Who’s headed to the Sweet 16? We take a look at all the second-round matchups and rank them from worst to best.
We are entering Day 5 of the NCAA Tournament and already 36 of the 68 teams have had their seasons ended. We have seen some fantastic game-winning shots, a bunch of miracle upsets, and a plenty of incredible individual performances.
As we enter Saturday, we know the entire 16-game slate for the second round. Eight games will be played Saturday, and eight will be played Sunday. By the end of the weekend, we will be down to just 16 teams. So let’s take a look at how all 16 games of the second round stack up.
—March Madness Notebook: Thursday | Friday
—Women’s NCAA Tournament preview
—Sign up to HC+ today for exclusive Heat Check CBB content!
16) No. 7 Missouri vs No. 15 Princeton
Saturday, 6:10 p.m. ET; TNT
How we got here: The Missouri Tigers controlled the entire game from tip to buzzer against Utah State. Their defense delivered, forcing 15 turnovers and holding the Aggies’ shooters to 4-of-24 from deep. Princeton is coming off a historic upset of the 2-seed Arizona Wildcats, featuring a 18-6 run over the last 10 minutes of the game.
What to expect: While the past two 15-seeds made the Sweet 16, they controlled their first round game more than Princeton did. Missouri is playing well on offense, and their guard unit is more trustworthy than Arizona’s at this point in the season. The odds that Princeton advances aren’t zero, but this game also has the greater blowout potential.
Key matchup: Kobe Brown vs. Keeshawn Kellman: Besides holding the backcourt to just 20 points, one thing that Princeton did well in its win over Arizona was make life difficult for All-American Azuolas Tubelis. In this matchup against Missouri, Kobe Brown will look to have the success that Tubelis didn’t have. Keeshawn Kellman will likely be tasked with matching up against Kobe Brown, who can score from anywhere on the floor, and his success at slowing down the senior will be paramount for Princeton’s chances.
15) No. 8 Florida Atlantic Vs No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson
Sunday, 7:45 p.m. ET; truTV
How we got here: The Florida Atlantic Owls outlasted the Memphis Tigers in an instant classic, scoring the game-winning bucket with just under three seconds on the clock. They won the game the same way they have all year, with a balanced offensive attack featuring four double-digit scorers. Fairleigh Dickinson upset the 1-seed Purdue, and pulled off the greatest upset by betting spread in NCAA Tournament history. Their press was the perfect kryptonite to a Purdue team that struggled with similar defenses during Big Ten play.
What to expect: Like the Missouri vs. Princeton game, this one could end up being a blowout. What makes it slightly more intriguing is Fairleigh Dickinson’s press and five-out offense throwing a wrench in a ton of matchups. It is also the only game featuring only mid-majors which means we will get at least one team from a single-bid league in the Sweet 16.
Key matchup: Ansley Almonor vs. Vladislav Goldin: In their first round upset of Purdue, Fairleigh Dickinson was able to attack a soft middle by pulling Zach Edey out to the perimeter, a function of Matt Painter’s phobia of playing a zone defense. They also did an excellent job fronting Edey and collapsing on him when he touched the ball. While FAU’s big man Goldin is not as big a threat offensively, his defense has been critical to the Owls’ success. It will be intriguing to see how head coach Dusty May chooses to defend the five-out offense and how often Goldin is brought out to the 3-point line on defense.
14) No. 1 Alabama vs No. 10 Maryland
Saturday, 9:40 p.m. ET; TBS
How we got here: Alabama acted like the No. 1 overall seed, having no issues with dispatching the 16-seed Texas A&M Corpus Christi. In a tournament where every other 1-seed started slow, Alabama stepped on the gas early and finished the game with 96 points. Maryland kicked off the tournament by winning an exciting back-and-forth game against West Virginia.
What to expect: It seems like Alabama is intent on leaving no doubt about the best team in the country. With all the distractions surrounding the program, head coach Nate Oats has kept his players focused on the prize, and rarely start games slow. Maryland can certainly win this matchup — Alabama fell to Oklahoma and earlier in the year — but it’s more likely that we will see Alabama win this game going away.
Key matchup: Jahvon Quinerly/Jaden Bradley vs. Jahmir Young: Brandon Miller is going to get his — that is just a fact of life. However, Maryland must limit the shot opportunities while maximizing their own good looks. This essentially means that the Terps must win the point guard matchup against the Tide. Quinerly and Bradley split those duties down the middle for Alabama, while Jahmir Young is the lifeblood of the Maryland offense. If Maryland does not win this one-on-one matchup, they can kiss their shot at the upset goodbye.
