Big East storylines
1. Daunting tasks ahead
Two Big East teams survived the first day of the NCAA Tournament, as Butler and Providence prevailed over Texas Tech and USC. The Bulldogs had a little less stressful affair as they pulled away late against the Red Raiders. The Friars, meanwhile, fought for the entirety of the game and escaped with a 70-69 victory thanks to a buzzer beater by Rodney Bullock. Now, the Friars and Bulldogs will face two No. 1 seeds in the form of North Carolina and Virginia of the ACC. If BU and PC thought they had their hands full in the Round of 64, they will really be in for a show on Saturday night in Raleigh.
2. Containing Virginia's triple threat
London Perrantes, Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill are as terrific a trio out there in the nation. All three have been instrumental in the successes that the Cavaliers have earned over the past few years and 2016 was no different. They'll be very hot to handle for the Bulldogs. They've faced top-tier competition this season, but Perrantes, Brogdon and Gill could be the best triple threat they've seen this year.
3. Marcus Paige vs. Kris Dunn
So, Paige hasn't played much point guard this season. Sophomore Joel Berry has taken those reigns but it wouldn't be crazy to expect that Dunn and Paige will be locking horns in this upcoming contest in Raleigh. While UNC's frontcourt (as we'll later explain) could present huge problems for Providence, pun intended, this matchup of great guards could be pivotal to determining a winner. Expect tenacious play between Dunn and Paige all night.
4. UNC's frontcourt vs. Providence's interior presence... or lack thereof
This matchup between the Tar Heels and Friars could be 'Mismatch City.' North Carolina will trot out the likes of Justin Jackson, Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Joel James at times. All those players are 6-foot-8 or taller, which presents a major matchup problem for the Friars. Providence's 'center' Ben Bentil checks in at just 6-foot-9, and the Friars only have three players at 6-foot-8 or taller. Johnson and Meeks are both 6-foot-10 and will likely be who Rodney Bullock and Bentil will be facing all night. They'll need to bring their A-game because, otherwise, it could get messy down low real quickly.
5. Do these Big East teams have more magic in them?
It really cannot be understated what wins over UNC and UVA would do for the perception of the Big East Conference. The fun thing about this is that Providence and Butler walk in with no one really expecting them to win. The pressure is squarely supplanted on UNC and UVA, especially the Cavaliers who now have the Midwest Region up for grabs now after Michigan State was unceremoniously dismissed by 15-seeded Middle Tennessee on Friday. If the Friars and Bulldogs, who are no stranger to pulling off upset wins in the month of March, can conjure something up, it would cause ANOTHER major shakeup in this year's NCAA Tournament. At the rate we're going, would you really be surprised?
1. January, February, UConn...
The Huskies are at it again, making waves in March and have a tough task in front of them Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. The Kansas Jayhawks have arguably been the best team from end-to-end this season and have their eyes on Louisville and the South Regional semifinals. But the Huskies have made a habit of wreaking havoc even as a low-seed, so should you be on the lookout for that happening again? Of course you should.
2. Kentucky vs. Indiana
What else really has to be said?
One of college basketball's greatest rivalries tips off again despite the fact that neither team particularly wants to play each other at this stage of the game. It could be a barnburner if both teams play at a high-caliber level, and they're both more than capable of doing that. Like great guards? We've got 'em. Yogi Ferrell, Tyler Ulis, and Jamal Murray are three of the best in the country an they'll all be on the floor. This could be as good as it gets and might turn out to be one of the best games of this year's NCAA Tournament.
3. Wichita State's journey continues
Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker refuse to be denied and there may be no other team in the NCAA Tournament that anyone wants to face less than the Wichita State Shockers. The Shockers have been absolutely dynamic on defense and handed Arizona their first double-digit loss since February 2013 on Thursday night. Now, the Shockers face an intriguing Miami club in Providence. Are the Hurricanes in for trouble like Arizona and Vanderbilt were? Time will tell.
4. Yale, Duke, and all of the snobbery
Yes, folks. Yale will be facing Duke in Providence on Saturday afternoon. The snobbery will truly be off the charts in this matchup. On a serious note though, this has the makings of a pretty intriguing matchup after the Bulldogs dismissed Baylor for the first of two 5-12 upsets on Thursday. Duke, meanwhile, avoided an upset at the hands of UNC Wilmington and is aiming to get back to the Sweet 16 again. Yale got their first ever NCAA Tournament win on Thursday. Can they get their second?
5. ...The madness
Thursday was crazy, and Friday was just bananas. Saturday may have some craziness in store again as this NCAA Tournament has been as wild as many thought it had the potential to be. We'll see what happens next, but there's no doubt that the goods will soon be delivered.