Have a 9-5 job? Is the internet blocked at that job? When you get home, do you have kids to take care of?
Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament are not easy days for those with complex responsibilities. You’re liable to miss buzzer beaters, upsets and star making performances. Good news: It’s the weekend!
So here’s a guide for who you need to pay attention to on this fine Saturday. May you sit on your couch and watch in peace...
West Region - #4 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Saturday, 9:10 AM PT tip-off on CBS
West Virginia: Nathan Adrian. Adrian leads the team in rebounding. While the Mountaineers are not an elite defensive rebounding team, they do have the fifth best offensive rebounding rate in the nation. The more second chances Adrian gets WVU, the better chance they’ll have of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
Notre Dame: Matt Farrell. The Junior point guard leads an offense that wants to stick to the half-court, playing at their pace and find great shots. Farrell has proven to be the perfect fit for that Mike Brey ideology. Press Virginia will attempt to make Notre Dame panic and turn the ball over. If Farrell can control the tempo and weather West Virginia’s storm, Notre Dame advances.
East Region - #1 Villanova Wildcats vs. #8 Wisconsin Badgers - Saturday, 11:40 AM PT tip-off on CBS
Villanova: Josh Hart. Some of these might be obvious but these Wildcats do, in fact, go as Hart goes. The National Player of the Year candidate got into foul trouble in the first half of their game on Thursday and Villanova found themselves only up 1 at the break over a 16-seed. If Villanova has Josh Hart firing on all cylinders, there’s no reason the number one overall seed should worry.
Wisconsin: Bronson Koenig. This is one dangerous 8-seed. They have plenty of talent but one of their leaders is their Senior point guard, coming off a game where he hit eight three pointers to put away Virginia Tech. The Badgers will shoot plenty of threes on Saturday and it all starts with Koenig, shooting them and finding the open men to shoot the rest. If they’re going in, this game is very interesting.
West Region - #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. #8 Northwestern Wildcats - Saturday, 2:15 PM PT tip-off on CBS
Gonzaga: Przemek Karnowski. Northwestern just won’t have the size in the middle to contend with Karnowski. His presence at both ends could very well dominate.
Northwestern: Bryant McIntosh. Gonzaga is rightfully so heavily favored. Their offense has more firepower. Their defense is tougher. If Northwestern can win this game, they’ll need the Bulldogs to play less than their best. But they’ll also need their team microwave to heat up and stay hot. If McIntosh gets going, he can score with ease. This Wildcat can go shot for shot with Gonzaga down the stretch.
West Region - #3 Florida State Seminoles vs. #11 Xavier Musketeers - Saturday, 3:10 PM PT tip-off on TNT
Florida State: Jonathan Isaac. Not only is he clearly the best NBA prospect in this matchup, he is also the guy most likely to make up for the rebounding edge that Xavier holds over FSU. Xavier is a better rebounding team but the athletic Seminoles were excellent on the boards (finished +11) in their Thursday night win over Florida Gulf Coast. Isaac can be electric around the rim but Florida State will need him to be especially aggressive on the glass.
Xavier: Trevon Bluiett. With Xavier’s depleted roster, they need the absolute best Bluiett’s got on a night-to-night basis. But when he’s on, these Musketeers can get the job done. Bluiett and the rest of his cohorts will need to be extra aggressive and attack the rim, forcing their way to the free throw line, where Xavier holds a distinct advantage over FSU. All in all, Xavier will need Bluiett to be the volume scorer he’s shown flashes of.
South Region - #4 Butler Bulldogs vs. #12 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders - Saturday, 4:10 PM PT tip-off on TBS
Butler: Avery Woodson. The Blue Raiders love switching up their defense throughout the game, often times never letting their opponent see the same defense for longer than five minutes. They enjoy being in zone and guys like Avery Woodson were born to break zones. He’s a dead-eye shooter who take away some of Middle Tennessee’s defensive versatility very quickly. If he can do that for the Bulldogs, more offense should open up for Butler, en route to victory.
Middle Tennessee: Reggie Upshaw. As seen against Michigan State in last year’s upset and again, versus Minnesota on Thursday, Upshaw can be a matchup nightmare. His ability to drive the basketball and step back and hit jumpshots will make things tough on Butler. If he can influence the game like he did on Thursday (19 points, nine rebounds), MTSU could be in their first Sweet Sixteen in program history.
West Region - #2 Arizona Wildcats vs. #7 Saint Mary’s Gaels - Saturday, 4:45 PM PT tip-off on CBS
Arizona: Rawle Alkins. The kid just keeps getting better. His flawless performance in his NCAA Tournament debut on Thursday night was evidence of that. His athleticism and his aggression will be key as athletic guards are really the only thing Saint Mary’s has struggled with this season.
Saint Mary’s: Jock Landale. Not only is Landale the leading scorer for the Gaels, at nearly 17 points per game, he’s also one of the best defensive rebounders in the country. If Arizona’s shots aren’t falling, which the Wildcats have stretches where the shots just won’t go, Landale will allow very few, if any, second chances for Arizona. He’ll score plenty but if the Wildcats aren’t getting good shots up, that’s where Landale becomes the real difference maker.
East Region - #4 Florida Gators vs. #5 Virginia Cavaliers - Saturday, 5:40 PM PT tip-off on TNT
Florida: Kasey Hill. The Gators need to get out and run against Virginia because if they allow the Cavs to control the pace, they’re dead in the water. The Senior point guard needs to make sure the tempo of the game stays in Florida’s favor.
Virginia: London Perrantes. Like I said earlier, some of these are obvious ones. But, for a team that has trouble scoring, Perrantes is the only guy that averages double digit points. Their defense will show up. That’s not a question. But Virginia will need Perrantes to be the go-to scorer to get out of Orlando with the win.
Midwest Region - #4 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #5 Iowa State Cyclones - Saturday, 6:40 PM PT tip-off on TBS
Purdue: Caleb Swanigan. If you haven’t watched the Big Ten this year, nobody blames you, it was mostly a dumpster fire. But Caleb Swanigan is a national treasure. He’s a double-double machine, he picked up his 27th of the season in Thursday’s win over Vermont. Nobody on Iowa State can match up to Swanigan’s size. Come to think of it, nobody in college basketball matches up. If Biggie has his way, Purdue wins ugly.
Iowa State: Monte Morris. While the Cyclones don’t have a match for Biggie Swanigan, the same can be said for the Boilermakers against Monte Morris. The ISU point guard is one of the quickest in the game and it’s highly unlikely any Boilermaker can stay in front of him. Morris finished their first round game with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Anything close to a repeat performance means it’s onto the Sweet Sixteen.