NCAA Tournament

Previews for Thursday’s NCAA Tournament games

Updated: 2013-03-21T02:11:05Z

EAST REGION

AT LEXINGTON, KY.

• No. 11 Bucknell at No. 6 Butler, 11:40 a.m. (truTV)

Patriot League champion Bucknell rides a seven-game winning streak into the tournament, and Mike Muscala is one the nation’s most creative scoring big men. The Bulldogs beat two No. 1 seeds — Indiana and Gonzaga — but you wonder if Butler will be distracted by realignment. The official announcement came this week: The Bulldogs are joining the Big East, along with Xavier and Creighton.

Pick: Butler, 64-59

• No. 14 Davidson vs. No. 3 Marquette, 2:10 p.m. (truTV)

Vander Blue leads a Marquette team that exceeded expectations this season. Picked to finish seventh in the Big East by the coaches, the Golden Eagles tied Louisville and Georgetown for first. Davidson is a tournament-tested program. The Wildcats are making their second straight appearance and fifth since 2006, all under coach Bob McKillop.

Pick: Davidson, 74-71

AT SAN JOSE, CALIF.

• No. 12 California vs. No. 5 UNLV, 6:27 p.m. (truTV)

This was a gaffe by the committee, matching teams that played in the regular season — the Rebels won at Berkeley 76-75 — and they’re playing in the backyard of the lower seeded team. UNLV, led by terrific freshman big man Anthony Bennett, has the teammates to fight through the obstacles. Pac-12 player of the year Allen Crabbe leads the Golden Bears.

• Pick: UNLV, 76-75

• No. 13 Montana vs. No. 4 Syracuse, 8:57 p.m. (truTV)

The Grizzlies are adjusting to life without scoring leader Mathias Ward, who was lost for the season a few weeks ago after foot surgery. Syracuse was fading fast late in the regular season then but rallied to reach the Big East title game. Which Orange shows up for the tournament?

• Pick: Syracuse, 81-68

WEST REGION

AT SALT LAKE CITY

• No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh, 12:40 p.m. (TBS)

Similar statistically as each average about 69 points per game. The Panthers are a physical team with balanced scoring and had an eye-opening 28-point victory at Georgetown early in the year. Cleanthony Hall is the top Shocker at 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds.

Pick: Pittsburgh, 71-69

• No. 16 Southern vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 3:10 p.m. (TBS)

The first game as a top seed for the Zags. They’ve been a No 3 and a No. 4, but this is new territory and pressure comes with it. Still, it’s a talented squad, led by All-America center Kelly Olynyk who can step outside for offense. Gonzaga is deep and efficient on both ends of the floor, but can it stand up to three straight tests, after this one?

Pick: Gonzaga, 90-70

• No. 11 Belmont vs. No. 6 Arizona, 6:20 p.m. (TNT)

Belmont, playing in an NCAA Tournament for a third straight season, beat some NCAA teams this season, like Middle Tennessee State and South Dakota State. Senior guards Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson lead the way. Arizona guard Mark Lyons has been boom-or-bust, capable of shooting the Wildcats in and out of games.

Pick: Belmont, 73-72

• No. 14 Harvard vs. No. 3 New Mexico, 8:50 p.m. (TNT)

The Lobos are a trendy pick to reach the Final Four, but be careful. No team from a non-power six conference has advanced past the sweet 16 since Memphis in 2008, and that team had Derrick Rose. New Mexico has Mountain West player of the year Kendall Williams, and guard Tony Snell is the team’s top perimeter shooter.

Pick: New Mexico, 71-59

MIDWEST REGION

AT AUBURN HILLS, MICH.

•  No. 11 St. Mary’s vs. No. 6 Memphis, 1:45 p.m. (CBS)

A bit of pressure on Memphis coach Josh Pastner to win, which he hasn’t done in the NCAA Tournament (0-2). Memphis point guard Joe Jackson leads the way with a 13.6-point average and makes 45.6 percent of his threes. But Gaels guard Matthew Dellavedova has already led St. Mary’s to a victory in the tournament, over Middle Tennessee State.

Pick: St. Mary’s, 70-66

• No. 14 Valparaiso vs. No. 3 Michigan State, 11:15 a.m. (CBS)

The Crusaders are back in the tournament for the first time since 2004 after winning the Horizon Conference tournament. Among tournament teams, only Colorado State has more starts from seniors than Valpo, which has won a school-record 26 games. Only four coaches — John Wooden (12), Mike Krzyzewski (11), Dean Smith (11) and Roy Williams (seven) — have more Final Four appearances than Tom Izzo’s six.

Pick: Michigan State, 62-55

AT SAN JOSE, CALIF.

•  No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State, 3:40 p.m. (TNT)

Again, how is Oregon a 12 seed after finishing second in the Pac-12 and winning the league tournament? It means the Cowboys, led by freshman point guard Marcus Smart, drew a tougher-than-deserved first opponent, and this is the first NCAA game for many in the program.

Pick: Oklahoma State, 68-63

• No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 13 New Mexico St., 1:10 p.m. (TNT)

It’s been an amazing ride for Saint Louis, which lost coach Rick Majerus to illness before the season. He died in December. Coach Jim Crews has done an amazing job as an interim, guiding the Billikens to the Atlantic 10 regular season and conference tournament. Two-time defending WAC champion New Mexico State is looking for its first NCAA victory since 1993.

Pick: Saint Louis, 80-67

AT LEXINGTON, KY.

•  No. 16 North Carolina A&T vs. No. 1 Louisville, 5:50 p.m. (TBS)

The Aggies took a thriller from Liberty in the opening round, and now try to become the first No. 16 season to knock off a No. 1. A&T won its first NCAA Tournament game in 10 attempts. There won’t be a second one this year, as the Cardinals begin their quest as the tournament favorite.

Pick: Louisville, 95-68

• No. 9 Missouri vs. No. 8 Colorado State, 8:20 p.m. (TBS)

Two terrific rebounding teams face off, with the Tigers’ Alex Oriakhi and the Rams’ Colton Iverson knocking heads. Whose backcourt will prevail? Missouri’s Phil Pressey can do it all, and sometimes does too much. His late-game errors cost the Tigers some road victories. Lawrence product Dorian Green leads coach Larry Eustachy’s team.

Pick: Missouri, 77-75

SOUTH REGION

AT AUBURN HILLS, MICH.

•  No. 13 South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Michigan, 6:15 p.m. (CBS)

Is Jackrabbits guard Nate Wolters the next Stephen Curry? Wolters’ shooting can keep South Dakota State close to any opponent, and his matchup with the Wolverines’ Trey Burke ranks among the best of the second-round confrontations.

Pick: Michigan 82-70

•  No, 12 Akron vs. No. 5 VCU, 8:45 p.m. (CBS)

Akron lost its first game after point guard Alex Abreu was arrested on drug charges but went on to win the MAC tournament. Still, VCU loves to apply defensive pressure and could create havoc for the Zips. Plus, the Rams, a Final Four team two years ago, know something about winning in March.

Pick: VCU, 72-64

| Blair Kerkhoff, bkerkhoff@kcstar.com

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