Second Round Friday: Your Commentary
2:10 PM (8) George Mason vs. (9) Villanova (TNT)
With most of the fans in attendance for the afternoon session likely showing up to support the top overall seed in Ohio State, that won't be a game full of suspense (apologies to UTSA). The first game of the day at the Q should be however, with CAA regular season champion George Mason taking on a reeling Villanova. The Wildcats have lost seven of their last nine games, and their being banged up both mentally and physically is not the best way to enter the Big Dance. How healthy is forward Mouphtaou Yarou, who injured his right shoulder in a nasty fall against USF in last week's Big East Championship? Corey Stokes has been dealing with turf toe for weeks, but the biggest issues for Villanova are their bruised psyche and the fact that they haven't shot particularly well from the field.
George Mason is very solid when it comes to defending the three, allowing opponents to shoot 31.3% for the year. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns will need to not just find shots but find quality shots if the Wildcats are to win. Jim Larranaga's Patriots are an experienced group that doesn't lack for talent, led by senior Cam Long and junior Ryan Pearson. But just as tough a matchup for Villanova could be forward Luke Hancock, whose versatility makes him a point forward for the Patriots. Hancock leads George Mason in assists while also being a good scoring option, and if he's allowed to make things happen under little pressure the Patriots more than likely win the game.
4:40 PM (1) Ohio State vs. (16) Texas-San Antonio (TNT)
7:15 PM (2) North Carolina vs. (15) Long Island (CBS)
9:45 PM (7) Washington vs. (10) Georgia (CBS)
The final game of the night in Charlotte could end up being the first game of another run to the Sweet 16 for the Huskies, who also have guard Venoy Overton back in the fold after being suspended for the Pac-10 Tournament. All that Washington did in LA las weekend was win the tournament, marking the second consecutive season in which Lorenzo Romar's team bounced back from a disappointing regular season to make a run come tournament time. The main reason why: point guard Isaiah Thomas, who took over the tournament last week and could have a similar impact this weekend. Georgia's had their issues in the backcourt because despite their athletic ability there isn't a great decision maker in the group. Dustin Ware won't be their best player on the floor (Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins) but he could be their most important. If the Bulldogs can't keep Thomas under wraps and Matthew Bryan-Amaning plays well up front for the Huskies, Georgia's going home.
7:27 PM (6) Xavier vs. (11) Marquette (TruTV)
Xavier and Marquette could be the most entertaining game of the day for the simple fact that both teams will fight you for 40 minutes and even longer if required. Chris Mack has one of the best backcourts around, and while the lion's share of the attention is given to Tu Holloway sidekick Mark Lyons can play as well. Marquette's gotten consistent production from Darius Johnson-Odom but they need another perimeter player to step up alongside DJO and Jimmy Butler in order to advance. The frontcourt will provide an interesting contrast as well, with Xavier having the edge in size with Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean but guys such as Butler and Jae Crowder will force these two to be more mobile on the perimeter. Xavier's been the better defensive team throughout the course of the season, something that could pay dividends down the stretch.
9:57 PM (3) Syracuse vs. (14) Indiana State (TruTV)
1:40 PM (2) Notre Dame vs. (15) Akron ((TBS)
4:10 PM (7) Texas A&M vs. (10) Florida State (TBS)
Florida State may regain the services of their best player (Chris Singleton) for this one, which would make an outstanding defense (36.4% FG defense) even better. The Aggies aren't too shabby on the defensive end either, and just like the Seminoles they have their issues on the offensive end. Khris Middleton's been the leading scorer for A&M and fellow forward David Lobeau also averages double figures on the season. The key for both teams will be the shot-making ability of their guards, something that's been an issue for much of the season. B.J. Holmes is averaging nearly 10 points per game for A&M while Florida State's Derwin Kitchen averages about the same for the Seminoles. One of these two players could determine the outcome, with 65 points being the watermark for the winner.
6:50 PM (1) Kansas vs. (16) Boston University (TBS)
9:20 PM (8) UNLV vs. (9) Illinois (TBS)
Yet another team with high-level talent but disappointing results will be on display with Illinois taking on UNLV in the final game of the day in Tulsa. The Fighting Illini stumbled into the NCAA Tournament, and if they learned anything from Michigan State last night it's that the sense of relief that comes with simply making the tournament can get you in trouble. UNLV will defend Illinois the entire 94 feet, meaning that how committed Demetri McCamey and company are to competing will be apparent from the opening tip. UNLV forces 16 turnovers per game and they're also a slightly better rebounding team than Illinois. Anthony Marshall, Chace Stanback and Tre'Von Willis are just three of the players Lon Kruger will look to for points on the perimeter, and while the Illini are bigger inside with Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale toughness has been an issue for some time. If UNLV can impose their will on the game look out; Illinois hasn't shown themselves to be a truly assertive team in this area for some time.
7:20 PM (3) Purdue vs. (14) Saint Peter's (TNT)
9:50 PM (6) Georgetown vs. (11) VCU (TNT)
How big will the return of point guard Chris Wright be for the Hoyas? He went through practice without any kind of brace or padding on his previously broken left hand, and the return of the senior couldn't come soon enough for Georgetown. John Thompson III's team has struggled offensively in Wright's absence, and his return should free things up for Jason Clark and Austin Freeman. But the Rams are also good on the perimeter, led by senior point guard Joey Rodriguez and wing Bradford Burgess. Unlike Clemson, VCU was given a reasonable time slot after playing in the "First Four" in Dayton, something that should help keep the fatigue away as the game wears on. Georgetown is the better field goal percentage defense team of the two but the Rams force an average of nearly 14 turnovers per game. We'll find out early just how healthy Wright is, with the game being decided one way or another as a result.
12:15 PM (4) Texas vs. (13) Oakland (CBS)
2:45 PM (5) Arizona vs. (12) Memphis (CBS)
The games in Tulsa may provide the best doubleheader in the afternoon window, beginning with Texas taking on Oakland. But the second game will be fun for a variety of reasons, notably the fact that Memphis head coach Josh Pastner takes on his alma mater. The young Tigers had their share of issues during the season, due in large part to their youth, but they won the conference tournament by beating UTEP on their home floor in the final. If freshman Joe Jackson plays well at the point the Tigers have a shot, because for as much as the Arizona guards have improved as sophomores consistency can be an issue at times. But the Wildcats, who won the Pac-10 regular season crown, also have one of the best players in America in forward Derrick Williams. Tarik Black, Will Coleman and the rest of the Memphis frontcourt will have their work cut out for them this afternoon, and if Williams is able to go off look for the Wildcats to advance.
12:40 PM (8) Michigan vs. (9) Tennessee (TruTV)
Yes Kyrie Irving's return is important with regards to the path that the entire NCAA Tournament takes, but there's practically no way that Hampton wins that game. So the focus here is on the 8/9 matchup, featuring a Michigan team that's grown up as the season's worn on and a Tennessee program that's struggled with issues regarding focus all season long. Bruce Pearl's job status has been discussed this week, and one gets the feeling that on-court results will mean nothing when the time for a review comes up. How focused can a team that's made a habit of playing to the level of its competition be given the swirling rumors? Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson are two very good players who can score in a variety of ways, but Michigan will counter with Darius Morris. Tim Hardaway Jr. has improved his play throughout his freshman campaign, and while the Volunteers may have more highly regarded individual talents that may not be enough to get them through to the next round. And given John Beilein's coaching ability it would come as no surprise if the Wolverines were to win.
3:10 PM (1) Duke vs. (16) Hampton (TruTV)