NCAA Tournament games with Houston, Alabama, Kansas
The stakes rise with every passing round, and Saturday’s slate is lucky to be one of the highlights of the NCAA Men’s Tournament.
Saturday’s winners earn a spot in the Sweet 16, and all eight games feature some of the best teams and players in college basketball. Three No. 1 seeds are in action, and the spotlight is on first-team All-Americans Jalen Wilson of Kansas and Alabama forward Brandon Miller, and potentially Houston all-around guard Marcus Sasser.
Here’s the list of Saturday’s eight games ranked by visibility.
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 5 Duke
Time/TV: 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS
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A game of the top two seeds of the day, the Blue Devils play their best basketball of the season, having cruised through the ACC tournament and dispatched first-round opponent Oral Roberts with relative ease, extending their winning streak to 10 But this game will be based on defense.
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Tennessee is capable of keeping the score low, but it must also keep Duke center Kyle Filipowski from dominating in the paint if the Vols are to advance. The Volunteers ranked third in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense, second in field goal percentage defense, and first in three-point percentage defense. Look for maximum TV exposure, especially among Duke haters if the Blue Devils meet late.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Maryland
Time/TV: 9:40 p.m., TBS
There’s no doubt that all eyes will be on Miller, not only because he’s been in the news lately, but also because he played 19 minutes in Crimson Tide’s first-round win over Texas. A&M Corpus-Christi and got a goose egg in the rating column. Maryland will need another big game from Julian Reese, who led the Terps with 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in their win over West Virginia. If Alabama plays its A-game, it can get out of control early.
No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 15 Princeton
Time/TV: 6:10 p.m., DTT
Style of play matters sometimes, especially when looking at college basketball, but this game in the Battle of the Tigers is intriguing because of the seeds involved. Princeton is trying to become the fourth No. 15 to make it past the second round, but if you’re looking for offensive fireworks, there are far better options. Princeton can slow opponents down with their deliberate pace of play, but Missouri have exceptional offensive talent in Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge that can make it a moot point if the Tigers get going like they did in the second half against Utah State.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Arkansas
Time/TV: 5:15 p.m., CBS
Arkansas is playing a No. 1 seed for the third straight NCAA Tournament, and as many as there were against Illinois, the way the Razorbacks shot the ball just won’t work against Kansas. The Jayhawks had no problems with Howard in the first round, even without head coach Bill Self, who is still recovering from a medical issue that caused him to miss the Big 12 tournament.
To stand a chance, Arkansas needs to pick up the pace for easy buckets, forcing the Jayhawks to defend in a way where the Razorbacks get three-point open looks. Both teams have the ability to score in the 80s.
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 9 Auburn
Time/TV: 7:10 p.m., TBS
Sasser’s health is Houston’s biggest concern. Sasser left the first-round game after just 14 minutes against Northern Kentucky after re-injuring his groin, leaving the Cougars looking to replace his offensive production. The Norse shot 28% and only lost by 11, showing that Houston had trouble putting them away.
Houston’s calling card is defensive, especially against the three-point line guard, and Auburn is absolutely atrocious from depth. It’s about Sasser’s availability. If he plays and is even a little efficient, Houston wins easily. But sports betting is sniffling and giving Auburn a chance to punch, making for an intriguing prime-time game.
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Northwestern
Time/TV: 8:40 p.m., DTT
The Bruins have net-cutting talent in Houston, and the way they run their business lets you know they’re well-drilled and not imploding on their own. They also don’t care about the three-point shot and will just wear you down on defense. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell lead a balanced offense for the Bruins, and freshman forward Adem Bona could return from a shoulder injury.
Northwestern isn’t making mistakes, averaging less than 10 turnovers per game, but UCLA enters the game second in the nation in turnover margin, so something has to give. The Wildcats need to jump on UCLA early to have a chance to get excited, but that’s easier said than done.
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Penn State
Time/TV: 7:45 p.m., CBS
A popular sleeper pick to reach the Final Four, Texas is riding high after their Big 12 championship and carried that momentum into an easy win over Colgate. Leading the offensive talent are Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice, who made seven three-pointers in the first round.
Penn State is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation (39 percent from 3-point range with 13 threes against Texas A&M). The Nittany Lions are one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the nation, so if they don’t hit consistently, the Longhorns — backed by a deep bench — will kick them out of the gym.
No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 13 Furman
Time/TV: 12:10 p.m., CBS
Nothing against the two teams involved, but no doubt people will tune in mainly because it’s the first game of the day. Furman beat Virginia on a late JP Pegues 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left, preceded by an all-time error from Cavaliers guard Kihei Clark. The Paladins have balanced scores with four starters averaging in double digits.
San Diego State was stingy defensively in its win over Charleston, holding the Cougars to 32 percent shooting. The Aztecs weren’t much better at shooting, but this game could turn into a boredom if the teams can’t get the ball in the basket.
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