Daily Word: The round of 32 begins
Every day, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. OK, North Dakota State did it once. Do the Bison have another upset in them?
Andy Katz: Yes. San Diego State finds itself in the same predicament it was in last year going against an unheralded team. A year ago, it was Florida Gulf Coast. And this Bison team is better than FGCU. NDSU has more balance and a tougher mindset. This could be trouble for the Mountain West champs.
Eamonn Brennan: That answer lies in how well the Bison defend San Diego State. That sounds counterintuitive, because the real strength-on-strength matchup will come when NDSU, a top-20-efficiency offense, has the ball against San Diego State's top-10 defense. But because San Diego State is so good at so much on defense -- the Aztecs guard shooters and create turnovers without fouling, an almost impossible combination to pull off -- it feels like the difference will come down to how well the Bison guard SDSU star Xavier Thames late in what promises to be a very close game.
Dana O'Neil: Sure. Why not? The Bison can score and the Aztecs cannot, and really, North Dakota State has zero to lose. That's a dangerous place to be.
2. Do the Harvard Crimson have any chance of containing Adreian Payne?
Katz: That's a tough call. Harvard will struggle to defend the interior. If Payne is on like he was on Thursday, then the Crimson might have no shot.
Brennan: Were Michigan State not so potent on the perimeter, I might say yes. After all, Harvard matched Cincinnati scrum for scrum, and there were few teams in the country more physical than the Bearcats. But because the Spartans can spread the floor, and because Payne is so multidimensional in his own right, the Crimson will have a much tougher time staying connected on defense.
O'Neil: No. The Spartans have too many ways to get Payne the ball, and the Crimson, as good as they are, has nothing to match Payne.
3. Was Syracuse's opening win just that -- an opening win against a lower seed -- or were there signs the Orange have it figured out?
Katz: Syracuse can be fine if it's a half-court game. If Dayton can get the game going up and down, then the Flyers have a shot. But the Orange have the personnel to advance to the Sweet 16.
Brennan: A little bit of both? On the one hand, Syracuse beat the tar out of a decent but hardly great No. 14 seed. On the other hand, we've seen Syracuse really struggle on the offensive end for a month and change, often regardless of its opponent. Getting a little offensive flow going against an inferior first-round opponent might be just what the doctor ordered.
O'Neil: Tricky question. The Orange certainly looked good Thursday night -- mostly defensively, which has been their biggest Achilles heel lately. But I will be more inclined to be a believer after the Dayton game, a better team and much harder to defend than Western Michigan.
The Latest Dish
Louisville tore through the latter part of its American schedule and won the conference tournament, leading many to pick the defending champ to win the Midwest Regional.
The Cards, though, were in trouble on Thursday in a seven-point win over Manhattan -- a team coached by one of Pitino's former players and assistant coaches, Steve Masiello. The 2013 NCAA tournament's most outstanding player, Luke Hancock, hit two late 3-pointers, while Russ Smith added 18 points to put the Cardinals over the top.
Games To Watch
It wasn't always pretty, but in the end, Florida was too much for Albany in the round of 64. Pitt, on the other hand, has to be feeling good about itself after flying by Colorado in its round-of-64 game, winning by 29 points.
Texas was nearly sent packing by Arizona State in the round of 64 before Jonathan Holmes' missed 3-pointer found its way into Cameron Ridley's hands for a last-second putback. Michigan had less trouble with No. 15 seed Wofford.
Wisconsin started slow against American before turning on the afterburners to win by 40 while limiting the Eagles to just 35 points. Oregon also won in a blowout, dominating BYU in the paint.
UConn needed overtime to get past Saint Joseph's, forcing 14 turnovers, while Shabazz Napier added 24 points. Villanova glided by Milwaukee, outscoring the Panthers in transition by 20 points.