Digital First Media college basketball writer Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News previews Thursday's NCAA tournament games.
(All times Eastern)
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 16 Albany (4:10 p.m. ET, TBS): The No. 1 overall seed should have little trouble dispatching an opponent that lost seven games in the America East and was pushed to the limit Tuesday night in the First Four by Mount St. Mary's. The Gators have lost two games (to Wisconsin and Connecticut). Both were on the road, both were close, and both were in the first month of the season. Pick: Florida.
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh (1:30 p.m., TBS): Colorado was treated well by the selection committee considering the Buffs are 9-8 without star guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who won't play in the NCAAs because of a knee injury. Pittsburgh's record (25-9) looks good but is even better given the competition: Seven of those losses were to teams seeded No. 6 or higher. Pick: Pittsburgh.
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton (12:15 p.m., CBS): Dangerous game for the higher seed, which faces an in-state opponent — Dayton's top scorer, guard Jordan Sibert, transferred from OSU — that's highly motivated to knock off its bigger, richer neighbor. (The schools are approximately 75 miles apart.) Adding to the Buckeyes' list of potential problems: They aren't reliable from the foul line. Pick: Dayton.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Western Michigan (2:45 p.m., CBS): The Orange stumbled down the stretch, losing five of their last seven after opening the season with 25 consecutive victories. They should get their groove back in nearby Buffalo against an opponent that shoots just 33 percent from behind the 3-point line: That's problematic against Syracuse's zone. Pick: Syracuse.
No. 5 Cincinnati vs. No. 12 Harvard (2 p.m., TNT): A popular upset pick because Harvard won its first game last year (over New Mexico) and because Cincinnati has one reliable option offensively: star guard Sean Kilpatrick, who averages 20.7 points per game. The Bearcats will attempt to turn this into a grinder and force Harvard's playmakers to score in halfcourt situations. Could be ugly. Should be close. Pick: Cincinnati.
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware (4:40 p.m., TNT): Michigan State rolled through the Big Ten tournament and, despite its seed, is the team to beat in the East. The Spartans have an elite guard combination in Gary Harris and Keith Appling and one of the best coaches in the business with Tom Izzo. Don't be surprised if a No. 4 seed tumbles early. Be very surprised if that No. 4 is MSU. Pick: Michigan State.
No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 St. Joe's (6:55 p.m., TBS): Stacks up as one of the best games of the second round. Led by All-American guard Shabazz Napier, UConn lost three games to Louisville this season and five to everyone else. But the Hawks are playing well — they beat Virginia Commonwealth to win the Atlantic 10 tournament and climb off the NCAA bubble — and should stand their ground. Pick: St. Joe's.
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 UW Milwaukee (9:25 p.m., TBS): If you're in the market for a major upset, this could be your ticket. Villanova is a fragile No. 2, a team that plays small ball but isn't sharp from 3-point range and could have one eye on a potential third-round collision with former Big East rival UConn. Milwaukee, which won the Horizon League tournament as the No. 5 seed, has a veteran lineup that won't get rattled. Pick: Milwaukee.
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State (7:27 p.m., truTV): A No. 5 seed loses in the round of 64 every year (or so it seems), and the Sooners are vulnerable against the Summit League champs. But the guess here is that underappreciated Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger finds a way to guide his team, toughened by a season in the brutal Big 12, into the next round. Pick: Oklahoma.
No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 New Mexico State (9:57 p.m., truTV): NMSU has been a worthy upset pick in tournaments past, but not this year. The Aggies spent the season in the revamped, depleted WAC, which did nothing to prepare them for the rigors of the tournament. SDSU's four losses are to Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico (twice). The Aztecs also have the best player on the floor in guard Xavier Thames. Pick: SDSU.
No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 Brigham Young (3:10 p.m., truTV): Rematch of an entertaining pre-Christmas duel won by the Ducks, 100-96 in overtime. Kyle Collinsworth, who scored 15 points for BYU that day, won't play Thursday. The Cougars' best all-around player is out for the tournament because of a knee injury. Oregon has won eight of its past nine and is a threat to reach the Sweet 16. Pick: Oregon.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 American (12:30 p.m., truTV): What happens after a missed shot in this matchup of two terrible rebounding teams? Will the ball bounce until it comes to a stop? The Badgers aren't pretty, but they're effective (wins over Florida, Virginia, Michigan and Michigan State). The Patriot League champs aren't pretty to watch, either, and they'll be fortunate to score 60 points against UW's sound defense. Pick: Wisconsin.
No. 5 St. Louis vs. No. 12 N.C. State (7:20 p.m., TNT): The last at-large team to make the field, N.C. State is fresh off an impressive First Four victory over Xavier and possesses one of the nation's most gifted offensive players in forward T.J. Warren (25 points per game). He'll face a rugged Billikens defense, but the problem for the higher seed is offense. St. Louis shoots a woeful 32 percent from 3-point range and has lost four of its past five. Warren and Co. will roll into the round of 32. Pick: N.C. State.
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Manhattan (9:50 p.m. TNT): If the defending national champs needed any motivation, the selection committee provided it with the controversial No. 4 seed. As well as the Cardinals are playing — they blasted through the American Athletic Conference tournament — they best not overlook the Jaspers, whose coach, Steve Masiello, knows Louisville well: He played for Rick Pitino at Kentucky and was an assistant coach under Pitino in Louisville for six years. Pick: Louisville.
No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Arizona State (9:40 p.m., CBS): ASU will have the best player on the court in point guard Jahii Carson, but that's where its advantages end. The Sun Devils are a poor rebounding team, and the Longhorns are relentless on the boards. Also, the game is not in Tempe: ASU was 0-7 away from home against teams that made the 68-team field. Pick: Texas.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Wofford (7:10 p.m., CBS): The Wolverines are without center Mitch McGary, who has been out since mid-December with a back injury. They aren't lacking for talent with Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas, the Big Ten player of the year. But do they have enough up front without McGary to make a return trip to the Final Four? Seems unlikely. Pick: Michigan.