Last tickets to be punched for the Sweet Sixteen—>
No. 3 Florida State (25-9) vs. No. 6 Cincinnati (25-10), 6:30 p.m., TBS: Both teams play aggressive, physical defense. Cincinnati’s offense has had issues for most of the season, and if guard Sean Kilpatrick, in particular, struggles from the perimeter, the Bearcats are in trouble. If Michael Snaer, FSU’s leading scorer, goes scoreless as he did Friday, the Seminoles won’t win. One thing to watch is turnovers — FSU averages 16 a game, Cincinnati only 10.6.
No. 10 Xavier (22-12) vs. No. 15 Lehigh (27-7), 4:30 p.m., truTV: Lehigh, whose win over Duke on Friday was perhaps the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history can become the first 15th-seeded team to reach the Sweet 16. This game, only the fourth No. 10 vs. No. 15 meeting in NCAA history, should feature an epic guard matchup between Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum and Xavier’s Tu Holloway. Xavier needs to make its size advantage pay off. Lehigh needs another big game from forward Gabe Knutson, and prefers a fast pace.
No. 3 Georgetown (24-8) vs. No. 11 North Carolina State (23-12), 9 a.m., Channel 2: The Wolfpack has lacked offensive consistency at times, and that bodes ill against the Hoyas, a physical group that plays excellent perimeter defense. A big game from point guard Lorenzo Brown is vital for N.C. State. Another key: how the Wolfpack’s inside duo in C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell holds up against Georgetown’s Henry Sims and Otto Porter.
No. 1 North Carolina (30-5) vs. No. 8 Creighton (29-5), 2 p.m., Channel 2: Both teams want a fast pace and would prefer a game in the high 70s or low 80s, which should make for an entertaining matchup. Creighton figures to need a huge game from forward Doug McDermott, and something close to its customary excellence from three-point range (42.5%). UNC could use a return by forward John Henson, whose hand injury has caused him to miss the last three games. Carolina center Tyler Zeller should have a big game; he is much quicker than Bluejays counterpart Gregory Echenique. McDermott and Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes are friends and former teammates at Ames (Iowa) High.
No. 12 South Florida (22-13) vs. No. 13 Ohio (28-7), 4 p.m., TBS: This is the first No. 12-vs.-No. 13 game since 2009, when 12th-seeded Arizona beat 13th-seeded Cleveland State. USF won all season with defense, but its offense has perked up in the tournament — 123 points in two games, including a 43-point second half Friday against Temple. The key for Ohio is forcing turnovers and scoring in transition, which will be tough against a USF team that values every possession. Ohio needs another big game from quick junior guard D.J. Cooper.
No. 2 Kansas (28-6) vs. No. 10 Purdue (22-12), 5:30 p.m., TNT: The Jayhawks enjoy a decided athletic advantage, so look for KU to try to force the pace. Jayhawks big men Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey should have big days. The Boilermakers need typical production from forward Robbie Hummel, and for guards Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd to be hot from three-point range.
No. 1 Michigan State (28-7) vs. No. 9 Saint Louis (26-7), 11:30 a.m., Channel 2: This is a first-rate coaching matchup, Saint Louis’ Rick Majerus vs. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. SLU has nice offensive balance, with with guards Kwamain Mitchell and forwards Cody Ellis and Brian Conklin. Ellis’ three-point shooting could be crucial for the Billikens, who are likely to get hammered on the boards. Majerus, a defensive master, will try to devise a scheme to stop Spartans forward Draymond Green, perhaps the nation’s best all-around player. Michigan State is much bulkier up front and will try to play this game in the paint.
No. 7 Florida (24-10) vs. No. 15 Norfolk State (26-9), 3 p.m., TNT: Norfolk State was one of two 15th-seeded teams to win Friday, thanks to a huge game from center Kyle O’Quinn against Missouri. Now he goes against another smallish frontcourt. But while Missouri was shaky on defense, Florida is not. The key for Florida is outside shooting. The Gators rolled Friday despite throwing up bricks from three-point range; if they’re hitting those against the Spartans, they should cruise.