The lone silver lining after an underwhelming first round of the NCAA tournament is that it yields a second round full of heavyweight matchups.
There are a couple of second-round games this weekend that would not feel out of place a round or two later.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s eight matchups. The games are ranked 1-8 from most to least compelling.
1. Kentucky (2) vs. Wofford (7), 2:40 p.m., CBS
One program boasts eight national titles,17 Final Fours and 59 NCAA tournament appearances. The other just scored its first NCAA tournament win Thursday night. This matchup between Kentucky and Wofford is the ultimate historical mismatch, yet there’s reason to believe the Terriers (30-4) can pose a real challenge despite a significant size disadvantage. They are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, they haven’t lost since mid-December and they’ll very likely be facing Kentucky without star forward P.J. Washington.
2. Florida State (4) vs. Murray State (12), 6:10 p.m., TNT
In Murray State’s first-round victory, Ja Morant recorded the ninth triple-double in NCAA tournament history, a 17-point, 16-assist, 11-rebound tour de force that left Marquette overmatched and NBA scouts in awe. Now Morant will try to conjure up some more magic against a far tougher opponent. Florida State comes at teams with waves of length and athleticism and makes it difficult to score at the rim. Are Morant and his teammates up to the challenge? It should be fun watching to find out.
3. Michigan (2) vs. Florida (10), 5:15 p.m., CBS
Two months after they met on the football field for the third time in four years, Florida and Michigan will move their burgeoning rivalry to the basketball hardwood. They’ll square off Saturday with a berth in the West regional semifinals at stake. While Michigan has been more consistent over most of the season, this is actually a matchup of two pretty similar teams. Both are better on defense than offense and rely on a perimeter-oriented four-guard attack despite erratic outside shooting.
4. Kansas (4) vs. Auburn (5), 9:40 p.m., TBS
Kansas has a huge incentive to try to survive Saturday’s big test against Auburn. A Midwest regional in Jayhawk-friendly Kansas City awaits Bill Self’s team if it can win one more game. Auburn is best in a chaotic, fast-paced, 3-point-happy game, so Kansas has to be strong with the ball, quick in closing out on shooters and vigilant in transition defense. The Tigers have won five times in eight days, which is good from the standpoint that they’re playing well but also could leave them a little fatigued.
5. LSU (3) vs. Maryland (6), 12:10 p.m., CBS
If you tune into the NCAA tournament to see how NBA prospects handle playing on college basketball’s biggest stage, then you might want to carve out time for this star-laden matchup. LSU and Maryland mirror one another, from their talented point guards, to their often-overlooked wings, to their stable of strong, athletic big men. Bruno Fernando versus Naz Reid in particular is a showdown of hulking future first-round picks.
6. Gonzaga (1) vs. Baylor (9), 7:10 p.m., TBS
The team standing in Gonzaga’s way for a fifth straight appearance in the Sweet 16 is one that has overachieved to get to this point. Baylor has endured a flurry of key injuries, yet here are the Bears still alive on March 22 after edging Syracuse on Thursday. For Baylor to have any chance, it will have to dominate the offensive glass and frustrate Gonzaga with its zone defense. The first goal may be attainable, but the Zags have too much size and skill for the Bears to shut them down.
7. Purdue (3) vs. Villanova (6), 8:40 p.m., TNT
If the Big East is going to survive the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, then Villanova is the league’s last hope. Marquette and Seton Hall both fell in the NCAA tournament’s first round, while St. John’s did not even make it out of the First Four. Villanova attempts as many 3-pointers per game as any team in the country, so Purdue will have to close out on shooters and work to get over the top of screens. It would also help the Boilermakers if Carsen Edwards could find a way to generate offense without requiring 20-25 shots to do it.
8. Michigan State (2) vs Minnesota (10), 7:45 p.m., CBS
The selection committee found an antidote for the Big Ten’s early domination of the NCAA tournament. Why not needlessly pit two Big Ten teams against one another in the second round? Michigan State and Minnesota last played on Feb. 9, a 79-55 rout for the Spartans. To make this meeting closer, the Gophers will have to shoot from the perimeter like they did against Louisville and do a better job of not letting Nick Ward get deep post position.
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