By late Sunday night the Sweet Sixteen will be set, but first the last of the NCAA Tournament’s second round games need to be played. The eight contests feature three No. 1 seeds that should cruise to the next round.
There are upset possibilities, however in the other five games. After winning their first NCAA Tournament game, UC Irvine is eager to win their second, and has a good chance against Oregon.
Who else might prevail on Sunday? We look at five games and make some bold predictions.
1. University Central Florida vs. Duke -13
While bettors may be taking the University of Central Florida lightly, Duke players and coaches are certainly not. They know they are going to have to control the pace of this game, or they will be in a dogfight.
The Blue Devils are favored by 13 points, and failed to cover in their opening game against North Dakota State. One stat that should be considered is that Duke is undefeated (13-0) when playing as a No. 1 seed in the second round.
For the Knights to have any chance they will have to slow the pace and clog the middle. They have 7-foot-six-inch Tacko Fall to help with defense down low, but he is not overly athletic. UCF guards will have to hit outside as well to keep the game close. We think the Knights will give Duke a scare, but fall short of the upset.
Take UCF and the points.
2. Virginia vs. Oklahoma +11
Virginia got the first-round jitters behind them by crushing Gardner-Webb, 71-56. They now take on Oklahoma, which will present a much bigger challenge.
Oklahoma has big front three, and decent size guards, and Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett is well aware of how large they are.
“They were huge,” Bennett said. “One of our coaches said ‘I haven’t seen a team that big.’”
The Cavaliers, though should be up for it. They are playing like a No. 1 seed and should be able to ease their way to the Sweet Sixteen.
Take Virginia and give away the points.
3. Washington vs. North Carolina -10.5
The Pac-12 is awful, the ACC is not. North Carolina is facing Washington and is favored by 10.5. It should probably be more.
The Huskies are one of the best defensive teams in the country, while the Tar Heels are one of the best offensive. It is different guarding Utah State than the No. 1 seed. North Carolina is also the best rebounding team in the NCAA.
North Carolina will show Washington why the Pac-12 has a long way to go before they can be considered an elite conference once again.
Take North Carolina and give away the points.
4. UC Irvine vs. Oregon -4.5
UC Irvine and the rest of the Big West Conference is tired of being in the Pac-12’s shadow, and they might be able to do something about it when they face Oregon.
The Anteaters have a small lineup, with guards that are not taller than 6-foot-3-inches. The Ducks have four players that are 6’-9” or taller. It wasn’t a problem for UCI in their first-round game, and shouldn’t be an issue against Oregon.
The motivation the Anteaters have should be enough, plus they are good at playing the underdog role, like they will be here, getting 4.5 points.
Take UC Irvine and the points.
5. Buffalo vs. Texas Tech -4
Despite a blowout victory against Arizona State in the first round, Buffalo is a four-point underdog to Texas Tech. The Bulls will have to contend with the Red Raiders stifling defense, which averages its opponents to 59.3 points per game.
Texas Tech managed to hold Northern Kentucky to just five three-point baskets and will have to have a similar performance if they are going to defeat Buffalo.
The Bulls have gotten no respect in the tournament thus far, and this game might wake up a lot of doubters.
Take Buffalo and the points.