(8) Colorado State Rams vs. (1) Louisville Cardinals (-11, 134)
Top-seeded Louisville backed up its claim as the hottest team in the NCAA Tournament with a dominant showing in its opening game, but No. 8 seed Colorado State also is coming off an overpowering performance as the teams get set to clash in the Midwest Regional quarterfinals Saturday in Lexington, Ky. The Cardinals rolled past North Carolina A&T 79-48 on Thursday for their 11th consecutive win, notching their 30th victory in the process, and had the luxury of resting their starters for much of the second half. The Rams had to exert a bit more effort to hold off Missouri 84-72, the program's first victory in the NCAA Tournament since 1989.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Colorado State's opening performance is the fact it came with leading scorer Colton Iverson in foul trouble. The Minnesota transfer grabbed 13 rebounds, but was limited to four points. He will need to be more of a factor at the offensive end against the Cardinals. Louisville has been outstanding since a three-game losing streak in January, winning 14 of its last 15 with the setback a five-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 9. The winner will face No. 4 seed Saint Louis or No. 12 Oregon on Friday in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis.
TV: 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT COLORADO STATE (26-8): The Rams probably shouldn't expect things to go as smoothly at the offensive end as they did against Missouri - Colorado State shot 49 percent while rolling up the program's highest scoring total in an NCAA Tournament game, but said they are well-equipped to handle Louisville's pressing defense. "We're going to prepare for that," guard Jon Octeus said. "We've done a good job of pressuring each other. I think we'll be able to handle all the pressure they bring." The biggest advantage the Rams have against the Cardinals is their prowess on the boards. Colorado State ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding (40.5) and leads the nation in opponents' rebounds (28.1), creating the No. 1 rebounding margin in the country.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (30-5): The Cardinals have turned up the defensive intensity during their winning streak, and coach Rick Pitino has harped on the number of deflections his team has produced. Pitino said the 58 deflections against Villanova in the Big East tournament marked a record for one of his teams, but the Cardinals shattered that with 67 on Thursday. "We all know what defense can do," guard Russ Smith said. "It got us to the Final Four last year. So we just stay solid and just keep playing our defense." Smith also led an impressive offensive performance against the Aggies, scoring 23 points as the Cardinals shot a season-best 57.4 percent.
* Rams are 0-4 ATS in their last four Saturday games.
* Cardinals are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games overall.
* Over is 7-0-1 in Rams’ last eight overall.
* Over is 5-0 in Cardinals’ last five overall.
1. Louisville is 42-8 all-time as the higher seed in NCAA Tournament games, but 5-11 as a No. 1 seed.
2. Colorado State is 20-2 when scoring 70 or more points and has the same record when leading at halftime.
3. The Cardinals are 26-0 this season when leading at halftime.
(12) Oregon Ducks vs. (4) Saint Louis Billikens (-3.5, 124)
Saint Louis will try to extend its best season in school history when the fourth-seeded Billikens play No. 12-seed Oregon in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday in San Jose, Calif. Saint Louis won a program-record 28th game Thursday, smothering New Mexico State 64-44. Many felt the Ducks were under-seeded after they won the Pac-12 tournament title, and they went out and proved it with a 68-55 second-round victory over Oklahoma State.
Saint Louis junior forward Dwayne Evans scored 24 points in the opener, the most in an NCAA Tournament game in program history. He leads the Billikens in scoring overall (14), surpassing his average in each of the last nine games. The Ducks feature a mix of talented freshmen, led by starting guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis, and hungry seniors. Arsalan Kazemi, who grabbed 17 rebounds against Oklahoma State, leads the senior group and figures to be a tough matchup for the Billikens, who are 251st in the nation in rebounding.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS.
ABOUT OREGON (27-8): The Ducks went 5-4 while Artis was sidelined with a foot injury during Pac-12 play. While that was a big loss for Oregon and likely cost the Ducks a regular-season conference title, it also gave junior point guard Johnathan Loyd a chance to shine. He initially struggled in the starting role, including three games in which he failed to make a field goal or register a point, but has become more comfortable of late, even with Artis back in the starting lineup. He scored a season-high 19 points in the Pac-12 tournament final against UCLA and played more minutes (25) against Oklahoma State than Artis (17).
