2 Villanova Wildcats vs. 3 Miami-Florida Hurricanes - South Region - Louisville, KY
Tip-off: 7:10pm (all times Eastern), CBS (Jim Nantz/Grant Hill/Bill Raftery/Tracy Wolfson)
On paper, this is the only game that I think is going to be a really good, competitive one all the way through. Miami beat maybe the toughest opponent of anyone in round two and held off a late Shockers rally after a fast start. Meanwhile, Villanova absolutely obliterated a struggling Iowa team after doing the same to the 15 seed UNC Asheville.
I really like the way Miami is playing and was thoroughly impressed with how they handled adversity against Wichita State. Jim Larranaga's resume also speaks for itself. That said, I don't quite trust the erratic Angel Rodriguez quite yet, and though he was great against the Shockers, I'm not seeing a repeat effort from him. Will they get enough elsewhere to keep up with a locked-and-loaded, balanced Villanova offense? I'm guessing they fall just short.
Prediction: Villanova 74, Miami 69
2 Oklahoma Sooners vs. 3 Texas A&M Aggies - West Region - Anaheim, CA
Tip-off: 7:27pm, TBS (Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel/Allie LaForce)
The Aggies are remarkably lucky to still be standing following Northern Iowa's statistically-impossible late-game collapse. Now, they run into a guy that has proven himself on the biggest stage as the should-be national player of the year in Buddy Hield. The Sooners can be a very balanced offensive squad with underrated talent throughout their roster. That makes them scary on any given day.
But even when all that fails, they have Superman to fall back on to score 29 second-half points if need be, like he did against another very good defense in VCU. Given the rest of their conference's lackluster season, Texas A&M did well to get to this point, but I think the Sooners are going to push the pace and run the Aggies out of the building.
Prediction: Oklahoma 80, Texas A&M 64
1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. 5 Maryland Terrapins - South Region - Louisville, KY
Tip-off: 9:40pm (approximate), CBS (Jim Nantz/Grant Hill/Bill Raftery/Tracy Wolfson)
Maryland was really struggling with Hawaii, until a big second half outburst put them well ahead in that one for good. Unfortunately for them, after a favorable draw to get to the second weekend, they now face the top overall seed in the entire tournament in Kansas. I know many will tout the talent level of the Terrapins, and if they can just put it all together for 40 minutes, they are the type of team that can take down Kansas.
I just don't think we've seen Maryland put it all together with all that supposed talent. And unlike Kansas, they are not deep at all and will need super-human efforts from Diamond Stone and Robert Carter to avoid getting dominated by Kansas' front court, led by Perry Ellis. I'm not seeing it with these Terps, and I think this is the end of the road for them following a dominant second half from the Jayhawks.
Prediction: Kansas 75, Maryland 63
1 Oregon Ducks vs. 4 Duke Blue Devils - West Region - Anaheim, CA
Tip-off: 9:57pm, TBS (Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel/Allie LaForce)
I'll take a little bit of a conference superiority flyer here. Oregon did well to get by St. Joe's after falling behind very late in the second half. But the Pac-12 has had a total disaster of a tournament, and it's hard to be too confident that the Ducks are really that much better than the rest of their conference, especially following a game against a good-not-great mid-major that nearly got away from them.
That said, this is certainly not the best version of Duke we've seen in the last few years, and it still seems hard to take them as a serious national title threat. But they do have the offense to keep up with Oregon's and will have plenty of rest despite the short bench. The way Brandon Ingram is playing in this tournament, Coach K going up against Dana Altman, and the ACC superiority over especially the vastly overrated Pac-12 all give me the feeling that Duke is going to take this one and return to the Elite 8. Not a bad "down year" for them.
Prediction: Duke 71, Oregon 65