Dayton Flyers forward Dyshawn Pierre (21) dunks during practice for the south regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship at FedEx Forum. (USA TODAY Sports: Spruce Derden)
There are only three double-digit seeds left in the NCAA tournament, and one is guaranteed to advance to the South regional final. No. 11 seed Dayton (25-10) and 10th-seeded Stanford (23-12) will battle for one of the final eight spots when they meet in Memphis, Tenn. The Flyers put together a pair of dramatic wins in the opening weekend, scraping by Ohio State by one point in the second round and taking out Syracuse 55-53 in the round of 32.
The Cardinal are having only a slightly easier time in the tournament, as they knocked off New Mexico and Kansas by an average of four points. Neither Dayton nor Stanford managed more than 60 points in the first two games and both should be ready to grind it out again in the Sweet 16. The Flyers held Syracuse to 0-of-10 from 3-point range in the round of 32 and will attempt to control the perimeter again against the Cardinal, who could not connect from long range in their 60-57 win over Kansas on Sunday.
PREDICTION: Stanford 62, Dayton 60
Preview: Baylor vs. Wisconsin
When Baylor (26-11) lost eight of 10 games between Jan. 7 and Feb. 8, few thought that, less than two months later, they would be two wins from the Final Four. But after a pair of impressive performances in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament, the Bears look to punch their ticket to the Elite Eight when they face Wisconsin (28-7) in Anaheim, Calif. Sixth-seeded Baylor has won eight of its last nine, including wins over Nebraska and Creighton by an average of 22 points last weekend.
“We obviously had a tough time going through 2-8, but nobody lost hope,” Baylor forward Cory Jefferson said. “We thought we could make it to the NCAA tournament because of the great team we have. No one was giving up or pointing fingers at each other. We started digging down and didn’t worry about stats or anything.”
Second-seeded Wisconsin is coming off an eight-point comeback victory against an athletic Oregon team in the Round of 32, but Baylor will present a different challenge. “Obviously, we haven’t seen a team quite like Baylor,” said Badgers center Frank Kaminsky, “so we’ll have to prepare for their personnel.”
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 71, Baylor 66
Preview: UCLA vs. Florida
Top-seeded Florida (34-2) looks to knock No. 4 seed UCLA (28-8) out of the NCAA tournament for the fourth time since 2006 when the two clash today in the South regional semifinals in Memphis. The Gators have won 28 straight games to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year, but they’ll be tested by a Bruins team that has won seven of their last eight. Both teams turned in strong defensive performances in the round of 32, with Florida posting a 61-45 win over Pittsburgh and UCLA cruising past Stephen F. Austin 77-60.
Four days after snapping Stephen F. Austin’s 29-game winning streak by holding the Lumberjacks to 35.1 percent shooting, UCLA hopes to duplicate its defensive effort against the Gators. The game features two outstanding set-up men in Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin and UCLA’s point-forward Kyle Anderson, a 6-9 first-team All-Pac-12 selection who averages 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists. Wilbekin, the SEC player of the year, is coming off an impressive all-around game against Pittsburgh when he scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half.
PREDICTION: Florida 74, UCLA 71
Preview: San Diego State vs. Arizona
Arizona (32-4) attempts to continue a strong surge through the NCAA tournament’s West regional and San Diego State (31-4) hopes to notch an upset when the two teams meet in today’s Sweet 16 contest in Anaheim, Calif. The top-seeded Wildcats routed Gonzaga in the round of 32 and are looking to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2011. Fourth-seeded San Diego State is in the Sweet 16 for only the second time in school history and suffered a 69-60 home loss against Arizona on Nov. 14.
The Aztecs have a tendency to over-rely on star guard Xavier Thames (17.4 points), who has averaged 26.5 points in two NCAA tourney victories. The Wildcats were one of the top teams in the nation all season and are certainly under more pressure than San Diego State as the school hasn’t reached a Final Four since 2001 despite possessing a bevy of talent. “For us, this is our third time in the Sweet 16 in the five years I’ve been at Arizona and what we have to do is be ourselves,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said after the win over Gonzaga. “It’s going to happen if we continue to do things the right way.”
PREDICTION: Arizona 75, San Diego State 69