Previewing Charlotte: The day games


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Let's take a look at the afternoon games set for the Time Warner Cable Arena:

No. 9 seed Tennessee (19-14) vs. No. 8 seed Michigan (20-13), 12:40 p.m. ET


Coach: Bruce Pearl (462-144 in 19 seasons, 145-60 in six years at UT)

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2010

All-time NCAA record: 16-19

Player to watch: Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson has to have a big-time game for the Vols to win. He’s a difference-maker. The problem is that he’s completely erratic. He can score eight like he did against Arkansas or 27 like he did against Pittsburgh. Hopson may be able to get off some shots against Michigan’s defense, but he must hit them to keep the Wolverines off balance.


Coach: John Beilein (522-335 in 28 years, 66-46 in four years at Michigan)

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2009

All-time NCAA record: 42-20

Player to watch: Tim Hardaway Jr. can be a game-changer for the Wolverines. He doesn’t have his father’s crossover but he can get to the rack and keep the Vols’ defense off its axis. Hardaway Jr. will push the basketball at will and he has a backcourt mate in Darius Morris who can also challenge the Vols’ guards.


1. The Volunteers’ attitude: How does Tennessee respond with the fate of its coaching staff unknown? AD Mike Hamilton essentially sounded the alarm that the staff is done after the Vols lose. Tennessee has been the most enigmatic team this season. No reason to think this should change now.

2. Michigan’s discipline: The Wolverines have been fundamentally strong this season. If they don’t get bothered by Tennessee’s pressure and can run their sets, then this game could take a decided turn early in favor of the Wolverines.

3. Brian Williams: Williams has been injured at times but he also can be a decisive factor on the offensive backboard. If he stays out of foul trouble and remains active, that could be the difference for Tennessee.

No. 1 seed Duke (30-4) vs. No. 16 seed Hampton (24-8), approx 3 p.m. ET


Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (898-283 in 36 seasons, 825-224 in 31 years at Duke)

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2010

All-time NCAA record: 94-30

Player to watch: Duke’s Nolan Smith was the ACC player of the year. He showed no signs of an injured toe while torching Virginia Tech for 27 points in an ACC semifinal game and then scoring 20 against North Carolina in the final. Smith will share the role with Kyrie Irving again for a few minutes. It shouldn’t matter. Smith and Irving are selfless players and want to win a championship.


Coach: Ed Joyner (36-26 in second season overall and at Hampton)

Last NCAA tournament appearance: 2006

All-time NCAA record: 1-3

Player to watch: Joyner says senior guard Brandon Tunnell and junior guard Darrion Pellum are two of the better guards in the country. He said on our ESPNU show Monday that the backcourt can hang with anyone. Now is the chance to prove it against Smith, Irving and Seth Curry.


1. Kyrie Irving: When will he get into the game and for how long? Irving will play off the bench. He looked like he didn’t miss a step in light workouts in Charlotte on Thursday. But how does he handle game speed, how will he deal with cutting on the court, blowing by a defender, making a 3-pointer or a mid-range shot?

2. The rotation: How does Coach K deal with the rotation of guards with Smith, Irving, Curry and Andre Dawkins? Does this affect how and where he plays Kyle Singler? Does he go with three guards, Singler and a Plumlee?

3. Hampton’s decision: Do the Pirates run with Duke? Does Hampton try to take the air out and slow down every possession to fluster the Blue Devils? Is this is a game at the half?