The calendar says March, which can mean only one thing: it is time for the Madness. Last Sunday, the brackets for the men’s NCAA Tournament were released, and while Creighton may be headed elsewhere to play, eight other teams are coming to Omaha as the CenturyLink Center is set to host second and third round games of the Big Dance.
The Kansas University Jayhawks and Missouri University Tigers headline the field making the trip to Omaha, but they aren’t the only teams looking to make some noise. Here are the match-ups and tip-off times:
The action kicks off on Friday as the West bracket’s 7 seed Florida University Gators (23-10 on the season) take on the 10 seed University of Virginia Cavaliers (22-9) at 1:10 p.m.
Florida has impact players across the board. Sophomore center Patric Young is a physical specimen and can be a force in the paint, but it’s their guard play that makes the Gators so dangerous. Senior Erving Walker (12.4 points per game), junior Kenny Boynton (16.4 points per game) and freshman Bradley Beal (14.6 points per game) are all capable of both lighting it up from deep and attacking off the dribble.
The Cavaliers feature one of the best players in the ACC in senior forward Mike Scott (18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game), but only have one other player averaging double-figures (sophomore guard Joe Harris, 11.5 points per game). Both teams faltered a bit down the stretch, each losing six of their final 10 games. But expect Florida to advance, as they have too much firepower for the Cavaliers to handle.
The second game tips off 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first one and features the region’s 2 seed, the Missouri Tigers (30-4), taking on the 15 seed Norfolk State University Spartans (25-9).
The Tigers, who won the Big 12 Tournament in the school’s final year in the conference, feature an explosive offense with scorers throughout the line-up. Marcus Denmon leads the way for the Tigers with 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, but all five starters average double figures in points. Missouri’s lineup is unconventional in the sense that it features four guards around 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Ratliffe, which makes them difficult for many teams to match up with.
However, it goes both ways and Ratliffe will have his hands full with Norfolk State’s senior big man Kyle O’Quinn. O’Quinn averages a double-double and leads the Spartans in scoring and rebounding with 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. O’Quinn and his Spartan teammates will put up a good fight, but Missouri has far too much offense and should cruise to an easy win.
The night session tips off at 6:27 p.m. as the Midwest region’s seven seed St. Mary’s College Gaels (27-5) battle against the 10 seed Purdue University Boilermakers (21-12).
St. Mary’s is led by West Coast Conference Player of the Year junior guard Matthew Dellavedova’s 15.6 points and 6.4 assists per game, while senior forward Rob Jones plays a bog role inside averaging 14.8 points and 10.7 rebounds. For the Creighton fan looking for a team to cheer for in Omaha this weekend, former Bluejays big man Kenton Walker II (who transferred to St. Mary’s after the 2008-09 season) plays a reserve role for the Gales.
Purdue is led by senior forward Robbie Hummel and his 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Hummel is back in the Big Dance after missing the previous two tournaments while recovering from knee injuries and is looking to make some noise. Hummel alone won’t be enough to pull the upset however, and St. Mary’s will likely come out on top.
The final game of the second round tips off half an hour after the conclusion of the St. Mary’s-Purdue game and features the Kansas Jayhawks (27-6) taking on the University of Detroit Titans (22-13).
Kansas is led by First Team All-American junior forward Thomas Robinson who is averaging 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds. Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor (17.3 points, 4.8 assists per game) is also an explosive player capable of putting up big point totals.
Detroit counters with sophomore guard Ray McCallum (15.6 points per game), who turned down several major conference school offers to play for his father at Detroit. Many feel Detroit is much better than a 15 seed and will give Kansas more trouble than they may expect, but in the end the Jayhawks will emerge victorious.
The Sunday game times will be decided after the Friday games are completed, but barring any upsets fans will be treated to two exciting games.
Florida and Missouri are similar teams and this match-up is assured of being a shoot-out, but expect Missouri to advance as they have been the more consistent team all year long. It won’t be easy though, and a Florida upset would not be in the least bit surprising.
In the Midwest bracket, Kansas could meet St. Mary’s. I wouldn’t expect this to be as close as the first game, although if Dellavedova gets hot he could make it interesting. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.