13) No. 2 Texas vs No. 10 Penn State
Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET; CBS
How we got here: If Alabama is the hottest team in the country, Texas is certainly a close second. The Longhorns took it to a good Colgate squad and ended up with a 20-point win. Penn State’s offense continues to be one of the toughest in the country to defend, as they blew out a good Texas A&M squad. Jalen Pickett’s 31 points and 8 assists made him one of the top performers of the first round games.
What to expect: This game should be entertaining. It should be an extremely fun contest with both offenses showcasing why they are among the last 32 teams standing. However, there is that nagging possibility that Texas continues to play with a chip on their shoulder and Penn State goes cold. Either way, this isn’t a game fans will want to miss.
Key matchup: Jalen Pickett vs. Marcus Carr: It will be interesting to see who actually defends Jalen Pickett, especially because his size and strength makes it incredibly tough for smaller guards to defend. Whether it is Carr or someone else, he and Pickett are the top scorers for each team in a game that promises to feature a lot of offense. Pickett likely needs to carry a much bigger load than Carr, but Carr is the guy on Texas who will need to touch the ball on every possession if this game gets close.
12) No. 5 San Diego State vs No. 13 Furman
Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET; CBS
How we got here: San Diego’s stout defense helped them survive a scare against Charleston in the first round, despite the Aztecs shooting just 25 percent from deep and 61.1 percent from the free throw line. Brian Dutcher’s squad held the Cougars to just 32.1 percent from the floor and blocked seven shots in the game. Furman, unlike Charleston, upset the Virginia Cavaliers after intercepting a pass and hitting a 3-point shot in the final seconds to win.
What to expect: This should be an extremely tight game for San Diego State once again, if only because of their tendency to win low-scoring games. The matchup features strength vs. strength as Furman’s top-35 offense takes on San Diego State’s top-10 defense. The issue with this game could come down to pace. San Diego State is extremely good at using their defense to slow the game down, and while that leads to close games in terms of raw points, it will be far from the barn burner that many fans want.
Key matchup: Jalen Slawson vs. Aguek Arop: When Charleston went on their first half run against the Aztecs, what they did extremely well was turn defense into offense. They forced 10 turnovers — not counting the one in the final seconds of the half — which allowed them to score in transition without allowing the opposing defense to set up. Jalen Slawson is Furman’s best player at generating steals and defensive rebounds, and he will be matched up defensively on Aguek Arop, who was responsible for three of SDSU’s 14 turnovers. If he can take advantage of this matchup when Arop is on the floor, it could allow the Paladins to go on similar runs as Charleston.
11) No. 3 Xavier vs No. 11 Pittsburgh
Sunday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS
How we got here: Xavier was given a really good scare, as they trailed Kennesaw State by 13 points for a good portion of the second half. Neither team could make a 3-point shot with any consistency, but the grit the Musketeers showed was admirable. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, went on a 22-2 run to start the game and never let Iowa State get within four for the rest of the game. The Panthers failed to score 60 points, but they held the Cyclones to 41, which was enough for a massive victory.
What to expect: This is another game that could either be close or see a huge blowout — it all depends on whether Xavier can defend against the Panthers or not. If the Musketeers play swinging door defense again and let Pitt hang around, this one could come down to which team’s shooters have the better day from deep. There is also the possibility that Pitt just lets Xavier score at will, similar to what Notre Dame, Miami and Duke did over the final two weeks of the ACC season.
Key matchup: Souley Boum vs. Nelly Cummings: This game is going to be won and lost on the wings between one of each team’s top scorers. For Pitt, Cummings has been the teams top scorer in each of their first two NCAA Tournament games this season. For Xavier, Souley Boum’s late scoring push lifted the Musketeers over Kennesaw State, and his season-long shooting has been among the best in the country. This matchup should not only be extremely fun, but will also be incredibly influential in determining the winner.
10) No. 2 UCLA vs No. 7 Northwestern
Saturday, 8:40 p.m. ET; TNT
How we got here: UCLA continues to silence the doubt surrounding its ability to win games without its top perimeter defender in Jaylen Clark. The Bruins beat UNCA Asheville by 33, recording 11 steals and holding the Bulldogs to just 30 percent from deep. Northwestern controlled the entire game against Boise State, and scored 75 points behind 42 combined from Chase Audige and Boo Buie.
