I hope some of you are still breathing after these first two days of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. I’m barely hanging on. I apologize for not posting the last couple days, but with all of the amazing action, I think you can understand why. Just last night, we saw one of the favorites to win the whole thing lose to a 15-seed in the First Round, Northern Iowa down Texas on a half-court heave at the buzzer, and Cincinnati lose in heartbreaking fashion as a buzzer-beating dunk was just a hair late.
It was quite a day, and I’m looking forward to another one today! Here is a quick preview of each Second Round game taking place today.
#11 Wichita State vs #3 Miami (FL)
Providence, 12:10 pm CBS
The Hurricanes are a popular pick to advance deep in this tournament, but it took a very valiant effort for them to hold off 14-seed Buffalo on Thursday, eventually winning 79-72. Angel Rodriguez was great for Miami, tallying 24 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He could have a lot of trouble in this one though, as they take on Fred Van Vleet and the Wichita State Shockers, who dominated 6-seed Arizona on Thursday, winning by 10. Van Vleet led the way with 16 points and 5 steals, as the Shockers looked much better than an 11-seed. Wichita State is arguably the best defensive team in the country, and it’s going to take a great game from the Hurricanes for them to advance to Louisville next week. That being said, this Wichita State team looks really good right now, and I think they’ll knock off Miami and advance to the Sweet 16.
#12 Yale vs #4 Duke
Providence, approx. 2:40 pm CBS
One of the biggest shockers of the First Round was the performance by the Yale Bulldogs, dominating Baylor on the boards and winning 79-75 for their first Tournament win in school history. Makai Mason scored 31 points for Yale, as they held off a late surge by the Bears to pull off the upset. Duke was nearly the victim of a First Round upset as well, but Marshall Plumlee exploded in the second half, and they were able to outlast UNC Wilmington 93-85. Many people had visions of a Yale-Duke rematch when the bracket was revealed, and they’ll get it. The two teams played at Cameron Indoor on November 25, with Duke winning 80-61. Duke was only up two points at half though, and they had Amile Jefferson in that game. Without Jefferson, Duke is a much weaker team inside, and we just saw Yale dominate a good interior team in Baylor. I shudder to think what they may do to Duke on the boards. Yale is a confident team right now, and I like them to pull off the upset.
#5 Indiana vs #4 Kentucky
Des Moines, 5:15 pm CBS
This is another highly anticipated Second Round match-up, as the Hoosiers and the Wildcats will reignite a rivalry that the two schools refuse to take part in during the regular season (if you didn’t know, Tom Crean and John Calipari are two very stubborn individuals). Both of these teams rolled in the First Round, with Indiana topping Chattanooga 99-74 and Kentucky besting Stony Brook 85-57. This will be one of the best point guard battles you’ll see in this tournament, as Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis will go one-on-one, and it should be highly entertaining. The difference in this game will be in the paint, where Indiana has some talent, led by freshman Thomas Bryant, but where Kentucky overwhelms some teams with the triumvirate of Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress and Skal Labissiere. I think Kentucky will be too much for Indiana down low, and they’ll head to Philly and the East regional semis.
#12 Little Rock vs #4 Iowa State
Denver, 6:10 pm TNT
Another stunner on Thursday was the Little Rock Trojans taking Purdue to double-overtime before coming away with an improbable 85-83 victory. Purdue had a 12-point lead fairly late and coughed it up when Little Rock started to pressure full-court, bothering the Boilermakers. Iowa State meanwhile was able to outscore the Iona Gaels 94-81, getting a somewhat comfortable win. The Cyclones have very lofty expectations, and they’ll have to play a completely different type of game here in the Second Round. Iona plays very little defense, while Little Rock pressures teams heavily on the defensive end. The Trojans are a nice story, and if they play like they did on Thursday they’ll have a shot, but I think Iowa State is just too talented and too motivated, and they’ll advance to Anaheim.
#9 Butler vs #1 Virginia
Raleigh, 7:10 pm TBS
Virginia made fairly easy work of 16-seed Hampton in the First Round, winning 81-45 behind 19 points from forward Anthony Gill. Butler was able to come away victorious in a back-and-forth battle with Texas Tech, pulling away at the end and winning 71-61. Kellen Dunham scored 23 points, including 5-9 from three-point range for the Bulldogs. Butler is a very good offensive team, led by seniors Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, who I’m sure will be motivated to keep their careers going. But I just don’t think the Bulldogs have enough firepower to contend with the tenacious defense of the Cavaliers. It’s been a crazy year, and anything can happen here, but I like Virginia to win this one going away.
#9 UConn vs #1 Kansas
Des Moines, approx. 7:45 pm CBS
Kansas is considered by many to be the best team in this tournament, and they gave us a glimpse as to why in their First Round victory over 16-seed Austin Peay. The Jayhawks put up 105 points, led by 23 off the bench for guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (last name pronunced: mick-hi-look). Devonte Graham didn’t score in the game, which shows you how deep this team is. UConn struggled both early and late in their First Round game, but a good run in the middle of the second half was able to help the Huskies to a 74-67 win over 8-seed Colorado. Based on everything that happened in the First Round, I’d say it wouldn’t be very shocking to see UConn pull off an upset here. Kevin Ollie is a great postseason coach, and UConn is one of the few teams that can actually match-up well with the guard play and depth of Kansas. UConn operates in a similar fashion to the Jayhawks. Kansas will be favored pretty heavily, and for good reason, and I think they will come out on top. But don’t be that surprised if UConn puts together a great performance and moves on to Louisville.
#11 Gonzaga vs #3 Utah
Denver, approx. 8:40 pm TNT
One of the biggest shockers for me, maybe not for everyone, but for me was how easily Gonzaga dispatched of 6-seed Seton Hall in the First Round. The Pirates won the Big East Tournament and were a trendy pick to advance deep in the tourney. Domantas Sabonis had other ideas, going for 21 points and 16 rebounds, leading the Bulldogs to a 68-52 drubbing of Seton Hall. In the Second Round, they’ll take on a Utah team that got past 14-seed Fresno State 80-69 behind 16 points and 18 rebounds from center Jakob Poeltl. This will be a battle of the big men, as Poeltl, Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer of Gonzaga are all very skilled, and will likely be taken in the First Round of this year’s NBA Draft. Utah is the more talented team, but I was really impressed with how Gonzaga played on Thursday, and I think they’ll get the job done here with another upset.
#9 Providence vs #1 North Carolina
Raleigh, approx. 9:40 pm TBS
Providence is pretty lucky to be here. Reggie Bullock got wide open for a go-ahead layup, and USC’s Julian Jacobs missed a half court heave, giving Providence a 70-69 victory. North Carolina defeated 16-seed Florida Gulf Coast 83-67 in the First Round, but the final score doesn’t tell the story. The Eagles were right there with UNC for the entire first half, trailing by just a point at halftime. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall of the Tar Heel locker room at halftime, because they came out with a vengeance in the second half, taking the game over and winning fairly easily. Providence has two bonafide studs in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, and I expect them both to play well, but North Carolina has Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson to match up with Dunn and Bentil, and the Tar Heels have a much more talented supporting cast around their two superstars. Providence could absolutely win this game, but I expect UNC to come out on top and head to Philadelphia next week.
I’ll be back tomorrow with preview of Sunday’s Second Round games. Enjoy today’s action everybody!