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NCAA tournament viewing guide: Ranking Saturday’s slate from most to least compelling

NCAA tournament viewing guide: Ranking Saturday’s slate from most to least compelling

What’s the only upside to a humdrum, uneventful first round of the NCAA tournament in which teams seeded No. 4 or better went 16-0?

It should give way to a second round loaded with quality matchups.

Saturday’s second-round slate is headlined by a pair of tests for No. 1 seeds and two intriguing clashes of style between No. 4 and 5 seeds. Here’s a look at Saturday’s eight games ranked from most to least compelling:

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="1. Villanova (1) vs. Wisconsin (8) (2:45 p.m. EST, CBS): The reigning national champs will get a huge opening-weekend test from a Wisconsin team gunning for its fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance. The Badgers lost five of six late in the regular season to fall out of Big Ten title contention, but they’ve righted themselves in the postseason. Bronson Koenig sank eight threes two nights ago, Nigel Hayes is averaging 16 points in his last three games and Ethan Happ could be a difficult matchup for an undersized Villanova team lacking a true center. Guard play will be an advantage for Villanova, but the Wildcats really need title game hero Kris Jenkins to rediscover his shooting stroke.” data-reactid=”12″>1. Villanova (1) vs. Wisconsin (8) (2:45 p.m. EST, CBS): The reigning national champs will get a huge opening-weekend test from a Wisconsin team gunning for its fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance. The Badgers lost five of six late in the regular season to fall out of Big Ten title contention, but they’ve righted themselves in the postseason. Bronson Koenig sank eight threes two nights ago, Nigel Hayes is averaging 16 points in his last three games and Ethan Happ could be a difficult matchup for an undersized Villanova team lacking a true center. Guard play will be an advantage for Villanova, but the Wildcats really need title game hero Kris Jenkins to rediscover his shooting stroke.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="2. Gonzaga (1) vs. Northwestern (8) (5:15 p.m. EST, CBS): Can Gonzaga stay on course for its first Final Four in program history? Can Northwestern reach the Sweet 16 in its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance? The storylines are juicy in this West Regional matchup. The key for Northwestern will be to put game pressure on Gonzaga down the stretch, something the Zags seldom faced in dominating the WCC the past few months. Keeping it close down the stretch will be easier said than done though for the Wildcats. Nigel Williams-Goss is one of the nation’s best point guards, Przemek Karnowski is as skilled as he is big and this is easily the best defensive team that Mark Few has ever coached.” data-reactid=”31″>2. Gonzaga (1) vs. Northwestern (8) (5:15 p.m. EST, CBS): Can Gonzaga stay on course for its first Final Four in program history? Can Northwestern reach the Sweet 16 in its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance? The storylines are juicy in this West Regional matchup. The key for Northwestern will be to put game pressure on Gonzaga down the stretch, something the Zags seldom faced in dominating the WCC the past few months. Keeping it close down the stretch will be easier said than done though for the Wildcats. Nigel Williams-Goss is one of the nation’s best point guards, Przemek Karnowski is as skilled as he is big and this is easily the best defensive team that Mark Few has ever coached.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="3. West Virginia (4) vs. Notre Dame (5) (12:10 p.m. EST, CBS): The clash of styles in this matchup is what makes it fascinating. Aggressive, swarming West Virginia forces more turnovers than any team in the nation with its full-court press, inducing opponents to cough up the ball on nearly 28 percent of their possessions. Skilled, fundamentally sound Notre Dame is comfortable playing at pace and turns the ball over less than any other team in the nation, giving it away just 13.8 percent of the time. Whichever team wins that battle will win this second-round matchup. The Irish have the shooters to make West Virginia pay for pressing if they can just get it across mid-court.” data-reactid=”32″>3. West Virginia (4) vs. Notre Dame (5) (12:10 p.m. EST, CBS): The clash of styles in this matchup is what makes it fascinating. Aggressive, swarming West Virginia forces more turnovers than any team in the nation with its full-court press, inducing opponents to cough up the ball on nearly 28 percent of their possessions. Skilled, fundamentally sound Notre Dame is comfortable playing at pace and turns the ball over less than any other team in the nation, giving it away just 13.8 percent of the time. Whichever team wins that battle will win this second-round matchup. The Irish have the shooters to make West Virginia pay for pressing if they can just get it across mid-court.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="4. Purdue (4) vs. Iowa State (5) (9:40 p.m. EST, TBS): This is another compelling matchup between two teams with contrasting approaches. It’s Purdue’s size and strength against Iowa State’s speed and quickness with a Sweet 16 berth at stake. Purdue wants to feed Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas in the post, force double teams and kick out for open threes, something against which an undersized team like Iowa State is definitely vulnerable. The Cyclones want to put opposing big men in ball screens, let Monte Morris create off the dribble and either get to the basket or find a shooter spotted up behind the arc, something Purdue won’t have an easy time defending either. Whoever exploits the mismatches better will advance.” data-reactid=”33″>4. Purdue (4) vs. Iowa State (5) (9:40 p.m. EST, TBS): This is another compelling matchup between two teams with contrasting approaches. It’s Purdue’s size and strength against Iowa State’s speed and quickness with a Sweet 16 berth at stake. Purdue wants to feed Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas in the post, force double teams and kick out for open threes, something against which an undersized team like Iowa State is definitely vulnerable. The Cyclones want to put opposing big men in ball screens, let Monte Morris create off the dribble and either get to the basket or find a shooter spotted up behind the arc, something Purdue won’t have an easy time defending either. Whoever exploits the mismatches better will advance.