5 Things to Watch on Day 4 of the NCAA Tournament, Presented By The Belko Experiment
This is the time of the season we've all been waiting for, but one of the best sports weekends of the year is almost over.
Fortunately, we have one more action-packed day on tap.
Here are the five things to watch as you enjoy the fourth day of the tournament.
1. A Final-Four-Caliber Clash
Thanks to the Shockers being one of the most underseeded teams of all time, we get a second-round showdown that would look right at home in the Final Four. Per our rankings, Kentucky is the nation's fourth-best team while Wichita State sits ninth. Like we saw yesterday with the Florida-Virginia affair, we have another matchup of top-10 teams, per our numbers, in the Round of 32.
Hopefully this one is more entertaining than the Cavs-Gators contest.
Of course, the 'Cats and Shockers are no stranger to big second-round meetings. Back in 2014, unbeaten and top-seeded Wichita State lost to 8 seed Kentucky, 78-76, in a classic March Madness battle. John Calipari's team ended up advancing to the Final Four while the Shockers' first and only loss of the year was a season-ending defeat.
Wichita State is an excellent all-around team, boasting the fifth-best offense and third-ranked defense. Kentucky, on the other hand, ranks 14th offensively and 29th defensively, per our metrics. The pace of the game could wind up being a key factor as the Wildcats play at the 16th-fastest pace while the Shockers sit 175th in pace.
We give Big Blue a 56% chance to move on, and it should be a doozie.
2. Can Red-Hot Michigan Knock Off Louisville?
Michigan may be the hottest team in the country. Pretty soon, failed plane takeoffs are going to be all the rage, because the Wolverines have been on fire since experiencing a scary plane incident prior to the Big Ten tourney.
The Maize and Blue tore through the conference tournament, knocking off Sweet 16 qualifiers Purdue and Wisconsin on the way to a conference tournament title. They stayed hot with a hair-on-fire 92-91 win over Oklahoma State Friday, hitting an insane 11 of 15 from beyond the arc in the second half and finishing with a tourney-record 16 triples.
11-15 shooting from deep in the 2nd half for Michigan. 💦#MarchMadnesspic.twitter.com/k2sgeMmMXd
— LeadingNCAA ™ (@LeadingNCAA) March 17, 2017
Senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. led the way with 26 points -- including 6-of-9 shooting from the three-point line -- and 11 assists, adding 5 boards and 2 steals.
Up next for John Beilein's team is 2 seed Louisville. The Cards feature the country's 20th-ranked defense, and they'll be facing Michigan's 9th-ranked offense. On the flip side, Michigan's leaky defense, which checks in 127th, will square off with Louisville's 30th-ranked offense.
3. Blue-Blood Matchup
This certainly isn't a normal Tom Izzo Michigan State team, but it's Izzo and the Spartans in March, so they're still scary. They'll take on 1 seed Kansas today in a matchup of two powerhouse programs.
Izzo's bunch may have played their best game of the season in their tourney opener, blasting Miami, 78-58. Michigan State has the nation's 139th-ranked offense, but they got hot against the 'Canes, hitting 56% of their shots, including 24 of their 33 two-point tries.
Amazingly, Michigan State fell behind 19-8, and then they housed Miami the rest of the way, outscoring the Hurricanes 70-39 after the first 8 minutes.
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, sit 6th in our power rankings, led by the country's 15th-best offense. Kansas pummelled UC-Davis, 100-62, on Friday. All five of the Jayhawks' starters scored at least 13 points, and Kansas hit 11 of 25 from beyond the arc.
Our game simulator sees Bill Self and company winning by 13 points. Would it really surprise anyone, though, if the Spartans make this a hard-fought battle?
4. How About Those 11 Seeds?
Xavier punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 on Saturday, and two other 11 seeds will try to follow suit today.
In the Round of 64, USC held on for a 66-65 triumph over Southern Methodist, getting 22 points from Elijah Stewart. The Rams pulled away from Creighton for an 84-72 victory as five Rhode Island players scored in double figures. Jeff Dowtin led the way, netting 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting while hitting 10 of 10 free throws.
5. UCLA's Offense Versus Cincy's Defense
The Bearcats are the more well-rounded team. In addition to the 10th-ranked D, Cincy ranks 25th offensively by our metrics. UCLA, meanwhile, is a very one-sided team, slotting in 114th in defense.
Lonzo Ball was super efficient for the Bruins, hitting 6 of 7 shots for 15 points and adding 4 boards and 3 dimes. Teammate T.J. Leaf led UCLA in scoring with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, also snagging 6 rebounds. For Cincy, Troy Caupain needed just 10 shots to score 23 points, and the Bearcats held a 31-23 edge on the glass.
The Bruins rank 19th in pace while Cincinnati checks in 325th, so the team that gets to play at the speed they like may have a leg up in this one. According to numberFire Live, the game is coin flip, with each team having a 50% chance to win. So, yeah, this should be fun.