Picking Saturday’s NCAA tournament games
by Patrick Stevens, Special for USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports bracketologist Patrick Stevens guides you through Saturday’s round of 32 games in the NCAA tournament.
* No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 6 Butler: This might be the best tough-guy matchup for Saturday. Marquette was fortunate to survive Davidson, hitting a series of absurd 3-pointers and then benefitting from a stunning turnover. But survive the Golden Eagles did, and their reward is a date with Butler.
The Bulldogs had their own problems in their opener before finally finishing off Bucknell down the stretch. They’ll also be a much less forgiving team should Marquette find itself down nine points in the final five minutes. This might not be the most enjoyable game to watch, but it’s as good a bet as any to end in a great finish.
* No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 12 California: The Orange got through their opening scrimmage against Montana without much trouble, while the Golden Bears took a page out of Syracuse’s book (playing zone) to knock UNLV out of the field.
Despite a late February and early March dip, Syracuse has regrouped in the Big East tournament and appears to be playing closer to the level they were at earlier in the season. California has a home-court edge, but it will need to play better to upend the Orange.
* No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth: This has a chance to be the treat of the weekend. The Rams, fresh off a demolition of Akron, get to unleash Havoc on arguably the best backcourt in the country. As good as Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are, they haven’t faced an unrelenting approach quite like VCU’s.
But here’s the thing: Break the Rams’ press, and they can be had. Virginia Commonwealth, while difficult to contend with, isn’t a top-level halfcourt defense. Shrewd teams (such as Saint Louis) and squads with great guards (La Salle) have shown that throughout the season.
So it’s going to be on Burke and Hardaway to keep things going for the Wolverines, who ousted sleeper possibility South Dakota State on Thursday and have the benefit of playing a relatively short drive from campus … [For more on Expert's Take: Picking Saturday's NCAA tournament games, click here.]