Analysis of Sunday’s NCAA second round games

Mar 24, 2019 6:51 AM

The country’s best player goes up against its tallest.

North Carolina’s shooters face arguably the nation’s best defensive player and Washington’s zone defense.

And, while Oregon has suddenly remembered it was supposed to be a top-15 team this season, the Ducks face a big challenge when they face this year’s leading candidate for Cinderella: the Anteaters of UC Irvine.

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Sunday should be fun as the second round of the NCAA Tournament takes place with berths in the Sweet 16 next week at stake.

South Region: No. 10 Iowa vs. No. 2 Tennessee (-8), 9:10 a.m.

These two were on opposite sides of big comebacks on Friday. The Hawkeyes had their most complete effort in weeks, coming back from a double-digit deficit to beat Cincinnati. The Volunteers, meanwhile, likely got a wakeup call as they watched 15th-seeded Colgate make a big run and get within two in the final 10 minutes.

Midwest Region: No. 9 Washington vs. North Carolina (-11), 11:40 a.m.

The Tar Heels, who were tested by Iona in the first half, will have to deal with a Huskies team that seemed to shake off late-season rust in a thrashing of Utah State. North Carolina will have familiarity with Washington’s 2-3 matchup zone. Huskies coach Mike Hopkins is a former assistant to Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.

East Region: No. 9 UCF vs. No. 1 Duke (-13), 2:15 p.m.

Zion Williamson vs. Tacko Fall. It will be interesting to see if the Knights’ 7-foot-6 center can affect Williamson and company on the interior — Fall had 18 rebounds and five blocks in the UCF’s win over VCU — and force Duke outside where it isn’t as effective.

West Region: No. 6 Buffalo vs. Texas Tech (-3.5), 3:10 p.m.

Like North Carolina-Washington, this is a strength-on-strength clash: Texas Tech’s No. 1 defense against the Buffalo’s top-20 offense. Neither the Red Raiders nor the Bulls are one dimensional, however. Texas Tech has the No. 38 offense in the nation and Buffalo the No. 28 defense, according to KenPom.com. The bigger conflict could be tempo where Buffalo in 10th nationally and Texas Tech 222nd.

East Region: No. 12 Liberty vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech (-9), 4:10 p.m.

The Flames shoot the ball well from every spot, and if they’re hitting 3-pointers, the Hokies could be in trouble. Virginia Tech struggles to keep opponents off the 3-point line.

South Region: No. 9 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Virginia (-11), 4:45 p.m.

What must have been going through the minds of the Cavaliers when they found themselves trailing 16th-seeded Gardner-Webb, 28-14, 12½ minutes into Friday’s game? There would be no déjà vu as Virginia recovered and pulled away in the second half. Oklahoma had no such drama in its wire-to-wire rout of Mississippi. The Sooners, who made 6 of 13 3-pointers against the Rebels, will have a tough time connecting from deep against Virginia.

Midwest Region: No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Houston (-5.5), 5:40 p.m.

Some people (ahem) were foolish enough to pick Iowa State to advance to the Final Four. The Buckeyes had other ideas, controlling the Cyclones’ offense for most of the game. Houston is stronger defensively — a problem for Ohio State this season — than Iowa State.

South Region: No. 13 UC Irvine vs. No. 12 Oregon (-5.5), 6:40 p.m.

The Ducks are hot. Their win over Wisconsin was their ninth in a row, but the Anteaters present some issues for them. Oregon excels at 3-point defense; problem is, though, UC Irvine doesn’t attempt many shots from long range. The Ducks themselves aren’t a particularly good 3-point-shooting team, and they face Anteaters who are No. 1 in the country on defense inside the arc.

Best bets: Tennessee -8, Buffalo-Texas Tech over 146, Houston -5.5.

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