No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 3 Texas A&M
Time: 6:27 p.m.
Records: Memphis 32-3, Texas A&M 27-6.
How they got here: Memphis d. No. 15 North Texas 73-58, d. No. 7 Nevada 78-62; Texas A&M d. No. 14 Penn 68-52, d. No. 6 Louisville 72-69.
The buzz: Memphis comes in having won 24 in a row, but the Tigers haven't played anyone with the defensive intensity of the Aggies. Tigers G Chris Douglas-Roberts, the team's leading scorer, suffered an ankle sprain against Nevada; if he plays, he won't be 100 percent. Memphis wants an up-tempo, free-flowing game, but A&M will look to slow it down and make it a grind-it-out affair. A&M also will be as physical as possible, especially with Memphis' perimeter guys. A&M has four players who average in double figures, but the only one who truly scares opposing teams is senior G Acie Law IV. Even if Law gets his points, A&M needs Gs Josh Carter and Dominique Kirk to be at least adequate from three-point range. Memphis has better depth than the Aggies, who don't want to go more than seven-deep. Memphis plays good defense, as well, but there remains one question about the Tigers: How will they play in a close game against a tough opponent? Memphis is abysmal from the line (61.9 percent as a team - even after a 26-of-34 performance against Nevada).
The pick: Texas A&M.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Tennessee
Time: 8:57 p.m.
Records: Ohio State 32-3, Tennessee 24-10.
How they got here: Ohio State d. No. 16 Central Connecticut 78-57, d. No. 9 Xavier 78-71 (OT); Tennessee d. No. 12 Long Beach State 121-86, d. No. 4 Virginia 77-74.
The buzz: These teams met Jan. 13 in Columbus, with Ohio State prevailing, 68-66. The Vols would prefer the game be in the high 70s/low 80s, and they'll attempt to force the tempo with their pressing defense. Still, to pull the upset, Vols G Chris Lofton has to hit his outside shots. The Vols also need another scorer (JaJuan Smith? Ramar Smith?) to provide offense. A potential trouble spot for Tennessee is its poor free-throw shooting (65.7 percent). Tennessee's young big men are going to have problems with Buckeyes C Greg Oden. But if the Vols worry too much about Oden, perimeter players Jamar Butler, Daequan Cook and Ron Lewis will bomb away.
The pick: Ohio State.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Southern Illinois
Time: 6:10 p.m.
Records: Kansas 32-4, Southern Illinois 29-6.
How they got here: Kansas d. No. 16 Niagara 107-67, d. No. 8 Kentucky 88-76; SIU d. No. 13 Holy Cross 61-51, d. No. 5 Virginia Tech 63-48.
The buzz: Kansas, which is supremely athletic, wants to put its athleticism to good use and run all night. SIU, a blue-collar team, wants to slow the tempo and turn the game into a defensive-minded affair. Can either impose its will on the other? SIU's only shot at the upset is to turn this into an ugly, low-scoring game - as in the low to mid-50s. Kansas has lost four times; in three of the losses, the Jayhawks scored 66 or less, and in the other, they scored 71. SIU allowed more than 70 points once - and it lost that game. Kansas is loaded on the perimeter, and star F Julian Wright has freakish athletic skills for a man his size (6 feet 8, 225 pounds). SIU likely will be without starting F Matt Shaw (ankle), a potentially devastating injury for a team that starts three guards and whose best reserve big man (Tony Boyle) plays about 12 minutes per game. If Shaw can't go, Gs Jamaal Tatum, Tony Young and Bryan Mullins will be even more under the gun to produce offensively. The Salukis beat Virginia Tech without Shaw, but the Jayhawks aren't the Hokies.
The pick: Kansas.
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 Pitt
Time: 8:40 p.m.
Records: UCLA 28-5, Pitt 29-7.
How they got here: UCLA d. No. 15 Weber State 70-42, d. No. 7 Indiana 54-49; Pitt d. No. 14 Wright State 79-58, d. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth 84-79 (OT).
The buzz: UCLA coach Ben Howland and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon are close friends - Howland's daughter, Meredith, attends school at Pitt and often eats dinner with the Dixons - and neither will be surprised by what the other wants to do tonight. The Bruins are more athletic, but they're quite comfortable with a slower pace. To win, Pitt must rely on its physical defense and C Aaron Gray. Pitt's perimeter players are solid, nothing more, and the Panthers are going to have trouble keeping up with jet-quick Bruins PG Darren Collison. Slowing Collison and trying to keep G Aaron Afflalo under wraps will be a priority for Pitt. UCLA will throw a variety of defensive looks at Gray, who has developed into an OK passer out of the low post.
The pick: UCLA.