While there were a few upsets (none of which I officially picked), the South region remained pretty much intact, as the four top seeds advanced to the Round of 32.
It is here, however, where things are guaranteed to get interesting. As is the case throughout the bracket as a whole, there is little-to-no separation between the teams that are still playing.
This, of course, makes for some great basketball ahead and this weekend will be a figurative bloodbath with the Sweet 16 as the prize.
(1) Florida (33-2) vs. (9) Pittsburgh (26-9)
Saturday, March 22, 12:15PM, Orlando, FL; CBS.
Background: The Gators were less than impressive in a 12-point win over a gritty Albany squad. Pittsburgh dominated Colorado from start to finish in a 29-point thrashing of the Buffaloes.
Difference Maker: Talib Zanna. The Pittsburgh forward continued his hot play Thursday, scoring 18 points on 6-7 shooting. If he can duplicate that production on Saturday, it could spell trouble for Billy Donovan & company.
Florida wins if: they play with a sense of urgency lacking versus Albany, and Scottie Wilbikin and Michael Frazier make shots.
Pittsburgh wins if: Zanna scores in the teens and neutralizes Patric Young defensively and on the backboards.
Prediction: Florida 63, Pittsburgh 61.
(3) Syracuse (28-5) vs. (11) Dayton (24-10) Saturday, March 22, 7:10PM, Buffalo, NY; TBS.
Background: The Cuse had no problem with Western Michigan in the first round (yes, I still call it the first round and refuse to play along) and rolled to a 77-53 victory. Dayton won a knock-down, grind-it-out slugfest with Ohio State on a game-winning lay up from Vee Sanford.
Difference Maker: Jerami Grant. Grant showed no sign of back pain Thursday while scoring 16 points and grabbing five rebounds. If Syracuse can count on those numbers moving forward, they become a title contender again.
Syracuse wins if: the big three of C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Grant play well and Trevor Cooney hits a couple threes.
Dayton wins if: Syracuse shoots poorly and the Flyers are more proficient than the 3-13 they shot from three point range last time out.
Prediction: Syracuse 68, Dayton 63.
(2) Kansas (25-9) vs. (10) Stanford (22-12)
Sunday, March 23, 12:15PM, St. Louis, MO; CBS.
Background: Stanford surprisingly controlled the contest with New Mexico throughout, stifling the Lobos with their length inside. The Jayhawks held off a game Eastern Kentucky squad behind 19 points from Andrew Wiggins.
Difference Maker: Perry Ellis. Ellis’s double-double was key to their Friday victory and he will need to be big again Sunday if the Jayhawks are going to reach the Sweet 16.
Kansas wins if: Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor combine to contribute more than 20 points and 10 rebounds again.
Stanford wins if: they can keep Kansas in the low 70s and Chasson Randle goes off.
Prediction: Kansas 82, Stanford 73.
(4) UCLA (27-8) vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin (30-2) Sunday, March 23, 7:10PM, San Diego, CA; TBS.
Background: Stephen F. Austin won their 28th straight game in unbelievable fashion, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a Larry Johnson-like 4-point play to force overtime. UCLA was more conventional in their victory over Tulsa, outscoring the Golden Hurricane by 12 in the second half.
Difference Maker: Jordan Adams. Adams was a beast again Friday, scoring 21 points and recording 8 rebounds. The Lumberjacks will need to corral him to have any chance.
UCLA wins if: they continue doing what they’re doing, by getting big time production from their entire rotation.
Stephen F. Austin wins if: Desmond Haymon and Jacob Parker continue to light it up and they get a little lucky again.
Prediction: UCLA 83, Stephen F. Austin 76.