What to expect: This game is one that will either solidify Mick Cronin’s system as successful regardless of personnel or exemplify the importance of Jaylen Clark, and potentially Adam Bona. Northwestern’s offense, while not elite, has multiple weapons that UNC Asheville’s does not, and the absence of Clark on the perimeter could be detrimental. However, if the Bruins can clamp down and get some of their offensive weapons to continue hitting tough shots, they should win this game.
Key matchup: Amari Bailey vs. Chase Audige: Chase Audige is the best wing defender on a really good defensive team, and he will spend a lot of this game matched up on UCLA freshman guard Amari Bailey. As we have seen in this tournament, freshman guards can struggle when defended by elite perimeter defenders. On the other end, Bailey will need to make sure that he can effectively replace Clark, who would have been the primary defender on Audige, and defend Northwestern’s most athletic perimeter threat.
9) No. 2 Marquette vs No. 7 Michigan State
Sunday, 5:15 p.m. ET; CBS
How we got here: Marquette responded to an early scare against Vermont by riding a Kam Jones scoring barrage to a 17 point victory over Vermont. Tyler Kolek went out early with an injury, but came back in to play 25 total minutes, even if they were not as effective as usual. Michigan State shut down Boogie Ellis on defense and remembered how to score on offense, en route to a 10-point win over USC.
What to expect: Michigan State is led by one of the most consistent coaches to ever break a clipboard during an NCAA Tournament game. Marquette plays with a chip on its shoulder larger than most teams in recent memory. If Tyler Kolek can come to play entirely healthy and be effective as a defender and playmaker, Marquette could roll. But Tyson Walker is a wild card that could lift Sparty to the Sweet 16.
Key matchup: Tyler Kolek vs. AJ Hoggard: On paper, this matchup is the one that sinks the Spartans, due to Kolek’s elite defense and Hoggard’s inconsistency as Michigan State’s floor general. However, Kolek may still be hurt and Hoggard is coming off an incredibly efficient game — by his standards anyway — which makes this matchup more intriguing. If Hoggard has a turnover-riddled game, Michigan State doesn’t really stand a chance.
8) No. 1 Kansas vs No. 8 Arkansas
Saturday, 5:15 p.m. ET; CBS
How we got here: Kansas let Howard hang around for about 10 minutes before stepping on the gas and beating the Bison 96-68. Jalen Wilson and Grady Dick combined for 39 points, and the Jayhawks forced 18 turnovers on defense. Arkansas won its matchup against a broken Illinois team without ever letting the Illini get into any sort of flow. Like the Jayhawks, the Razorbacks also forced a ton of turnovers, 17 to be exact, and their freshmen looked bought in on defense.
What to expect: Kansas’ region was considered the toughest for a reason, and Arkansas is just the start of their challenges. While the Razorbacks have more freshmen than they have had in years past, they looked just as bought in defensively as they have in their past two Elite Eight runs. Kansas has looked great against every team not named Texas, but Arkansas is a wild card that should muck this game up and keep it close.
Key matchup: Dejuan Harris vs. Devo Davis: Davonte Davis has been one of the peskiest perimeter defenders in the country over the last couple of years, and his matchup this weekend is one of the steadiest point guards in college basketball. Kansas is 2-4 when Dajuan Harris turns the ball over four times in a game, and Davis is always a threat to force his matchup into bad decisions. This will be an interesting cat and mouse duel to watch as the game unfolds.
7) No. 4 UConn vs No. 5 Saint Mary’s
Sunday, 6:10 p.m. ET; TNT
How we got here: UConn spent much of the first half hoisting up threes and most of the second half watching Adama Sanogo dominate in the paint as they took down Iona 87-63. By the end of the game, five players had hit multiple shots from deep, and the team shared the ball well, recording 24 assists to just 9 turnovers. Saint Mary’s also dominated the paint, riding Mitchell Saxen and Logan Johnson’s work on the boards to a 63-51 victory over VCU.
What to expect: Saint Mary’s may have had the advantage inside against VCU, but they lose that advantage as soon as the game tips against UConn. This means the Gaels will need more from freshman scoring guard Aiden Mahaney, who had zero points in the first round, if they want to create an advantage in the backcourt. Saint Mary’s is elite at controlling pace and keeping games slow, which should keep this game close. However, if UConn can get the ball to their bigs with any consistency, the game might get out of hand.
