The first round of the NCAA Tournament was filled with competitive games, but it didn't provide the usual upsets, buzzer-beaters or memorable moments that make the tournament special. While it may have felt like a bit of a letdown -- especially after last year-- it gave us reasons to be excited: The more favorites that advance, the better the rest of the tournament can be.
That starts with an appealing slate of 16 second-round matchups spread out over Saturday and Sunday. Here's a preview of all of them, ranking them by watchability/intrigue/matchup quality.
1. (2) Kentucky vs. (10) Wichita State
2:40 p.m., Sunday, CBS, South Region
Three years ago, Wichita State enjoyed a perfect regular season season. The selection committee appropriately rewarded the Shockers with a No. 1 seed … and then a second-round matchup with an underseeded, talented Kentucky team that was incredibly young and took a while to gel. It was an unfortunate draw for Wichita State, and while the result was a fantastic game, the Shockers were dealt their first and only loss of the season, sent home early. Kentucky went on to play in a strange No. 8 vs. No. 7 national title game and lose to UConn. Now, an underseeded Wichita State (a 10 seed) gets its chance for revenge, albeit with a new cast of players for both squads. Wichita State is a 10 seed but ranked fifth nationally in the KenPom ratings; Kentucky is a No. 2 seed ranked fourth in KenPom. It adds up to the most compelling of a strong weekend of second-round matchups.
2. (1) Kansas vs. (9) Michigan State
5:15 p.m., Sunday, CBS, Midwest Region
Michigan State had five losses entering last year's NCAA Tournament and was viewed as a national title contender. It lost in the first round to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee. Michigan State had 14 losses entering this year's NCAA Tournament and was viewed as a young, injury-marred afterthought. It erased an early deficit and crushed No. 8 seed Miami 78-58 in its best performance of the season on Friday, somehow advancing deeper into the tournament than last year's team. Was it a fluke or a sign of things to come? Before last year, Tom Izzo's teams always had a reputation for consistent play in March Madness, and now freshman star Miles Bridges will try to lead a big upset over the top-seeded Jayhawks, who couldn't have been thrilled to see how good the Spartans suddenly looked in the first round.
3. (1) Villanova vs. (8) Wisconsin
2:40 p.m., Saturday, CBS, East Region
Which Badgers team will take the floor? After a rough February that saw it tumble from a 21-3 record to a No. 8 seed, Wisconsin beat Virginia Tech by 10 on Thursday behind eight 3-pointers from Bronson Koenig. With Koenig, Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes leading the way, Wisconsin has plenty of potential. It's a veteran team that has played in a lot of big games, and it's also excellent defensively. If it's more consistently efficient on offense, it becomes a dangerously underseeded team. There is a big difference between the first and second round for the Badgers, though: Virginia Tech has KenPom's 148th-best defense. Villanova, the defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, has the No. 10 defense. And while Wisconsin has the eighth-best KenPom defense, it doesn't defend the perimeter as well, giving up a lot of points from beyond the arc. Villanova, as always, is built around perimeter players. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is capable of being a tough hurdle on the Wildcats' road to defending their title.
4. (2) Louisville vs. (7) Michigan
12:10 p.m., Sunday, CBS, Midwest Region
It's a rematch of the 2013 national final, when Louisville beat Michigan 82-76. Russ Smith and Trey Burke aren't here, but even with second-round stakes instead of the championship on the line, this is a compelling matchup. Perhaps no team has been hotter than Michigan, which has lost only twice since Feb. 4, won the Big Ten tournament and has a prolific offense led by guard Derrick Walton. That offense will be faced with another great defensive Rick Pitino team, led by guard Donovan Mitchell. After Michigan won a track meet against a defense-averse Oklahoma State in the first round, the flow of this game could be a lot different, and the Wolverines can't possibly expect to be as successful shooting from the outside as they were on Friday.
5. (2) Arizona vs. (7) Saint Mary's
7:45 p.m., Saturday, CBS, West Region
The Wildcats and Gaels can commiserate over what it's like to lose to Gonzaga, the team that could be waiting for the winner of this game down the road in the West's regional final. Arizona lost to Gonzaga by seven on Dec. 3, one of only four losses this season. Saint Mary's has lost only four times, too, and three of which were against Gonzaga, by 23, 10 and 18. The Gaels beat Nevada, Dayton and VCU and are 14th in the KenPom ratings -- six spots ahead of Arizona -- but they need a win over a powerful team like Arizona to appease skeptics. Make no mistake, they should not be taken lightly, with excellent shooting and a star center in Jock Landale. Two of Arizona's four losses came early in the year without Allonzo Trier, and the Wildcats have been clicking led by the combination of Trier and versatile 7-footer Lauri Markkanen.
