their only losses to nonconference teams this season came against Louisville and North Carolina, both ranked ACC teams.
#16 Lafayette vs #1 Villanova (East)
Villanova have won 15 consecutive games and have just two losses this season – Seton Hall and Georgetown, both on the road. They’ve done very well against ranked teams and nonconference opponents. The Wildcats and Big East champions are for reals.
#9 Purdue vs #8 Cincinnati (Midwest)
One of the most difficult games to call, expect a very low score and some ugly shooting numbers with two teams that aren’t coming in with the most impressive records and form of late.
#13 Harvard vs #4 North Carolina (West)
The Tar Heels have size, speed and depth, but it’s hard to say which teams will show up. For Harvard, led by the fantastic Wesley Saunders, this might be an incredible opportunity to cause a major upset.
#12 SF Austin vs #5 Utah (South)
This is the seeding that is usually the basis of major upsets, which shouldn’t be that surprising. Utah should be worried, not playing their best basketball since the middle of February, going 3-4 over their last seven games.
#9 LSU vs #8 North Carolina State (East)
The Tigers, hoping to prove the SEC is more than just Kentucky, have been awful over the last two months, which includes losses to Mississippi State, Auburn and Tennessee. North Carolina State have been very up and down this season, but a good day from Trevor Lacey should be able to make the difference.
#16 Hampton vs #1 Kentucky (Midwest)
The game is played in Louisville, which might make things very interesting. Hampton have done enough just by reaching the final 64. Kentucky? After going 34-0, their road to being remembered has just begun.
#12 Wofford vs #5 Arkansas (West)
Despite playing in the shadow of Kentucky all season long, the Razorbacks are a good team and since February began lost just three times, two of those losses to Kentucky.
#13 Eastern Washington vs #4 Georgetown (South)
Like in every year, Georgetown look like one of the most vulnerable high seeds to being upset considering they’ve lost almost every “big” game they’ve had this season.