The first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament is over after a crazy first two days. Now the field has been whittled down to 32 and Sweet 16 berths are on the line. Here are the three must-watch games for Saturday’s second round action.
(4) Butler vs. (12) Middle Tennesse State, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS
The Bulldogs (24-8) have looked like a team primed to make a run in the tournament all season, unfortunately they’re paired up with a wildly under-seeded Middle Tennessee State team. The Blue Raiders are 31-4 and have won 20 of their last 21 games. They knocked off Minnesota 81-72 in the first round and looked really good doing it. Meanwhile, Butler got past a game Winthrop team 76-64.
Butler is currently favored by 3.5, but this has the feeling of a matchup that will go down to the end, and MTSU might ride its momentum to a win. Both teams are solid on both ends of the court and have very few weaknesses.
This looks like the best matchup of the day on paper.
(1) Villanova vs. (8) Wisconsin, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS
Villanova (32-3) is the No. 1 overall seed and looked in the second half of its opening game against Mount St. Mary’s. The Wildcats will now face a Wisconsin (26-9) team that can give fits to opponents not used to its style.
The Badgers run Greg Gard’s version of the Swing offense, something very few other teams employ, which makes facing them on short notice difficult. It’s really hard to prepare for what Wisconsin does.
Along with North Carolina, Villanova is the most complete team in the tournament. That said, Wisconsin is set up to slow the pace and make every possession count. The Badgers rank eighth nationally in defensive efficiency and 334th in tempo. On the flip-side, the Wildcats rank second in offensive efficiency, 10th on the defensive side, and are fine slowing things down, as they are 323rd in tempo.
So you’ve got the defending national champions going against a Wisconsin team who could be a match for them and is hard to prepare for. This should be a good one.
(3) Florida State vs. (11) Xavier, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT
Neither of these teams is expected to make a deep run, but this should be a fantastic clash in styles. Florida State (26-8) is long, uber-athletic and plays fast, while Xavier (22-13) is a supremely disciplined squad who slows games down (217th in tempo). While the Musketeers want to dirty the game up and win a slug-fest, the Seminoles will want to run and dominate on the boards.
Both teams did some great things in their opening games. Xavier shot 50.0 percent from the field and got 18 second-half points from Trevon Bluiett in a 76-65 win over Maryland and got. Florida State hit a ridiculous 68.3 percent of its shots from inside the 3-point line in an 86-80 win over Florida Gulf Coast.
This should be a really entertaining game, that should be close late.