Key matchup: Andre Jackson vs. Alex Ducas: With Aiden Mahaney struggling, Gaels wing Alex Ducas led the team in scoring, despite shooting just 1-of-6 from deep. Andre Jackson will be the man assigned to Ducas, and could make the Australian wing’s life miserable. Jackson isn’t going to put up a ton of raw stats, like steals and blocks, but he will force Ducas into difficult spots, which could eliminate a second offensive weapon, if Mahaney continues to struggle.
6) No. 4 Indiana vs No. 5 Miami
Sunday, 8:40 p.m. ET; TNT
How we got here: Miami rode a late surge to get past a very good Drake team in a game that was much closer than the 63-56 final score would indicate. Nigel Pack had 21 for the Hurricanes, who made 23 free throws and just 17 field goals. Indiana took care of business in their first-round battle against a tough Kent State team. Trayce Jackson-Davis showed why he might actually be the best player in the country, recording a 24-point and 11-rebound double-double, with five assists and five blocks to boot.
What to expect: This game is a battle of mismatching styles, between a Hoosiers team that lives in the paint and a Miami team that attacks the rim with a deep group of guards. Miami’s defense isn’t as efficient as Indiana, but their willingness to take and make the 3-point shot should keep the team in this game. One key for Miami will be to get as much as they can defensively out of Norchad Omier, who played relatively well after injuring himself in its ACC Tournament game against Duke.
Key matchup: Isaiah Wong vs. Jalen Hood-Schifino: If this isn’t the most important matchup, it is certainly the most high-profile, with ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong going toe to toe with Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jalen Hood-Schifino. People will argue that experience wins in March, but Hood-Schifino has lottery talent, and he has grown immensely over the course of the season. Both players will need to figure out how to slow the other down if they want their respective teams to control the flow of the game.
5) No. 3 Kansas State vs No. 6 Kentucky
Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET; CBS
How we got here: Nae’Qwan Tomlin and the Kansas State defense held Montana State big man Jubrile Belo to just five points as the Wildcats downed the Bobcats 77-65. All but one Kansas State player shot over 50 percent from the floor, and the team assisted on 21 of their 32 made buckets. Kentucky’s starters scored all 61 points, and the Wildcats beat the Providence Friars 61-53. Notably, Oscar Tshiebwe hauled in 25 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive end, but managed just eight points on 10 shots.
What to expect: Both teams are pretty evenly matched on paper, with a focus on offense over defense for each team. The pace of this game will play a huge part in who takes early control, as Kansas State likes to get up and down the floor, while Kentucky is much more content to play a halfcourt game with Tshiebwe in the middle. This does not seem to be a game where either team will take a huge lead, but each team has shot makers who could make it a game of runs.
Key matchup: Markquis Nowell vs Cason Wallace: If Sahvir Wheeler didn’t go down with his season-ending injury, we would be talking about how this matchup featured two of the shortest point guards in the tournament. As it stands, this is another game where a freshman guard will be matched up with a fantastic senior. Both guards are top 60 in steal percentage and have solid assist rates — Nowell’s is elite — which will make for an excellent bout within a bout between the two.
4) No. 1 Houston vs No. 9 Auburn
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET; TBS
How we got here: Houston was the first 1-seed to get a true scare, as their hobbled backcourt struggled to generate any separation from Nothern Kentucky for the first 30 minutes of the game. The Cougars turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 17 times, although they held the Norse to just 27.5 percent from the field, which is very characteristic. Auburn got double-doubles from John Broome and Allen Flanigan as they dropped 83 points in their win against Iowa. Their defensive effort held Iowa’s Kris Murray to 5-of-18 from the floor, which limited the Hawkeyes offense enough for the victory.
What to expect: This is a road game for Houston. Houston is hurt — Marcus Sasser aggravated his groin injury and Jamal Shead has a “bad knee” according to Kelvin Sampson. Houston already has an offense that can be best described as “good enough.” All that can be said, and there is still a very real possibility that Auburn never makes this much of a contest. Houston thrives off mucking games up, and no backcourt left in the tournament may be more muck-up-able than the Auburn Tigers. This game will be closer than if it was played at a true neutral site between two fully healthy teams, which could mean we have a really good chance at losing another 1-seed in the first weekend.
Key matchup: Jamal Shead vs Wendell Green Both Houston’s Jamal Shead and Auburn’s Wendell Green are very good at generating turnovers on the perimeter. Both also have high assist rates and set the tone for their respective offenses. With Marcus Sasser seemingly “more” banged up than Shead, look for Shead to remain the focal point of the Houston offense. His matchup with Wendell Green will be important in establishing the pace of play and Auburn’s ability, or lack thereof, to create rhythm and flow.
