The NCAA Tournament’s round of 64 (what used to be the first round but is now called the “second” round by the NCAA) tips off Thursday. Here’s a preview of the games, with tip times, TV information and predictions.
No. 14 Northeastern vs. No. 3 Notre Dame, 11:15 a.m. (CBS)
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Northeastern is in the field for the first time since 1991, and the Huskies are among the nation’s top shooting teams at 48 percent. Will the Irish have an ACC Tournament title hangover? Jerian Grant is the top player for one of the nation’s best offenses and looks to lead Notre Dame into a Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
▪ Pick: Notre Dame 91-75
No. 11 Texas vs. No. 6 Butler, about 1:45 p.m. (CBS)
Butler beat North Carolina in the Bahamas and expectations went to another level. Roosevelt Jones is money around the basket. More was expected from the Longhorns this season, but Texas is in the field and is among the nation’s top shot-block and rebounding teams.
▪ Pick: Texas 64-60
At Louisville, Ky.
No. 9 Purdue vs. No. 8 Cincinnati, 6:10 p.m. (CBS)
The Bearcats made a late charge to improve their NCAA stock, winning five straight. Octavious Ellis, at 10.0 points, is Cincinnati’s top scorer. Purdue also made an in-season around and have a difference-maker in 7-footer A.J. Hammond.
▪ Pick: Purdue 72-64
No. 16 Hampton vs. No. 1 Kentucky, about 8:40 p.m. (CBS)
After beating Manhattan in the Opening Round, Hampton Coach Edward Joyner Jr. picked up a cell phone and pretended to call Jesus to ask for help against Kentucky. The Wildcats will look to stay sharp and be ready for tougher challenges on the bracket.
▪ Pick: Kentucky 83-40
No. 16 Lafayette vs. No. 1 Villanova, 5:50 p.m. (TBS)
Schools located 65 miles apart in Eastern Pennsylvania meet in Pittsburgh. This is one of Jay Wright’s best Wildcats teams, led by Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard with JayVaughan Pinkston providing the inside muscle. Lafayette, the Patriot League champ, is making its first NCAA appearance since 2000.
▪ Pick: Villanova 88-61
No. 9 LSU vs. No. 8 North Carolina State, about 8:20 p.m. (TBS)
Wolfpack sophomore Cat Barber has been cleared to play after a scary fall against Duke in the ACC Tournament. LSU is loaded with talent but doesn’t always play up to potential. The Tigers have two of the SEC’s top big men in Jordan Mickey and Jarrell Martin.
▪ Pick: North Carolina State 68-66
at Portland, Ore.
No. 12 Stephen F. Austin vs. No. 5 Utah, 6:27 p.m. (truTV)
The Utes slog into the tournament having lost three of five. They get it done on defense, and in senior guard Delon Wright have one of the nation’s most unheralded players. The Lumberjacks, coached by Brad Underwood, won as a No. 12 seed last year over VCU.
▪ Pick: Stephen F. Austin 59-55
No. 13 Eastern Washington vs. No. 4 Georgetown, about 8:57 p.m. (truTV)
Georgetown is the better seed but didn’t get the geographical consideration. Eastern Washington did. The Eagles won the Big Sky Tournament by beating Montana on the Grizzlies’ home floor. Guard Tyler Harvey, who averages 22.9 for the Eagles, ranks among the nation’s leading scorers.
▪ Pick: Eastern Washington 75-74
At Louisville, Ky.
No. 14 Alabama-Birmingham vs. No. 3 Iowa State, 11:40 a.m. (truTV)
The Cyclones look to break the comeback trend. They’ve trailed by double digits at some point of their last five games, including 17 down to Kansas in the second half of the Big 12 Tournament final. Blazers Coach Jerod Haase, as a Kansas player, used to guard Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.
▪ Pick: Iowa State 84-69
No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 6 SMU, about 2:10 p.m. (truTV)
The Bruins are being told they’d don’t belong in the field, and that can be a strong motivating factor. UCLA has five players average in double figures. SMU Coach Larry Brown took the Bruins to the national title game in 1980 and is in the tournament for the first time since leading Kansas to the 1988 championships.
▪ Pick: UCLA 72-68
At Jacksonville, Fla.
No. 14 Georgia State vs. No. 3 Baylor, 12:40 p.m. (TBS)
R.J. Hunter, the son of coach Ron Hunter, is a 6-6 matchup problem and considered an NBA prospect. Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow and Louisville transfer Kevin Ware, who suffered the gruesome broken leg during the Cardinals’ title run in 2013, make the Panthers a formidable opponent for Baylor and rebounding specialist Rico Gathers.
▪ Pick: Baylor 71-64
No. 11 Mississippi vs. No. 6 Xavier, about 3:10 p.m. (TBS)
What a comeback by the Rebels in their opening-round victory over Brigham Young. Mississippi trailed by 17 before storming back behind guard Stefan Moody. Xavier will look to slow things down. The Musketeers played well down the stretch reaching the Big East Tournament title game with victories over Butler and Georgetown.
▪ Pick: Mississippi 77-70
No. 13 Harvard vs. No. 4 North Carolina, 6:20 p.m. (TNT)
The North Carolina-Duke rivalry is renewed with former Blue Devils guard Tommy Amaker coaching the Crimson. Harvard must find a way to slow Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige. When he plays well so does North Carolina.
▪ Pick: North Carolina 75-64
No. 12 Wofford vs. No. 5 Arkansas, about 8:50 p.m. (TNT)
Welcome back to the field, Arkansas. The Razorbacks, whose last NCAA appearance was in 2008, have two standouts in SEC Player of the year Bobby Portis and guard Michael Qualls. Southern Conference champion Wofford is in its fourth NCAA Tournament in the last six years.
▪ Pick: Arkansas 77-68
At Portland, Ore.
No. 15 Texas Southern vs. No. 2 Arizona, 1:10 p.m. (TNT)
The Tigers won’t be intimidated. They won at Michigan State and Kansas State this year and were in the NCAA Tournament last year. But Arizona is a powerhouse, among the nation’s top defense and rebounding teams with the added motivation of just missing last year’s Final Four.
▪ Pick: Arizona 80-60
No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 7 VCU, about 3:40 p.m. (TNT)
The Rams had to adjust after losing defensive specialist Briante Weber in early February. Still, VCU ranks among the nation’s top team in steals and turnover margin. The Rams will get a major test in Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, the do-it-all freshman. This should be one of the best games of the second round.
▪ Pick: Ohio State 67-64