Previewing the four games from New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — If the streets of the French Quarter are any indication, we should have a huge pro-Kentucky turnout at New Orleans arena for Thursday's games.

There was almost as many folks wearing Big Blue on Wedensday night as St. Patrick's Day green.

Notre Dame and Old Dominion are just starting to warm up and fans are beginning to trickle in, but here's what I'm looking forward to in each of Thursday's four first-round match-ups from New Orleans:

Will Notre Dame run more against ODU?

Unlike some of the Big East teams Notre Dame beat after going to its slow-down style in the wake of Luke Harangody's injury, Old Dominion is a much better team at a slower tempo. I don't think the Irish will abandon their work-for-a-better-shot mentality, but we might see them run a little more.

Can Sam Houston State take advantage of Baylor's 2-3 zone?

Whatever chance the Bearkats have of springing a huge upset will depend on how they shoot from behind the arc. Sam Houston State has four players who shoot at least 40 percent from behind the arc and that doesn't include Corey Allmond, who made a Rupp Arena record 11 3-pointers against Kentucky earlier this season.

How does East Tennessee State defend Kentucky's size?

The 16th-seeded Buccaneers pushed Pittsburgh into the waning moments in the first round last year, but Kentucky represents a far more difficult matchup. It's hard to imagine ETSU having much success with DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton with only one player taller than 6-foot-6 in its nine-man rotation.

Which Texas team will we see?

Nine losses in 16 games is a large enough sample size to assume the Texas team we saw in the second half of the season is the Texas team we'll see today, but the Longhorns insist that the strength of the Big 12 played a role in their woes. If Dexter Pittman busts out for a big game and the young guards play well, that will lend credence to their theory.

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