32 games are now in the books and while many games were disappointingly chalk, there are still a handful of great underdogs looking to see if the slipper will still fit Sunday and Monday. Heading into Sunday, here are the eight games happening that day ranked based on quality and entertainment value.
8. (10)Rutgers vs. (2)Houston
Rutgers’ win over (7)Clemson wasn’t all that impressive as the game played out as expected with poor shooting and sloppy play in general. I still argue that the Scarlet Knights have no business being in this tournament, but alas, here they are with an opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16. Houston will have to shoot better from beyond the arc, but they still flashed their depth even with the loss of DeJon Jarreau. Even with his uncertain status, I still expect the Cougars to cruise to weekend No. 2.
7. (13)North Texas vs. (5)Villanova
Villanova impressed Friday with an all-around team win against (12)Winthrop. However, they are going to do battle with a team who was on fire, shooting-wise, against Purdue. The Mean Green, led by Javion Hamlet and Mardrez McBride, will look to run and gun against the slower and thin Wildcat roster. Villanova will have to control the pace in order to get the win, but it will need to be ugly. This is definitely a potential upset alert.
6. (15)Oral Roberts vs. (7)Florida
Max Abmas is the leading scorer in the NCAA and he led a daring effort in Oral Roberts’ shocking victory over (2)Ohio State. However, he didn’t do all the work as Kevin Obanor totaled 30 points and 11 rebounds. Obanor will go up against a steady, two-way player in Colin Castleton, who made big play after big play to net the Gators in an overtime win against Virginia Tech. Simply tune into this game to watch these three names go to work and to see if the ultimate Cinderella can continue the run.
5. (12)Oregon State vs. (4)Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State had the least impressive win in the first round as they looked uninspired and turned the ball over 13 times to keep Liberty within striking distance until the final minutes. Maybe, Sunday will be Cade Cunningham’s wakeup call to play like the No. 1 pick he is projected to be. The Cowboys will have to shoot much better than 3/15 from 3-point as the Pac-12 champion Beavers couldn’t miss against Tennessee. Four of the five Oregon State starters came up big as Roman Silva, Ethan Thompson, Jarod Lucas and Zach Reichle all scored 10+ points. Sunday will be the true proving ground of Cunningham to see whether he’s a collegiate winner or not.
4. (6)Texas Tech vs. (3)Arkansas
It took Arkansas 30 minutes to run away from Colgate after a slow start, but a remarkable performance from Justin Smith should have every team fearing them. Meanwhile, Chris Beard got his team fired up in the second half to go on a run and pull away from a gritty Utah State team. If you like chess matches, Eric Mussleman vs. Beard will be a fun coaching matchup to watch, leading to a barn burner of a 3-point battle for a ticket to the Sweet 16.
3. (9)Wisconsin vs. (1)Baylor
The top seeds will have their hands full Sunday and Monday with Baylor getting a tough matchup in a hot Badgers team that routed North Carolina Friday. Wisconsin shot over 50% from the field and hit 13 of their 27 3-point attempts. Baylor played quality defense against (16)Hartford, but can they slow down the dynamic duo of Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice? Sunday morning will be fun. Put the Bears on upset alert.
2. (8)Loyola-Chicago vs. (1)Illinois
Not everyone gets to experience two possible Cinderella runs in such a short period of time, but that’s what Sister Jean can experience in the curtain jerker of the second-round matchups. Prairie State supremacy is on the line as Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn look to carry their star power against the quality guard play of the Ramblers. The Illini weren’t flashy against Drexel, but they will need to be that and win the perimeter battle to avoid disaster for many people’s brackets. Lucas Williamson vs. Dosunmu will be the key matchup to watch.
1. (11)Syracuse vs. (3)West Virginia
Bob Huggins’ patented defense may have been enough to stop Morehead State, but let me introduce you to 3-point wizard Buddy Boeheim, who led a remarkable 15/27 night from beyond the arc for the Orange. Boeheim will be met by Miles McBride, who was equally as dominant in West Virginia’s win Friday night. I was doubter in Syracuse, but they showed why they always make big runs when seeded like this. Will the Orange’s 2-3 zone prevail or will they be bullied by the bruteness of the Mountaineers? Who wins the perimeter battle between McBride and Boeheim? So many great aspects to watch in this game and I’d expect nothing less than a classic in this one.