Daily Word: Cutting the field to 16
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. It's the undefeated team against the team people thought might go undefeated. What is the biggest thing to keep an eye on with Wichita State vs. Kentucky?
Andy Katz: Wichita State will try to be the more physical team. How will Kentucky handle that? This is the kind of matchup that will raise the credibility even more for the Shockers. Beating Kentucky -- even a team that has struggles at times -- will do wonders for the Shockers' perception.
Eamonn Brennan: The matchup on Wichita State's defensive glass. The Shockers pride themselves on being a better rebounding team than their opponents every time out; it's what they've done more consistently, and more successfully, over the entirety of Gregg Marshall's tenure than anything. Kentucky is playing more fluid offensive basketball these days, but the Wildcats still get by on the offensive end by rebounding their own misses. If UK can't get to the front of the rim, they could go stagnant early.
C.L. Brown: Can Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison hold up -- mentally and physically -- against the Shockers' defense? Harrison hyperextended his elbow in the win over Kansas State. If he does play, Harrison has done a better job recently in focusing on being a facilitator, but how he handles Wichita's multiple looks will be key to Kentucky's success.
Katz: Arizona. The Wildcats have to deal with Gonzaga's size inside and the shooting on the perimeter. When healthy, this Gonzaga team has proven it can play with anyone. The Zags also flourish in the role of being the underdog rather than the favorite.
Brennan: Arizona. Gonzaga looks like a better all-around team at this point in the season anyway, but the Bulldogs also match up with their No. 1 seed better than Memphis. The Tigers are a dribble-penetration team, and Virginia's defense is designed precisely to stop dribble penetration. Gonzaga, on the other hand, is one of the few teams in the country with the combination of size (Przemek Karnowski) and guard play (Kevin Pangos) you need to have to feel good about your chances against the Wildcats' D.
Brown: Virginia. Memphis plays at such a fast speed, it's possible the Tigers could get the Cavs out of their comfort zone. Memphis hasn't seen a defense like Virginia's, but the Cavs haven't played a team that constantly pushes the ball quite like Memphis.
3. There are four double-digit seeds set to play. Which one can not only win Sunday, but perhaps add another victory or two next weekend?
Katz: Tennessee. The Vols can get past Mercer and have more than enough for a possible matchup in the Sweet 16 against say, Michigan. Going from the First Four to the Elite Eight isn't a crazy thought.
Brennan: With all due respect to Stephen F. Austin and Mercer, Cinderellas extraordinaire, it has to be Tennessee. The Vols were a really good but inconsistent team all season, which is how they finished in the top 15 in adjusted efficiency and ended up with a No. 11 seed. They're playing great now, though -- rebounding and defending on the interior as well as any team in the country.
Brown: Make that three for Rocky Top. The Vols have put the defensive clamps down on every opponent since losing to Texas A&M on Feb. 22. Iowa ranked 11th nationally, averaging 81 points per game, and netted only 65 -- in overtime -- against Tennessee.
The Latest Dish
Whatever ailed the Bears during their five-game losing streak in January, though, didn't show up against the Cornhuskers, as they ran away with a 14-point win. Now, they're tasked with keeping up with Doug McDermott, who had 30 points in Creighton's second-round win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Games To Watch
Stanford used a 20-4 run to get out ahead of New Mexico in the second round and never looked back to score the upset. Kansas was tied with Eastern Kentucky at the half but outscored the Colonels by 34 in the paint.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams preserved his perfect record in the round of 64 by barely edging Bryce Cotton (36 points) and Providence, while Iowa State breezed past North Carolina Central, but lost Georges Niang for the season.
The Lumberjacks provided one of Friday's more memorable moments when Desmond Haymon's four-point play helped them upset VCU. UCLA, on the other hand, hasn't lost since being embarrassed by Washington State to close the regular season.