NCAA Tournament matchups - 2011

       This is the last of the cuts for the first weekend of play and there aren't a ton of surprises in Sunday's matchups; a few lower seeds won, perhaps in convincing fashion as VCU and Illinois handled Georgetown and UNLV with ease, Florida State asserted its defensive dominance over Texas A&M.

Here's the slate for Sunday's third round action:

#7 Washington vs. #2 North Carolina, 12:15 PM EST

        Washington squeaked by Georgia, but still advances into the matchup we wanted to see between two teams who can score at will. UNC put up 102 in their opener against LIU for their fourth century-mark scoring game of the year, while Washington has six of their own, including two in conference play.

        Two play-making point guards will go head-to-head in Washington's Isaiah Thomas and UNC' Kendall Marshall; Thomas had 19 points and 7 assists, while Marshall, less of a scorer and more of a distributor played true to his self and finished with three points on 1-of-2 shooting and 10 assists.

        Aside from the guard play, Washington must deal with UNC's size inside, which asserted themselves against LIU when Tyler Zeller and John Henson combined for 52 points and 27 rebounds. The Huskies must contain those two, along with the high-scoring Harrison Barnes.

        UNC can be forced into turnovers and poor decision-making launching up shots and that's just what the Huskies need to do to force the upset.

#8 Michigan vs. #1 Duke, 2:45 PM

        Michigan hasn't played a team all year with the guard play similar to that of Duke. Nolan Smith, Seth Cutty and now Kyrie Irving will have a feast breaking down the Wolverine's 1-3-1 zone defense and finding the open shooters on the baseline and one of the Plumlees around the rim for plenty of dunks.

#8 George Mason vs. #1 Ohio State, 5:15 PM

        George Mason's making some magic in this year's tournament after taking care of a poor-shooting, turnover-prone Villanova team. Luke Hancock returned from an ankle injury to score 18 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer to move onto Ohio State. It'll be a contrast of lineups as OSU sports three to four guards at a time, while the Patriots don't have the same versatility, but have two athletic big men to take on the challenge of Jared Sullinger inside.

        Jim Larranaga's Patriots were one of the best in the country at defending the 3-point line, while also having one of the highest 3-point percentage marks in the country as well. Considering Ohio State is the second-best team in the country from outside of 20-feet, 9 inches, the Buckeyes should go inside early and often to Sullinger.

#5 Arizona vs. #4 Texas, 6:10 PM

        For the second game in a row, Arizona takes on an athletic team that likes to run and push the ball. But instead of the 65th best defense in the country, Derrick Williams and the Wildcats will take on the nation's number one ranked defense.

        Without much depth up front, Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson should have a field day with Arizona. Jordan Hamilton should have another strong day on the boards, but will need to impress with his shooting again as plenty of scouts will be in attendance to watch Williams and Thompson. Hamilton has a shot to go in the lottery if he can his shot-selection in check.

#11 VCU vs. #3 Purdue, 7:10 PM

        VCU's guards came up big against Georgetown by knocking down 12 3s and turning the ball over just four times. That defensive pressure will be upped tremendously against one of the top defensive teams in the country in Purdue (third overall); the Boilermakers have not only some of the best perimeter defenders at defending the 3-point line, but at focing turnovers as well. The key for VCU will be keeping the 6'11" Big Ten Player of the Year, JaJuan Johnson, off the glass, something few teams have been able to do.

#11 Marquette vs. #3 Syracuse, 7:45 PM

        In their previous meeting this year, Marquette knocked of Syracuse 76-70 for the first time since joining the Big East. But you can't look too much into that game as it was the fourth loss in four games for the Orange who are clearly a different team at this point in the season under Jim Boeheim.

        Marquette has the guards to breakdown Syracuse's 2-3 zone and take it to the forwards in the zone and get them in foul trouble or kick it back out for an open jumper. Last meeting, the Golden Eagles forced 22 fouls and got to the line 33 times in the win. They'll need to get to Rick Jackson early, a player capable of killing Marquette on both ends of the floor with his size and rebounding.

#9 Illinois vs. #1 Kansas, 8:40 PM

        Can Illinois continue their hot shooting into Sunday's game against one of the top teams in the country? If not, you know Kansas will run the ball down their throats and pound it into Marcus and Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson as well and the game could be a route. Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis will prove to be difficult matchups for the Jayhawks' frontcourt with their versatility, similar to that of the Morris'.

        This Illinois team is talented with a potential first round pick in point guard Demetri McCamey, but several explosive athletes like Jereme Richardson and Brandon Paul (Richardson's team-imposed suspension should be lifted for this game. But can they defend well enough to force Tyshawn Taylor and Brady Morningstar into turnovers- something few teams have been able to do this season?

#10 Florida State vs. #2 Notre Dame, 9:40 PM

        The nation's leader in field-goal defense takes on one of the most efficient offensive teams in a game beyond the numbers. Florida State has tremendous size and length up front now that Chris Singleton is back. That's a 6'9" small forward, a 6'10" Bernard James, 6'11" Xavier Gibson, plus a 6'7" Okaro White and 7-footer Jon Kreft. The Fighting Irish have some size of their own in Tim Abromaitis (6'8"), Tyrone Nash (6'8"), Scott Martin (6'8"), and Carleton Scott (6'7"). The versatility of these four to score both inside and out will put tremendous pressure on the Seminoles team defense.

By President Corey Ruff - 3-20-11