The third round of the tournament is where everything becomes interesting. After the upsets of the second round, everyone wants to see if they can keep winning and beating more power teams. After every team has played a game, the nervousness is gone and teams just want to keep dancing. The #1 and #2 seeds are the teams usually picked to advance into the Final Four, but this makes them marked teams as the other teams will do anything to take them off the top. I believe that some teams ranked from #6-10 can beat the teams ranked #1-3 in the third round of the NCAA tournament. There are 3 matchups in which heavy-weights could fall to lesser teams.
1 Gonzaga vs. 8 Pittsburgh
Gonzaga: While Gonzaga was ranked #1 in the polls in the last week of the regular season, many people (including me) thought that this team was the worst best team in the nation ever. Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris are usually too much for a team to handle, but Pittsburgh has big men, as big and agile as Gonzaga’s. The key for Gonzaga will be guards David Stockton, Kevin Pangos, and Gary Bell Jr. They will have to shut down opposing guards, and be able to score from both inside and behind the arc.
Pittsburgh: In the Big East conference, this team finished 4th and had double digit victories over Syracuse and Georgetown. They create turnovers, get offensive rebounds, make shots from both inside and outside, and are experienced. Steven Adams and Talib Zanna are talented enough to compete with Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. Tray Woodall and James Robinson are very poised shot makers and shot creators. The x-factor on the Panthers squad is Lamar Patterson. When he is scoring and attacking the rim, they are one of the most dangerous teams in the nation.
I believe if guards Tray and James outplay the opposing guards, and Steven and Talib hold their own against Kelly and Elias, then a win for the Panthers could be in store.
1 Indiana vs. 8 North Carolina State
Indiana: Indiana is the best team, talent wise, in the country. With lottery selections Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo running the show they are unstoppable when they play the way that they can. Talented shooters in Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford spread the floor, and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell is a very steady point guard on the offensive and defensive ends. When this team plays poorly, they get down on themselves, miss makeable shots, and lack effort on defense.
North Carolina State: This Wolfpack squad had very high expectations in the preseason. They were chosen to finish first in the ACC and were ranked #8 in the preseason poll. While this team has not lived up to those goals, they have the talent to play with anyone. Richard Howell and C.J Leslie are one of the best frontcourt duos in the nation. Lorenzo Brown is a first round draft pick, and Scott Wood is one of the best long range shooters.
NC State will win if Richard Howell doesn’t give Cody Zeller anything easy, the Wolfpack control Victor Oladipo, and if C.J Leslie plays as if he is the best player on the court.
2 Ohio State vs. 7 Notre Dame
Ohio State: This Ohio State team won the Big Ten tournament championship, and Thad Matta is one of the nation’s best coaches. Deshaun Thomas is the best scorer in the country out of the forward position because he is able to score in the post, mid range, or from behind the arc. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are the best defensive backcourt in the nation, and Aaron Craft stepped up throughout the Big Ten tournament. Lenzelle Smith Jr. has displayed toughness throughout his career as a Buckeye, and he has the ability to score 20 points on any given day. If Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross play their best in the NCAA’s, then they are very hard to beat.
Notre Dame: This team’s best win was against Louisville in a 5 overtime game, and they also beat a very good Marquette team in the Big East tournament. This team goes 4 big man deep, in Jack Cooley, Tom Knight, Garrick Sherman, and Zach Auguste. Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, and Patrick Connaughton play almost the entire game at the guard spots. All three guards have specific skill sets that fit perfectly into the Irish system. Pat is a long range shooter, Jerian is an all around fantastic scorer, and Eric is a defensive minded point guard who knows how to get his teammates the ball in scoring positions.
If Jack, Tom, Garrick, and Zach dominate inside on the glass and in the paint, and Pat knocks down threes, then I believe that the Buckeyes could be facing an earlier exit than they imagined.
All three of the higher seeds have a chance to win it all, so if they lose in the third round, it will create chaos in a lot of people’s brackets. All the underdogs have the talent to defeat them, but you never know what will happen in the big dance.