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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Today’s NCAA Tournament capsules

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A quick look at today's eight second-round games:

East Regional

No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 7 Boston College, in Winston-Salem, N.C., 4:50 p.m.: In the first round, Georgetown d. No. 15 Belmont, 80-55, and Boston College d. No. 10 Texas Tech, 84-75. Boston College must get a big game from F Jared Dudley to win, but the Hoyas have one of the best interior defenses around. Conversely, BC needs to make sure Georgetown F Jeff Green doesn't take over the game with his all-around skills. BC G Tyrese Rice had a huge game in the first round, and he needs to have another to keep this close - especially if Dudley is stymied.

No. 3 Washington State vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt, in Sacramento, Calif., 4:55 p.m.: In the first round, Washington State d. No. 14 Oral Roberts, 70-54, and Vandy d. No. 11 George Washington, 77-44. Vandy put on a clinic in destroying GW in the first round. Trust us: Washington State will be far more ready to play than the Colonials. Neither team is overly athletic, both relying on good shooting and few turnovers. Vandy does have the edge in athleticism, and it must have Fs Derrick Byars and Shan Foster produce; there is no one else to take up the slack. Washington State has a balanced offense and plays tough defense. If the Cougars are to win, it's their backcourt of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and backup Taylor Rochestie that is going to lead the way.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Michigan State, in Winston-Salem, N.C., 7:20 p.m.: In the first round, UNC d. No. 16 Eastern Kentucky, 86-65, and Michigan State d. No. 8 Marquette, 61-49. This is simple for the Spartans: They have to make this a grind-it-out, halfcourt affair, or they will be blown out. Michigan State doesn't have the athletes to hang with the Tar Heels, so they need to play physical defense and push and shove as much as they can get away with. UNC's defensive focus will be on Spartans G Drew Neitzel; when he is shut down, the Spartans' offense as a whole is shut down. UNC often relaxes on defense, and that can't happen against Neitzel.

South Regional

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Xavier, in Lexington, Ky., 12:10 p.m.: In the first round, Ohio State d. No. 16 Central Connecticut, 78-57, and Xavier d. No. 8 BYU, 79-77. These two in-state foes haven't played in more than 20 years, and Xavier is relishing the opportunity to knock off the bully. Well, you wonder if Xavier is biting off more than it can chew against the Buckeyes and their former coach, Thad Matta, who led Xavier to the Sweet 16 in 2004. The Musketeers have no one who can handle Buckeyes C Greg Oden on either end. Thus, look for the Musketeers to put the game in the hands of G Drew Lavender - who happens to be a Columbus native. He is jet-quick, but doesn't always make good decisions. Xavier has to hit its threes - and that includes big man Justin Doellman - or this will be a blowout. The Musketeers also have to hope G Stanley Burrell shows up.

No. 3 Texas A&M; vs. No. 6 Louisville, in Lexington, Ky., 2:40 p.m.: In the first round, Texas A&M; d. No. 14 Penn, 68-52, and Louisville d. No. 11 Stanford, 78-58.

This could be a memorable game. Louisville looked unbeatable in the first round, but that was against a Stanford team that shouldn't have been in the field. A&M; will provide a far tougher test. The Aggies' strength is their halfcourt defense, and getting Louisville into a halfcourt game is the way to beat the Cardinals. Outside of reserve G Jerry Smith, Louisville doesn't have any legit three-point threat.

Louisville needs to make sure Aggies G Acie Law IV doesn't take over, but that's easier said than done. One problem for the Aggies: Their bench isn't deep, especially among their low-post players.

Midwest Regional

No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Butler, in Buffalo, N.Y., 2:20 p.m.: In the first round, Maryland d. No. 13 Davidson, 82-70, and Butler d. No. 12 Old Dominion, 57-46. Butler is a cerebral team that wins because it minimizes mistakes. The Bulldogs lack athletes and don't shoot all that well.

Maryland has a bunch of good athletes and will look to force the pace.

The Terps need to worry about just one thing: They have to be patient and not force shots if Butler controls the tempo. In that scenario, the Terps need to look inside to take advantage of Butler's lack of an interior presence. On paper, there is no reason Maryland loses this game.

West Regional

No. 3 Pittsburgh vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth, in Buffalo, N.Y., 4:50 p.m.: Pitt d. No. 14 Wright State, 79-58, and VCU d. No. 6 Duke, 79-77. VCU pulled the only true upset Thursday and can do so again Saturday, assuming it again gets sterling guard play. VCU's Eric Maynor is going to be the best guard on the floor. He has superb quickness and can get into the lane almost seemingly at will; if he could hit the three, he'd be unstoppable.

Look for VCU to push the pace and attack Pitt's guards on both ends of the court; Pitt sometimes had problems this season with athletic teams that were aggressive on defense. Pitt C Aaron Gray is going to get his points; VCU needs to make sure no one else has a big game. And, as always, VCU has to hit its three-pointers if it is going to win.

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Indiana, in Sacramento, Calif., 7:25 p.m.: In the first round, UCLA d. No. 15 Weber State, 70-42, and Indiana d. No. 10 Gonzaga, 70-57. Indiana did a nice defensive job on an up-tempo Gonzaga team in the first round; Saturday, the Hoosiers face a team with a ton of great athletes and one that is comfortable at any tempo. UCLA must stymie Indiana's perimeter shooters. Hoosiers G Roderick Wilmot was on fire in the first round, and IU has three solid outside shooters. If UCLA allows IU to fire away, Hoosiers big man D.J. White becomes that much more dangerous underneath.

As good as White is, he can't beat UCLA by himself. Indiana's defense will be tested by an athletic Bruins guard corps. No one is quicker with the ball than UCLA PG Darren Collison.

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