NCAA Tournament Second Round Preview
Saturday, March 21
After a rather predictable Thursday with little drama, the winners will return the court on Saturday to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16.
Here's a quick rundown of the lines and my insider take on each game.
No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 6 UCLA
Approximate Tip—1:05 p.m. EST
Spread: Villanova -2.0
Backcourt Advantage: Even. Darren Collison versus Scottie Reynolds will be a fantastic matchup between two of the best point guards in the nation.
Frontcourt Advantage: Villanova. The Wildcats will have a slight edge inside with Dante Cunningham against Nikola Dragovic and Alfred Aboya.
Momentum: Villanova. Both teams were given a scare in the first round, but Villanova has to be feeling better after coming back from as many as 14 points to beat American by 13. On the other hand, UCLA led VCU for most of the game but had trouble putting them away. Eric Maynor's jumper fell short at the buzzer, and that late-night breeze out of Los Angeles was a big sigh of relief from Bruins fans.
Bottom Line: Home-court advantage will once again help the Wildcats, who very possibly would have lost their opening round game had they not received so much support from the crowd. An opponent's size is the one disadvantage for Villanova, but UCLA doesn't have a whole lot of it either. Look for Cunningham and Reynolds to lead their team to the Sweet 16.
Shaun's Pick: Villanova -2.0
No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 10 Maryland
Approximate Tip—3:20 p.m. EST
Spread: Memphis -9.0
Backcourt Advantage: Memphis. Tyreke Evans, Antonio Anderson, and Doneal Mack will frustrate Greivis Vasquez and the Terps.
Frontcourt Advantage: Memphis. Maryland won't have an answer for Dozier and Taggart inside.
Momentum: Even. Memphis was tested by Cal State-Northridge in the first round, while Maryland rode Vasquez's hot hand to a decisive victory over California.
Bottom Line: Memphis will respond to its tough first-round win with a dominant defensive and offensive effort against an inconsistent Maryland team. It's hard to see Vasquez leading them without being frustrated, and once he starts becoming frustrated, the Terps are a mediocre team at best.
Shaun's Pick: Memphis -9.0
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 9 Texas A&M
Approximate Tip—3:35 p.m. EST
Spread: Connecticut -10.5
Backcourt Advantage: Connecticut. A.J. Price, along with Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker, will give the Huskies the advantage on the perimeter against Donald Sloan and Josh Carter.
Frontcourt Advantage: Connecticut. Hasheem Thabeet will be the dominant force inside for UConn, but don't sleep on the Aggies' Bryan Davis and Chinemelu Elonu. They have been a solid defensive duo for Texas A&M.
Momentum: Even. Connecticut is coming off the third largest win in NCAA tournament history, a 103-47 beat-down of Chattanooga, but they entered the tournament having lost their last two games. Texas A&M looked very impressive in its first round win over BYU and closed the regular season with six wins in a row before losing in the Big 12 tournament.
Bottom Line: Texas A&M has shown the ability to play with top teams this year, and UConn is no longer a dominant team due to Jerome Dyson's injury. The Huskies should be able to win, but it should be a fairly close game.
Shaun's Pick: Texas A&M +10.5
No. 4 Washington vs. No. 5 Purdue
Approx. Tip—5:40 p.m. EST
Spread: Washington -1.0
Backcourt Advantage: Washington. Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon give the Huskies a slight advantage on the perimeter against E'Twaun Moore and Chris Kramer. However, to maintain this advantage, Thomas and Dentmon need to find their shots. They went a combined 4-for-19 in the first round, including 0-for-7 from three-point range.
Frontcourt Advantage: Even. Jon Brockman is a force inside for the Huskies, but he must stay out of foul trouble. Quincy Pondexter has the ability to step up if he needs to, as he led Washington in the first round with 23 points. Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson will fuel the Boilermakers' attack and give Brockman and Pondexter all they can handle and more.
Momentum: Even. The Boilermakers received a late scare from Northern Iowa in the first round, while Washington cruised past Mississippi State.
