Thursday's NCAA tournament second-round matchups

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Valparaiso

When » Thursday, 12:15 p.m.

Where » The Palace of Auburn Hills,

Auburn Hills, Mich.

TV » CBS

This amounts to a road game for Horizon League champion Valparaiso (26-7), facing Michigan State (25-8) 80 miles from East Lansing. While the Crusaders are in the tournament for the first time since 2004, the Spartans are competing for the 16th straight year under Tom Izzo. Valpo is propelled by senior forwards Ryan Broekhoff (15.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) of Australia and Kevin Van Wijk (12.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) of the Netherlands. MSU counters with 6-foot-10 junior Adreian Payne and 6-9, 270-pound senior Derrick Nicks. The explosive duo of junior Keith Appling (13.6 ppg) and freshman Gary Harris (12.9 ppg) give the Spartans a big edge in the backcourt.

No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell

When » Thursday, 12:40 p.m.

Where » Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.

TV » truTV

Both teams have a history of overachieving in the NCAA. On its way to back-to-back national title games in 2010 and 2011, Bucknell knocked off No. 1 and No. 2 seeds both years. In 2005, Bucknell pulled off the first upset of a No. 3 by a No. 14 in six years when it toppled Kansas. This time, the Patriot League champion Bison (28-5) should have the edge in the frontcourt with skilled 6-11 senior Mike Muscala (19.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg). Butler (26-8) answers with backcourt stars in senior Rotnei Clarke (16.7 ppg) and linebacker-sized sophomore Roosevelt Jones (10.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg).

No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Wichita State

When » Thursday, 1:40 p.m.

Where » EnergySolutions Arena,

Salt Lake City, Utah

TV » TBS

Plenty at stake in this matchup of rugged rebounding teams as the winner is likely to play No. 1 Gonzaga. Pittsburgh (24-8) will try to reverse its trend of underachieving in the NCAA tournament as it has lost to lower-seeded teams five of its last six appearances, including twice as a No. 1. Wichita State (26-8) is motivated as well after losing last year as a No. 5 seed to No. 12 VCU in the round of 64. Junior college transfers Cleanthony Early (13.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Carl Hall (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), both 6-8, lead the Shockers, who have a plus-8.4 rebounding margin.

No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 13 New Mexico State

When » Thursday, 2:10 p.m.

Where » HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.

TV » TNT

With 7-5, 355-pound Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State (24-10) poses a sizeable problem. In the WAC title game win over Texas-Arlington, the freshman from Toronto had 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as the Aggies made it to the tournament for the second straight year. Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament champion Saint Louis (27-6) will have to counter with quickness as its top inside player is undersized Dwayne Evans. The 6-5, 230-pound junior leads the Billikens in points (13.7 pg) and rebounds (7.7 pg).

No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 11 Saint Mary's

When » Thursday, 2:45 p.m.

Where » The Palace of Auburn Hills,

Auburn Hills, Mich.

TV » CBS

Coming off a routine 67-54 victory over Middle Tennessee on Tuesday in the opening round in Dayton, St. Mary's (28-6) tries to strike another blow for the West Coast Conference, scrutinized because of the elevation of top-ranked and No. 1-seeded Gonzaga. The legitimacy of Memphis (30-4) also has been questioned as it won all 19 games versus Conference USA completion after undistinguished work in November and December. Intriguing duel at point guard as Tigers junior Joe Jackson (13.6 ppg, 4.8 apg) faces Gaels senior Matt Dellavedova (16.0 ppg, 6.4 apg).

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Davidson

When » Thursday, 3:10 p.m.

Where » Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.

TV » truTV

Southern Conference champion Davidson (26-7) enters with the nation's longest winning streak (17 games), best team free-throw shooting mark (80.1 percent) and individual free-throw shooter in senior Nik Cochran (94.1 percent). Marquette (23-8) reached the Sweet 16 the last two years, but with less talent has overachieved this season under Buzz Williams. Davidson coach Bob McKillop, who reached the Elite Eight in 2008 by toppling the No. 2 (Georgetown) and No. 3 (Wisconsin) seeds, counts on 6-10 Jake Cohen (14.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Southern U.

When » Thursday, 4:10 p.m.

Where » EnergySolutions Arena,

Salt Lake City, Utah

TV » TBS

With rust accumulating after 10 days off and a weak West Coast Conference schedule, how legitimate is Gonzaga's (31-2) 14-game winning streak and No. 1 seed? Are the expectations too much to handle for a team that is in the tournament for the 15th straight year but has not gotten past the Sweet 16 since 1999? SWAC champion Southern (23-9) will try to duplicate its feat of 1993, when it was the most recent team from its conference to win a game in the round of 64, toppling No. 4 Georgia Tech. Kelly Olynyk (17.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) leads Gonzaga.

No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon

When » Thursday, 4:40 p.m.

Where » HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.

TV » TNT

There may not be as much separation between these teams as their seeds suggest. Oregon (26-8) is the only team in this week's Associated Press Top 25 seeded worse than No. 8. How the Pac-12 champions are slotted so much lower than conference foes No. 6 UCLA and No. 6 Arizona is a mystery to many. As a result, Oregon gets a much tougher opening round test in Oklahoma State (24-8), led by its stellar backcourt duo of freshman Marcus Smart (15.4 ppg, 4.2 apg) and junior Markel Brown (15.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T

When » Thursday, 6:50 p.m.