3) No. 4 Tennessee vs No. 5 Duke
Saturday, 2:40 p.m. ET; CBS
How we got here: Tennessee won the game of slumps against a solid Louisiana team. Seriously, the Volunteers and the Ragin’ Cajuns each had two separate scoreless streaks of about five minutes. Duke, on the other hand, didn’t stop scoring, beating the Oral Roberts 74-51. Jeremy Roach had 23 points to lead all scorers, and Dereck Lively had 12 rebounds and six blocks.
What to expect: This game should be really good. On paper, Tennessee is a 3-point underdog, and aims for its second Sweet 16 under Rick Barnes. The issue is those offensive slumps create opportunities for their opponents to go on runs. Duke is a team that can certainly go on big scoring burts thanks to their offensive talent. If this game is a blowout it likely means Duke won, but Tennessee’s defense should keep this game close until the end.
Key matchup: Olivier Nkamhoua vs. Kyle Filipowski: Duke’s leading scorer was held in check for most of the day against Oral Roberts, but freshman forward Kyle Filipowski will now get the opportunity to prove his chops against senior Olivier Nkamhoua. The 6-9 Nkamhoua will be a tough defender, despite giving three inches to Filipowski. He doesn’t block a ton of shots, but he has the athleticism to follow Filipowski out to the perimeter and defend there if needed.
2) No. 3 Gonzaga vs No. 6 TCU
Sunday, 9:40 p.m. ET; TBS
How we got here: Gonzaga struggled to generate any sort of offense for about 15 minutes of the first half. In fact, it was the Zags defense that kept them in the game and eventually allowed them to take a four-point lead into the half. Once the adjustments were made, however, Mark Few’s squad was off to the races, burying Grand Canyon 82-70. TCU, meanwhile, trailed Arizona State for almost the entire second half, but a JaKobe Coles’ bucket in the final seconds lifted the Horned Frogs to the second round.
What to expect: TCU can’t shoot, and that is putting it lightly. The Frogs rank 336th in 3-point percentage, 111th in 2-point percentage and 247th from the stripe. Gonzaga ranks 9th in 3-point percentage and 1st in 2-point percentage, but Drew Timme’s struggles at the stripe drag down their success there. On the defensive end, however, TCU has the clear advantage, as Gonzaga’s guards are susceptible to being run off screens and losing shooters while rotating or playing help defense. As a result, this game should be a high scoring, back and forth affair, where the winning basket may be made in the final minute once again.
Key matchup: Emanuel Miller vs. Anton Watson: Both TCU and Gonzaga have talent all over the floor, but it is the battle that will happen at the 4-spot that could make the biggest difference. Gonzaga needs to limit second-chance points if it wants to slow down the TCU attack. With Eddie Lampkin gone, Emanuel Miller is the Horned Frogs’ best offensive rebounder and third-highest scorer. We have seen Anton Watson go toe-to-toe with some of the best forwards in the country, and his impact on limiting Miller’s production will force the TCU guards to hit tough shots to win the game.
1) No. 3 Baylor vs No. 6 Creighton
Sunday, 7:10 p.m. ET; TBS
How we got here: Baylor flexed its depth against UC Santa Barbara, playing its 8-man rotation and outscoring the Gauchos 33-15 over the final 17 minutes of the game. The Bears’ upperclassman guards LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler led all scorers, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s nine boards was his second best rebounding performance of his short season. Creighton took the lead against NC State with 12 minutes left in the game and never gave it back. Ryan Kalkbrenner set a career-high with 31 points scored, Baylor Scheierman went just 2-of-8 from deep, but they were the two most important 3s of the game.
What to expect: Baylor has an elite backcourt, Creighton has an elite frontcourt, and everything else is gravy. Baylor will likely trade 3s for 2s all day, but Ryan Kalkbrenner and Arthur Kaluma will dominate the paint. This game will likely determine the biggest challenger to Alabama in the South Region, and it should be tightly contested until the end.
Key matchup: Ryan Kalkbrenner vs. Flo Thamba /Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua: The battle in the low post is one that needs to be won by Creighton if it hopes to advance to the Sweet 16. Since Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s return to Baylor, we have not see the same explosive rim protector that we saw in his first two seasons with the program. Thamba and Tchamwa Tchatchoua will need to figure out some way to slow Kalkbrenner down, which is one of the toughest tasks you can ask of a big man.