Here’s the four regional semifinal games to be played Thursday along with their locations, their announcing teams and some commentary for each. All times are Central:
South Regional, At FedExForum, Memphis, Tenn.
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols
6:15 p.m.: No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton
— The official underdog match-up of this round features a Dayton team that won its first two games by a combined three points, meanwhile Stanford won by a total of eight and put on an impressive containment of one of the college game’s biggest stars in Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.
Dayton has done a great job of controlling tempo in their wins, keeping the ball in their hands and getting quality baskets at every turn. The Cardinal, though, hold a big size advantage and Dwight Powell is looking like the type of player who will go down swinging in this tournament. I think Stanford will have more in the tank and more of a chance to advance.
*8:45 p.m.: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA
— The Gators haven’t been the most dazzling No. 1 seed, but they know how to win as well as any team left in the tourney. To take it further from the abstract, I’d rather have Florida’s main ball handler (Scottie Wilbekin) than UCLA’s (Kyle Anderson) despite the latter’s multi-talents.
If this is a close game, Florida not only has the advantage at point, but also in the coaching box. Likely it won’t even be close, especially if Florida keeps UCLA from getting out into transition, which it relies on very much or if the Bruins can’t create off the dribble due to Florida’s tight zone matchups. Look for the Gators to grind out another victory.
West Regional, At Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager
6:47 p.m.: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor
— Baylor has outworked and outclassed two bewildered opponents in Nebraska and Creighton, but now they have to face a team from outside the Husker state in the Badgers, who look more explosive offensively than maybe any other Bucky squad in the Bo Ryan era.
The most talented player on the court may be Baylor’s 7-foot-1 interior presence Isaiah Austin, who should be a problem for Wisconsin whenever they venture the ball inside the 3-point arc, something that Creighton notably failed to do Sunday. To that end, the Badgers’ smallish lineup, which many times features four players at 6’5 or smaller, will likely have to hit shots at a great clip, which actually hasn’t been a problem for them this year.
Baylor is getting more and more love but I have a hard time going completely against Wisconsin, who may need to just keep the Bears off the offensive board and keep hands in the faces of the Bears’ shooters when needed. This is a hard one to call.
*9:17 p.m.: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State
— This may be the most competitive game of the day, featuring two teams who like to work inside the paint. Problem for SDSU is, they only like to score down low, while Arizona can score and defend there. The Wildcats are also more adept in transition and above the rim — should Aaron Gordon throw down a lob or two in the course of this one it could start something bad for the Aztecs.
Still, SDSU has a coach who’s seen it all in Steve Fisher and Fisher helped lead his team to a good performance against then-No.1 in the nation Arizona in early November. By most accounts, SDSU is better now, in large part due to the improved presence of St. John’s transfer Dwanye Polee, who may close the athleticism gap, but not by enough. Arizona moves on.
* – approximate time, game will start about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the earlier contest
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