ABOUT SAINT LOUIS (28-6): The Billkens made a trip to the Northwest back in November and lost 66-61 to Washington, a team Oregon beat twice during conference play. Two days later, coach Rick Majerus, who had been on leave since the summer because of heart problems, died. Saint Louis went on to win its next nine games and followed that with an 11-game winning streak. The Billikens knocked off a previously ranked Butler team three times this season and also swept both games against another ranked Atlantic-10 foe, Virginia Commonwealth. Saint Louis has been getting it done with defense - it is 15th in the nation in opponent scoring (57.7).
* Billikens are 7-0 ATS in their last seven Saturday games.
* Under is 5-0 in Billikens’ last five overall.
* Over is 5-0 in Ducks’ last five Saturday games.
* Billikens are 4-0 ATS in their last four NCAA tourney games.
1. The Pac-12 and Atlantic-10 conferences combined to go 7-0 in Thursday’s second round.
2. Oregon senior E.J. Singler on Thursday became the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,517 points), passing Aaron Brooks (1,511).
3. The 27 wins by the Ducks is third-most in program history.
(6) Memphis Tigers vs. (3) Michigan State Spartans (-5.5, 131)
No. 3 seed Michigan State looked dominant in an easy win over Valparaiso in its NCAA Tournament opener on Thursday. Things will get a little tougher on Saturday, when the Spartans take on No. 6 seed Memphis at Auburn Hills, Mich. The Tigers edged Saint Mary’s in their opener and will be able to match Michigan State athletically. Memphis has won seven straight games and showed on Thursday it can win at a slower pace.
The Tigers like to get out in the open floor and run up the score, but a 54-52 win over Saint Mary’s required more patience from the likes of point guard Joe Jackson and swingman Adonis Thomas. Michigan State has the type of Big Ten pedigree that can force teams to play at its pace and the NCAA Tournament pedigree with coach Tom Izzo that will always make it a contender. The Spartans have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in four of the previous five seasons.
TV: 2:45 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT MEMPHIS (31-4): Tigers coach Josh Pastner picked up his first NCAA Tournament win at the school on Thursday and will be looking for its first win of the season over a ranked opponent on Saturday. Memphis fell at home to top-seeded Louisville on Dec. 15 in its only other chance. The Tigers also lost to their only Big Ten challenger - 84-75 to Minnesota in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November. But Memphis built up plenty of confidence by ripping through Conference USA and had gone over 80 points in four straight games before slowing things down against the Gaels. Jackson led the way with 14 points on Thursday and does the bulk of the ball handling for a team that ranked fourth in the country in assists.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (26-8): The Spartans blasted Valparaiso on Thursday, with only a 10-0 burst in the final two minutes pulling the Crusaders within the 65-54 final margin. Michigan State has more size on the interior than the Tigers and showed that off against Valparaiso with 23 points and 15 rebounds from senior forward Derrick Nix. “It’s my last go-around,“ Nix told reporters, “and I’m not ready to be done yet.” Adreian Payne, Nix and Branden Dawson along the front helped the Spartans control the glass on Thursday and open things up for freshman Gary Harris and junior leader Keith Appling on the outside. The Spartans do not have any players left over from the 2008 squad, which fell in the Sweet Sixteen to Memphis in the only other NCAA Tournament meeting between the schools.
* Tigers are 7-0 ATS in their last seven Saturday games.
* Spartans are 0-4 ATS in their last four vs. Conference USA.
* Under is 6-1 in Spartans’ last seven overall.
1. Izzo is 38-14 in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Memphis senior swingman D.J. Stephens blocked eight shots on Thursday and has swatted away 19 in the last three games.
3. Michigan State outrebounded Valparaiso 49-23 on Thursday and is 23-7 when controlling the glass.