Where » Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.

TV » TBS

After winning 10 straight games against Big East competition, Louisville (29-5) has become the favored team in the tournament. But nothing is certain with the schizophrenic backcourt duo of junior Russ Smith (18.1 ppg) and senior Peyton Siva (10.0 ppg, 5.9 apg). The one constant with Rick Pitino's Cardinals is aggressive defense. Louisville ranks No. 2 in the nation in steals (10.7 pg). MEAC champion North Carolina A&T advanced Tuesday with a 73-72 victory in Dayton over Liberty as junior Jeremy Underwood (Coolidge High) scored 19 points.

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota State

When » Thursday, 7:15 p.m.

Where » The Palace of Auburn Hills,

Auburn Hills, Mich.

TV » CBS

Playing Michigan (26-7) less than an hour from Ann Arbor is the daunting task for Summit League champion South Dakota State (25-9), but the Jackrabbits aren't completely out of their element. In a 68-60 loss last year, SDS threw a scare into No. 3 Baylor. In an Interesting matchup of national player of the year candidates, 6-foot Trey Burke (19.2 ppg, 6.7 apg) of Michigan faces South Dakota State's 6-4 senior Nate Wolters (22.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.8 apg). After reaching No. 1 for the first time since the days of the Fab Five two decades ago, Michigan has lost six of its last 12.

No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Belmont

When » Thursday, 7:20 p.m.

Where » EnergySolutions Arena,

Salt Lake City, Utah

TV » TNT

In five NCAA appearances, all against power conference teams since 2006, Belmont has an 0-5 record. But Rick Byrd's Bruins are a chic upset pick as fans recall their 2008 near upset of No. 2 Duke, 71-70. This year Belmont (26-6) had quality wins over Stanford, South Dakota State, Ohio and Murray State in the Ohio Valley title game. Belmont's 6-3 guard Ian Clark (18.1 ppg) will battle a talented backcourt of Arizona (25-7) that includes 6-1 senior Mark Lyons (14.8 ppg, 3.0 apg) and 6-3 sophomore Nick Johnson (11.7 ppg, 3.2 apg).

No. 5 UNLV vs. No. 12 California

When » Thursday, 7:27 p.m.

Where » HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.

TV » truTV

Tough deal for UNLV (25-9), having to play California (20-11) just 45 minutes from Berkeley. Could it be the recipe for the Runnin' Rebels' fourth straight year with a one-and-done loss to a lower-seeded team? This is a rematch of their Dec. 9 meeting, won 76-75 by UNLV at Cal. Much has changed since then however, as oversized wing 6-9 Khem Burch (7.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) has become eligible for the Rebels, while 6-6 junior Allen Crabbe (18.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has blossomed into the Pac-12 player of the year for the Golden Bears.

No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Missouri

When » Thursday, 9:20 p.m.

Where » Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.

TV » TBS

This is a matchup of the No. 2 and No. 4 rebounding teams in the nation. Colorado State (25-8) has a plus-12.1 rebounding margin, thriving with the physical style favored by coach Larry Eustachy, who takes his fourth different team to the tournament. Missouri (23-10), which has a plus-9.6 rebounding margin, is anxious to atone for its tournament-opening loss last year to No. 15 Norfolk State. The Rams' 6-10, 261-pound senior Colton Iverson (14.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg) will battle the Tigers' 6-9, 255-pound senior Alex Oriakhi (11.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg).

No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Akron

When » Thursday, 9:45 p.m.

Where » The Palace of Auburn Hills,

Auburn Hills, Mich.

TV » CBS

Shaka Smart's VCU (26-8) leads the nation in steals (11.8 pg) for the second straight year and has proven the last two seasons to be one of the nation's best NCAA teams. Sophomore Treveon Graham (15.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is the top scorer. But plenty of the focus on Thursday will be on 6-9 junior Juvonte Reddic (14.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg), who will have to deal with Akron's 7-foot star Zeke Marshall (13.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.7 bpg), whose presence is often felt more on defense. Another threat inside for Akron (26-6) is 6-7 junior Demetrius Treadwell (11.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg).

No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 14 Harvard

When » Thursday, 9:50 p.m.

Where » EnergySolutions Arena,

Salt Lake City, Utah

TV » TNT

Despite losing two starters, including the top returning scorer, to a school cheating scandal, coach Tommy Amaker guided Harvard (19-9) to the Ivy League title. Playing sooner than anticipated, freshman Siyani Chambers (12.9 ppg, 5.8 apg) has been a revelation at point guard for a team that had quality wins in December at California and Boston College. Keeping up with Mountain West regular season and tournament champion New Mexico (29-5) and conference player of the year Kendall Williams (13.5 ppg, 5.0 apg) will be a tall order.

No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Montana

When » Thursday, 9:57 p.m.

Where » HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.

TV » truTV

Big Sky champion Montana (25-6) has a dearth of quality wins, coming up just short against South Dakota State, Davidson and Colorado State. But in those games, senior guard Will Cherry (13.9 ppg, 4.1 apg) was limited. When Cherry, who is now healthy, plays more than 25 minutes, the Grizzlies are 18-1. Syracuse (26-9) tries to rebound from its reversal-of-fortune loss in the Big East title game, where it led by 16 points but lost by 17 to Louisville. Active 6-8 bookends C.J. Fair (14.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and James Southerland (13.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) lead the Orange.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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