Bottom Line: The Huskies will have the crowd on their side, which could prove to be the tipping point between two fairly even teams. The winner of this game will have the potential to go all the way to the Final Four.
Shaun's Pick: Washington -1.0
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 8 LSU
Approximate Tip—5:45 p.m. EST
Spread: North Carolina -11.5
Backcourt Advantage: North Carolina. With or without Lawson, the Tar Heels will have the advantage outside against Marcus Thornton and the Tigers.
Frontcourt Advantage: North Carolina. Tyler Hansbrough should be the difference-maker inside for the Tar Heels. Still, LSU has a strong front line with Tasmin Mitchell and Chris Johnson.
Momentum: Even. The Tar Heels are playing good enough without Lawson, but it'll be interesting to see if they can keep this momentum going. It'll also be interesting to see how Lawson slides back into the offense if he returns. Marcus Thornton has been on fire, scoring 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting against Butler in the first round.
Bottom Line: LSU will be able to battle against North Carolina. With three senior starters, including leading-scorer Thornton, the Tigers have the experience as well. North Carolina will be tested in this one, but will prevail. I'll take the points though.
Shaun's Pick: LSU +11.5
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Michigan
Approximate Tip—5:50 p.m. EST
Spread: Oklahoma -7.0
Backcourt Advantage: Oklahoma. Austin Johnson, Willie Warren, and Tony Crocker are more talented than Michigan's backcourt, but they can't get into a shooting contest with the Wolverines.
Frontcourt Advantage: Oklahoma. Blake Griffin will dominate inside against DeShawn Sims and the Wolverines, who don't have enough frontcourt depth to help Sims.
Momentum: Even. It remains to be seen if the Sooners are back on track after faltering down the stretch of the regular season and in the Big 12 tournament. Michigan hung on to beat Clemson in the first round, but has been inconsistent all year.
Bottom Line: Oklahoma should dominate the Wolverines, who will be relying too much on outside shooting.
Shaun's Pick: Oklahoma -7.0
No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky
Approximate Tip—8:10 p.m. EST
Spread: Gonzaga -10.5
Backcourt Advantage: Even. A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez will keep the Hilltoppers in this one against Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin.
Frontcourt Advantage: Gonzaga. Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye will be too much for Western Kentucky to handle inside.
Momentum: Even. Gonzaga pulled away from Akron late in the first round, while Western Kentucky pulled off Thursday's only major upset, knocking off Illinois. The Hilltoppers led the Illini comfortably for most of the game and then held on to win by four.
Bottom Line: Gonzaga will be able to wear down the Hilltoppers in the paint, but Western Kentucky has shown it can hang with the top teams and is looking to make its second straight Sweet 16. Gonzaga will win, but not by double-digits.
Shaun's Pick: Western Kentucky +10.5
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Texas
Approximate Tip—8:15 p.m. EST
Spread: Duke -7.0
Backcourt Advantage: Even. Duke has more depth, but Texas will be led by senior A.J. Abrams, who caught fire in the first round, scoring 26 points while shooting 8-for-15 from behind the arc.
Frontcourt Advantage: Texas. The Longhorns' center Dexter Pittman will create matchup problems inside for Duke. The 6'10" 298-pound Pittman put up 17 points and 11 rebounds in the opening-round win over Minnesota. Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, and David McClure will need to play good team defense to slow down Pittman.
Momentum: Duke. The Blue Devils have been on a roll, winning nine of their last 10 games, including a sound victory over Binghamton in the first round. The Longhorns have been up and down all year, but they have been playing great basketball lately. However, it remains to be seen if they can put it all together against a top team.
Bottom Line: Texas has been up and down all year, but if the offense is flowing through Abrams, Pittman, and swingman Damion James, the Longhorns have the potential to take down Duke. The Blue Devils will probably win this game, but it should be close. I'll take the points.
Shaun's Pick: Texas +7.0