The first round of the men’s NCAA Tournament is in the books, and just like that the field has been halved to 32 teams after two days.
Now comes the second round, where the tests get harder for the top seeds that were able to avoid upsets in their first game.
The spotlight is also on the surprise teams that pulled off shockers on Friday. Can they move past the euphoria of their victories to continue their momentum with just 48 hours between their games?
It shapes up for an intriguing day as 16 teams will be hoping to win their way to the Sweet 16.
Ranking all eight of the games on tap Sunday:
No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 8 Loyola Chicago
Time/TV: 12:10 p.m., CBS
This would be a game of intrigue without the added spice of a rivalry between the two best basketball schools in the state. The Illini have to be sharp for the full 40 minutes as the Ramblers have the deliberate style to frustrate them and the clutch shooting to pull off an upset if this stays close. The matchup in the middle between Kofi Cockburn of Illinois and Cameron Krutwig of Loyola should be great to watch.
Prediction: Illinois 71-65.
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Syracuse
Time/TV: 5:15 p.m., CBS
Former conference rivals. Two coaches that have reached 800 wins in their career. A spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Hard to write a much better script. Bob Huggins and Jim Boeheim have a history that dates to when Huggins was a player for the Mountaineers and Boeheim coached the Orange in 1976. Someone will get bragging rights. It may come down to if the West Virginia offense can solve the Syracuse zone with its outside shooting.
Prediction: West Virginia 62-60.
No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech
Time/TV: 6:10 p.m., TNT
Another showdown between former conference rivals, the Razorbacks and Red Raiders were members of the Southwest Conference before its breakup in 1996. Tech may have only one contributor from its run to the national title game two seasons ago, but Chris Beard’s defensive approach makes it difficult for opponents to break down his team. It will force Arkansas, one of the top-scoring teams in the tournament, to adapt.
Prediction: Texas Tech 68-65.
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 9 Wisconsin
Time/TV: 2:40 p.m., CBS
It’s not always later in the tournament where the most danger lurks for a No. 1 seed. The short turnaround in the second round against an experienced opponent can derail the best teams. The Badgers have the pedigree and defense to make things difficult for the Bears. Baylor’s three-point shooting fuels its offense. If the game is tight, those shots may not go down. Whether Wisconsin can score enough — as it did against North Carolina in the first round — to take advantage is the question.
Prediction: Baylor 67-62
No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon State
Time/TV: 9:40 p.m., TBS
Cade Cunningham against one of the hottest teams in the tournament? Sign me up. The Cowboys freshman struggled in the opener against Liberty, which should concern the Beavers because it’s hard to expect him to play poorly two games in a row. Oregon State is riding the momentum of its Pac-12 tournament title that helped propel it past Tennessee. An even better effort is needed to keep the run going.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 71-61.
No. 7 Florida vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts
Time/TV: 7:45 p.m., truTV
The biggest Cinderella of the first round, the Golden Eagles proved in their take down of Ohio State that they’re better than advertised. Max Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer, put up 29 in that win and wasn’t his team’s top scorer. That was Kevin Obanor, who had 30. Oral Roberts will live and die with the three. Florida will try to take open looks away and force shots to come from inside where its defense has the size to bother the Golden Eagles.
Prediction: Florida 85-80.
No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 13 North Texas
Time/TV: 8:45 p.m., TNT
The name says Villanova on the jerseys, but this isn’t a vintage Jay Wright team that seems capable of making a deep tournament run. However, the Wildcats got past Winthrop and now have another double-digit seed in the Mean Green in the way of another trip to the Sweet 16. North Texas will go as far as guard Javion Hamlet can carry it. He made the clutch plays down the stretch in the conference tournament and against Purdue in the first round.
Prediction: Villanova 70-62.
No. 2 Houston vs. No. 10 Rutgers
Time/TV: 7:10 p.m., TBS
The Cougars, perhaps because they’re a member of the American Athletic, haven’t been getting any attention as one of the tournament favorites. Can the Scarlet Knights derail them less than two days off their first tournament win in 38 years? it will take a huge effort from guards Ron Harper Jr. and Jacob Young.
Prediction: Houston 79-68.