• No. 8 Kansas State (21-10) vs. No. 9 Southern Mississippi (25-8), 11:40 a.m. (truTV)
Larry Eustachy’s last two NCAA games were forgettable. His second-seeded Iowa State team got bounced out of the first round by Hampton in 2001 and he was tossed from an Elite Eight game against Michigan State a year before. He’s back with an offensive-minded and balanced scoring team. K-State has a freshman, Angel Rodriguez, at the point, but coach Frank Martin’s group is tournament tested.
Prediction: Kansas State 66-61
• No. 1 Syracuse (31-2) vs. No. 16 UNC Asheville (24-9), 2:10 p.m. (truTV)
How does the Orange react without Fab Melo? Syracuse becomes weaker defensively, and the Bulldogs bring a top-notch offense to the matchup. UNC Asheville averages 81.6 points per game, fifth in the nation, and four seniors and a junior start. Syracuse should be OK here, but round two should be a test.
Prediction: Syracuse 79-62
• No. 7 Gonzaga (25-6) vs. No. 10 West Virginia (19-13), 6:20 p.m. (TNT)
The Mountaineers are playing in their backyard. Kevin Jones (20.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg) is one of the nation’s most productive players and Darryl Bryant (17.2) is the top outside threat. This is Gonzaga’s 13th straight NCAA trip and the program still seeks its first Final Four.
Prediction: West Virginia 76-74
• No. 2 Ohio State (27-7) vs. No. 15 Loyola, Md. (24-8), 8:50 p.m. (TNT)
Experienced and talented, the Buckeyes were considered strong national championship contenders in the preseason. Now? Not so much. But Jared Sullinger is capable of taking Ohio State on a deep run and the Buckeyes should have no problem with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Greyhounds, in the tournament for the first time since 1994.
Prediction: Ohio State 87-69
AT ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.
• No. 4 Wisconsin (24-9) vs. No. 13 Montana (25-6), 1:10 p.m. (TNT)
The Grizzlies are solid on offense, led by guard Will Cherry, who averages 16 points. They knocked in eight three-pointers while beating Weber State in the Big Sky title game. But Wisconsin leads the nation in scoring defense (52.9) and tends to smother lesser opponents.
Prediction: Wisconsin 67-55
• No. 5 Vanderbilt (24-10) vs. No. 12 Harvard (26-4), 3:40 p.m. (TNT)
Vandy is often an early-round upset victim, but don’t look for that happen here. The Commodores are experienced and deep, and if they play defense with the same intensity they did in the second half of the SEC tournament title victory over Kentucky, holding the Wildcats scoreless over the final eight minutes against a zone, Vandy could be in for a nice run.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 72-64
AT LOUISVILLE, KY.
• No. 1 Kentucky (32-2) vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky (16-18), 5:50 p.m. (TBS)
Cool game for the Commonwealth. The Hilltoppers earned this one with a magical comeback victory over Mississippi Valley State in the opening round. But they catch the Wildcats in a tough spot, coming off a loss. Western gave Louisville a 10-point game in December. This one won’t be nearly as close.
Prediction: Kentucky 95-65
• No. 8 Iowa State (22-10) vs. No. 9 Connecticut (20-13), 8:20 p.m. (TBS)
Great contrast in styles, with UConn epitomizing hard-nosed Big East basketball and Iowa State a free-wheeling team that loves the three-pointer. Guard Jeremy Lamb is the Huskies star, averaging 17.2 points, but Iowa State point forward Royce White is one of the toughest matchups in the game, evidenced by his triple-double earlier this year.
Prediction: Connecticut 68-64
AT ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.
• No. 3 Baylor (27-7) vs. No. 14 South Dakota State (27-7), 6:27 p.m. (truTV)
Junior guard Nate Wolters does it all for the Jackrabbits, averaging 21.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds and topping the team in all categories. Baylor’s Perry Jones III was terrific in the Big 12 tournament and if brings that game to the NCAA, the Bears can make a deep run.
Prediction: Baylor 77-64
• No. 6 UNLV (26-8) vs. No. 11 Colorado (23-11), 8:57 p.m. (truTV)
In only his second season, coach Tad Boyle has the Buffaloes in the NCAA Tournament as Pac-12 tournament champs. UNLV is an offensive-minded club, averaging nearly 77 points per game and are led by UCLA transfer Mark Moser. Remember when the Runnin’ Rebels took down North Carolina earlier this season? They were terrific early and should be good enough to hold serve here.
Prediction: UNLV 75-72
AT PORTLAND, ORE.
• No. 5 Wichita State (27-5) vs. No. 12 VCU (28-6), 6:15 p.m. (CBS)
The suggestion that Wichita State is this year’s VCU has merit as a story about an under-the-radar program nationally that has Final Four potential. The Shockers have one of the nation’s best inside-outside games with guard Joe Ragland and center Garrett Stutz, formerly of North Kansas City. The Rams know the path to success, but Wichita State will avoid the upset.
Prediction: Wichita State 67-65
• No. 4 Indiana (25-8) vs. No. 13 New Mexico State (26-9), 8:45 p.m. (CBS)
This should be among today’s more entertaining games. The Aggies average 78.5 points and have a nice player in forward Wendell McKines, who averages 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds. The Hoosiers like to chuck it and are great at it, making 43.3 percent from behind the arc. Call this the biggest upset of the day.
Prediction: New Mexico State 80-78
AT LOUISVILLE, KY.
• No. 6 Murray State (30-1) vs. No. 11 Colorado State (20-11), 11:15 a.m. (CBS)
Racers guard Isaiah Canaan is starting to get the national recognition he deserves with inclusion on All-America teams. Canaan averages 19.2 points and he should have a good game against a Colorado State team that plays average defense. The Rams can shoot it, making 40.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Prediction: Murray State 82-71
• No. 3 Marquette (25-7) vs. No. 14 Brigham Young (26-8), 1:45 p.m. (CBS)
It doesn’t get any better than erasing a 25-point deficit for an NCAA victory. That’s what Brigham Young did against Iona in an opening-round game Tuesday. The Cougars pounded away inside on Tuesday but that won’t be available against Marquette, with Big East player of the year Jae Crowder leading a talented front line.
Prediction: Marquette 82-75
AT PORTLAND, ORE.
• No. 4 Louisville (26-9) vs. No. 13 Davidson (25-7), 12:40 p.m. (TBS)
It may not be a magical season like 2008, but Davidson is a solid, well-coached squad that handled Kansas at the Sprint Center in December. Louisville didn’t press as much as it wanted during the regular season but has developed more depth and the pressure helped the Cardinals take the Big East tournament championship.
Prediction: Louisville 62-56
• No. 5 New Mexico (27-6) vs. No. 12 Long Beach State (25-8), 3:10 p.m. (TBS)
Long Beach guard Casper Ware, the two-time Big West player of the year, is coming off a 33-point game in the league tournament title contest. New Mexico’s Drew Gordon was the Mountain West tournament MVP and among the nation’s most active big men. Will senior guard Larry Anderson, Long Beach’s best shooter, play? He’s missed the last three games because of a sprained MCL.
Prediction: Long Beach State 71-68
| Blair Kerkhoff, email@example.com