Men's NCAA Preview
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 USC, in Spokane, Wash., 5:20 p.m.: In the first round, Texas def. No. 13 New Mexico State 79-67, and USC def. No. 12 Arkansas 77-60. USC doesn't have anyone who can match up with Texas freshman F Kevin Durant. But nobody does, so USC will try to make sure no other Longhorn scores a load of points. The Trojans are athletic and play good defense, and they need freshman big man Taj Gibson to be a defensive presence in the paint. Texas needs Gs A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin to provide their usual 30 combined points and a steady floor game. Neither is even 6 feet, so look for USC's bigger guards to be as physical as possible with Abrams and Augustin. Both teams prefer a fast pace, but USC is better than Texas when the game is slowed down.
No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 7 Nevada, in New Orleans, 2:15 p.m.: In the first round, Memphis def. No. 15 North Texas 73-58, and Nevada def. No. 10 Creighton 77-71 in overtime. Forget all the talk about Nevada F Nick Fazekas. If the Wolf Pack are to pull the upset, it's going to be because of a big game from G Marcelus Kemp, one of the few Nevada players who has the athleticism to match Memphis' players. Fazekas is going to see wave after wave of Memphis defenders, and truth be told, we're not sure he can handle it. Kemp, though, has a nice all-around game; he can hit the 3-pointer and also put it on the floor and get into the lane. Nevada also has to hope it doesn't get overwhelmed on the boards. Memphis needs foul-prone C Joey Dorsey to avoid silly fouls and stay on the court.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 UNLV, in Chicago, 2:36 p.m.: In the first round, Wisconsin def. No. 15 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 76-63, and UNLV def. No. 10 Georgia Tech, 67-63. The Badgers looked bad for about 30 minutes of their first-round game before getting untracked. Wisconsin's biggest problem is that other than F Alando Tucker, they don't really have a consistent second scorer. UNLV plays solid defense and is more athletic than the Badgers. Look for UNLV coach Lon Kruger to try two, three and maybe even four guys on Tucker. For UNLV to pull the upset, it needs some 3-pointers to fall; the Runnin' Rebels struggled in that facet in their first-round win.
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 11 Winthrop, in Spokane, Wash., 2:50 p.m.: In the first round, Oregon def. No. 14 Miami of Ohio, 58-56, and Winthrop def. No. 6 Notre Dame, 74-64. Oregon was forced to play at a slow pace in the first round, but the Ducks will be able to run today. Winthrop doesn't mind a fast pace, but it has to make sure not to get into the total up-and-down game the Ducks want. Oregon is going to have trouble with Winthrop big man Craig Bradshaw, who can score in the low post and out to about 15 feet. Winthrop plays better defense than the Ducks, and the Eagles need to make sure they keep Oregon G Aaron Brooks somewhat under control. The wild cards: Fs Malik Hairston of Oregon and Taj McCullough of Winthrop. If one has a big day on offense, his team will win.
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 9 Purdue, in New Orleans, 4:45 p.m.: In the first round, Florida def. No. 16 Jackson State 112-69, and Purdue def. No. 8 Arizona 72-63. The Gators need to be inside-out today against the Boilermakers; Florida needs its big men to produce in the paint, then let its perimeter players bomb away. Purdue is better defensively on the perimeter than inside. Offensively, Purdue must get a big game from F Carl Landry, a 6-7, 245-pounder with a nice low-post game. Look for the Gators to rotate three guys on Landry in an attempt to wear him down. When Landry is effective in the paint, G David Teague gets a lot of good looks from 3-point range - and he hit better than 43 percent of his 3-pointers in the regular season.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Kentucky, in Chicago, 5:05 p.m.: In the first round, Kansas def. No. 16 Niagara 107-67, and Kentucky def. No. 9 Villanova 67-58. A matchup of two premier programs, though this isn't a vintage Kentucky team. Kentucky can't run with the Jayhawks; the Wildcats need to slow the tempo and hope the game ends up in the high 60s or low 70s. Kansas can struggle in the halfcourt. Kentucky also needs a big game from C Randolph Morris, who'll be going against a group of far quicker and more athletic big men. If Morris is on the bench for an extended period of time, Kentucky will be torn up inside.