7:10 pm EDT Kansas (-9) Southern Illinois - The outcome of this game will likely be decided by the pace of play. If Kansas gets off early and scores easy baskets on run-outs, the Salukis will be up against it. Additionally, Southern Illinois' forward Randal Falker is going to find the going inside very tough. Between Sasha Kaun and Julian Wright, he's not going to have much room to operate.
The solid Saluki defense will have some effect, though Kansas is not a team that goes long between baskets. If there are point-scoring runs in this game, expect them to come from Kansas, as Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers can light it up from outside in a hurry.
As for the generous point spread, Southern Illinois has only lost 6 games and only once, at Indiana, did they lose by more than 9. They lost that game by 10, and also lost at home to Arkansas by 8. Kansas is heads and shoulders better than either of those teams, they've won their two tournament games by 40 and 12. The Jayhawks should establish a double-digit lead about halfway through the 2nd half and hold off the Salukis from there.
9:40 pm EDT UCLA (-3) Pittsburgh - This is likely the weakest matchup of the week, though UCLA actually looks less likely to advance than the Panthers. Sure, Pitt blew a big lead against VCU, but they rallied to win that game. UCLA nearly coughed it up against Indiana, an inferior opponent, so they're not exactly world-beaters either.
There are two big difference makers in this game and they both belong to Pittsburgh. The first is Aaron Gray, Pitts' All-American center, who should benefit from being matched up with Lorenzo Mata and/or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. He can dominate either player. The other Pitt advantage is in perimeter shooting, where the Panthers hold a distinct edge in accuracy. UCLA's Shipp and Afflalo are sub-par from beyond the arc; besides, they will be guarded closely by the Panthers quick guards.
One other potential problem for the Bruins is their dependence on Arron Afflalo for the bulk of their scoring. Last year in the Final Four, Afflalo was nearly invisible, especially in the championship game vs. Florida. The pressure of this game may get to him and cause another poor shooting game from the Bruins' all-star guard. If Pitt plays to their potential they should win this one going away.
7:27 pm EDT Texas A&M (-3) Memphis - This one is going to look more like a war than a basketball game. If the refs allow physical play, Joey Dorsey will be banging hard inside and tough to stop. The other wild card in this game is the health of Memphis' leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts, who worked out in a private practice yesterday, wants to play, but the best coach John Calipari could offer was that if he's ready, he'll play. So, his status is uncertain.
The Tigers have looked awesome in their wins over North Texas and Nevada, but the Aggies have a lot more going for them than those teams. Acie Law is a prime time player who will step up here, but the Tigers aren't going to be blown out. In a close call, look for the Aggies to survive a bump and grind kind of game and move on to the Elite 8.
9:57 pm EDT Ohio State (-5) Tennessee - The Vols have done well to get this far in the tournament and they are up against the top seed in the region, though it has to be noted that Ohio State nearly didn't make it here either. Only a missed free throw and a perfect 3-pointer by Ron Lewis got them to overtime against Xavier.
That said, nearly every championship team has a close call, and Tennessee just barely scraped by Virginia. After missing a slew of free throws earlier in the game, the Vols were fortunate to have Chris Lofton at the line for the final six attempts, all of which he converted.
The Buckeyes have proven to be less than invulnerable, but Tennessee just doesn't have the horses to stay with them here. Ohio State should move on, winning this one by a comfortable margin of 8-12.
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