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="5. Florida (4) vs. Virginia (5) (8:40 p.m. EST, TNT): Two of the nation’s top-five defenses will clash in a matchup likely to be hard on the eyes. The Cavaliers smother opposing teams by slowing the tempo, controlling the glass and giving up nothing easy at the rim. Florida counters with a more aggressive approach designed to force turnovers and make opposing ball handlers uncomfortable. Two key injuries could play a role in this one. The Gators will be without top rim protector John Egbunu, who suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the regular season. The Cavaliers may not have Isaiah Wilkins, their team leader in blocks and steals, due to strep throat.” data-reactid=”56″>5. Florida (4) vs. Virginia (5) (8:40 p.m. EST, TNT): Two of the nation’s top-five defenses will clash in a matchup likely to be hard on the eyes. The Cavaliers smother opposing teams by slowing the tempo, controlling the glass and giving up nothing easy at the rim. Florida counters with a more aggressive approach designed to force turnovers and make opposing ball handlers uncomfortable. Two key injuries could play a role in this one. The Gators will be without top rim protector John Egbunu, who suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the regular season. The Cavaliers may not have Isaiah Wilkins, their team leader in blocks and steals, due to strep throat.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="6. Arizona (2) vs. Saint Mary’s (7) (7:45 p.m. EST, CBS): For most of the season, folks have dismissed Saint Mary’s as an elite team because it has piled up 29 wins against a modest schedule. Here’s the Gaels’ latest chance to prove the skeptics wrong. Arizona shared the Pac-12 regular season title with Oregon, defeated the Ducks in the conference tournament title game and is peaking at the right time. Furthermore, the Wildcats could be a very difficult matchup for Saint Mary’s as a result of their array of big, athletic guards. If Saint Mary’s cannot keep Allonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen and Rawle Alkins out of the lane, the Gaels run the risk of getting star center Jock Landale in foul trouble. As Saint Mary’s knows from its losses to Gonzaga this season, that could be fatal.” data-reactid=”57″>6. Arizona (2) vs. Saint Mary’s (7) (7:45 p.m. EST, CBS): For most of the season, folks have dismissed Saint Mary’s as an elite team because it has piled up 29 wins against a modest schedule. Here’s the Gaels’ latest chance to prove the skeptics wrong. Arizona shared the Pac-12 regular season title with Oregon, defeated the Ducks in the conference tournament title game and is peaking at the right time. Furthermore, the Wildcats could be a very difficult matchup for Saint Mary’s as a result of their array of big, athletic guards. If Saint Mary’s cannot keep Allonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen and Rawle Alkins out of the lane, the Gaels run the risk of getting star center Jock Landale in foul trouble. As Saint Mary’s knows from its losses to Gonzaga this season, that could be fatal.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="7. Butler (4) vs. Middle Tennessee (12) (7:10 p.m. EST, TBS): When Middle Tennessee pulled a massive first-round upset against Michigan State last March, the Blue Raiders were a classic one-hit wonder. They were hardly competitive two days later in a 75-50 loss to Syracuse. Will history repeat itself this year after Middle Tennessee ousted Minnesota in the opening round? Don’t count on it. This is a better Blue Raiders team, one that entered the NCAA tournament with 30 wins and deserved a better seed than it received. Six-foot-8 Arkansas transfer Jacorey Williams, fellow forward Reggie Upshaw and dynamic guard Giddy Potts form a dangerous three-man trio capable of toppling Butler if the Bulldogs aren’t at their best.” data-reactid=”58″>7. Butler (4) vs. Middle Tennessee (12) (7:10 p.m. EST, TBS): When Middle Tennessee pulled a massive first-round upset against Michigan State last March, the Blue Raiders were a classic one-hit wonder. They were hardly competitive two days later in a 75-50 loss to Syracuse. Will history repeat itself this year after Middle Tennessee ousted Minnesota in the opening round? Don’t count on it. This is a better Blue Raiders team, one that entered the NCAA tournament with 30 wins and deserved a better seed than it received. Six-foot-8 Arkansas transfer Jacorey Williams, fellow forward Reggie Upshaw and dynamic guard Giddy Potts form a dangerous three-man trio capable of toppling Butler if the Bulldogs aren’t at their best.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="8. Florida State (3) vs. Xavier (11) (6:10 p.m. EST, TNT): Since Edmond Sumner’s season-ending knee injury six weeks ago, Xavier’s formula has become pretty simple. To beat good teams, the Musketeers must play solid defense, dominate the glass at both ends and have Trevon Bluiett carry them offensively for stretches. That approach was enough to beat fading Maryland in the first round and it could pose a challenge to Florida State. For all their size and depth, the Seminoles are not a great defensive rebounding team. They’ve also struggled to shoot against zones, which means you might see plenty of Xavier’s 1-3-1. A huge key will be whether Xavier can limit its turnovers. Forcing Florida State to score against a set defense is crucial.” data-reactid=”59″>8. Florida State (3) vs. Xavier (11) (6:10 p.m. EST, TNT): Since Edmond Sumner’s season-ending knee injury six weeks ago, Xavier’s formula has become pretty simple. To beat good teams, the Musketeers must play solid defense, dominate the glass at both ends and have Trevon Bluiett carry them offensively for stretches. That approach was enough to beat fading Maryland in the first round and it could pose a challenge to Florida State. For all their size and depth, the Seminoles are not a great defensive rebounding team. They’ve also struggled to shoot against zones, which means you might see plenty of Xavier’s 1-3-1. A huge key will be whether Xavier can limit its turnovers. Forcing Florida State to score against a set defense is crucial.

A double-digit seed has failed to reached the Sweet 16 only twice since 1985, but Stephen Bardo will tell us who is up to the task this year.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="– – – – – – –” data-reactid=”64″>– – – – – – –

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!” data-reactid=”65″>Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Follow @JeffEisenberg” data-reactid=”66″>

Source: www.yahoo.com

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