No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Wichita State
Okay, first things first, let’s not bash No. 1 Gonzaga. It’s hard to win a basketball game, let alone within the NCAA Tournament, but regardless, the Bulldogs got more than they bargained for on Thursday evening from No. 16 Southern. Gonzaga held off the Tigers late and avoided history, advancing into the Round of 32. Wichita State on the other hand, used a 14-point second half edge to their advantage in the 8/9 match-up of the West Region, knocking off a Pittsburgh team that virtually had no sense of urgency.
Wichita State should surely be licking its chops after seeing Gonzaga struggle against Southern, but the jitters that the Bulldogs had as a No. 1 seed should probably be gone by now. This one is going to be a battle and a potential upset, so keep tabs on this game on Saturday night.
No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 12 California
Credit the Golden Bears on Thursday night because California looked really good in their upset victory of UNLV. Cal lost some of its momentum after being upset earlier within the Pac-12 Tournament, but clearly this team is back to playing their brand of basketball. The Golden Bears’ victory over UNLV avenged an earlier regular season loss to the Rebels and they completed that mission when it mattered the most. Syracuse on the other hand, simply took care of business on Thursday night, crushing No. 13 Montana by a NCAA record 47 points. The margin of victory for the Orange became the largest in tournament history by a 3-seed or higher.
Syracuse has been playing well as of late, so their momentum will surely carry into this third round match-up. California’s guards will need to convert on the outside against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, but there’s no doubt that the Orange match-up well with the Bears in the contest.