6. (4) West Virginia vs. (5) Notre Dame
12:10 p.m., Saturday, CBS, West Region
No team in college basketball forces turnovers on a higher percentage of opponents' possessions than West Virginia. No team in college basketball turns the ball over fewer times on its possessions than Notre Dame. Whichever side gives in first in that specific matchup feels like it will get sent home from the tournament. These are contrasting styles, West Virginia the aggressive, pressing defense with mediocre shooting against an efficient Notre Dame offense with merely serviceable defense. Keep an eye on Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson, who dominates the glass and will match up with a West Virginia team that is among the nation's top offensive rebounders.
7. (4) Purdue vs. (5) Iowa State
9:40 p.m., Saturday, TBS, Midwest Region
Iowa State's starting lineup against Nevada featured one player taller than 6-foot-5: freshman Solomon Young, who is 6-foot-8. Purdue's starting lineup against Nevada featured three players taller than 6-foot-5: Ray Cline (6-6), Vincent Edwards (6-8) and All-American Caleb Swanigan (6-9). That is not including 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas, who plays significant minutes. Iowa State plays small ball, led by point guard Monte Morris. Purdue loves to go big, surrounding Swanigan and Haas with stellar outside shooting. Which star will better exploit the matchup advantage: Swanigan or Morris?
8. (3) UCLA vs. (6) Cincinnati
9:40 p.m., Sunday, TBS, West Region
One of many clashes of styles in this year's tournament so far. UCLA revolves around its explosive offense that scores 90 points per game at a frenetic pace. Cincinnati leans on a physical defense and plays at a slow tempo. It's a matter of which team can successfully impose its style on the other, and whether the Bearcats' veteran guards, led by Troy Caupain, can contain UCLA freshman phenom Lonzo Ball. The Bearcats have been underappreciated all season, and they did pull off a tight win in overtime against Iowa State in December.
9. (1) Gonzaga vs. (8) Northwestern
5:15 p.m., Saturday, CBS, West Region
Weirdly, one of the most memorable moments of a first round thin on upsets was an accidental intentional foul. Northwestern's game-winning points in its first-ever NCAA Tournament game came from Bryant McIntosh at the free-throw line, after he was fouled by Matthew Fisher-Davis, who lost track of the fact that Vanderbilt had just taken the lead. After the bizarre first-round magic, Northwestern takes its historic underdog story to the second round to face Gonzaga, the Cinderella-turned-national-power aiming for its first Final Four. Gonzaga didn't make its first tournament appearance until 1995, and yet it has squeezed in 19 more bids than Northwestern. The Zags are hoping their 19th consecutive appearance is their best yet, and their defense -- which bailed out poor offense in the first round and is ranked No. 1 by KenPom -- stands a good chance of shutting down Northwestern and its lackluster shooting.
10. (4) Butler vs. (12) Middle Tennessee
7:10 p.m., Saturday, TBS, South Region
Middle Tennessee is trying to be the new Butler. The Bulldogs are widely respected now, and with two wins over Villanova and a 24-8 record, they shouldn't be taken lightly in a South Region in which the conversation is dominated by North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA. But they were once the rising underdog, which is what Middle Tennessee is now: the lowest-seeded team left in the tourney, but a dangerous team that pulled off an upset of Minnesota that nobody thought was actually an upset. The Blue Raiders have three stars in Giddy Potts, JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw, and after getting crushed by Syracuse in the second round last year, they're much more of a Sweet 16 threat this time.
11. (3) Oregon vs. (11) Rhode Island
7:10 p.m., Sunday, TBS, Midwest Region
The Atlantic 10 tournament champion can't be called a Cinderella, but Rhode Island is nevertheless trying to write its own underdog story. On Feb. 15, the Rams lost to Fordham to drop to 16-9, barely clinging to the bubble radar. They haven't lost since then, winning nine straight games, capturing the A-10's automatic bid to the tournament and beating Creighton on Friday. It was Rhode Island's first tourney win since 1998. The Rams have put together an impressive run, led by stellar defense, but they're about to take on their strongest opponent in months, needing to find a way to slow down Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and the Ducks.
12. (2) Duke vs. (7) South Carolina
8:40 p.m., Sunday, TNT, East Region
There was a lot of anticipation for a Mike Krzyzewski- Steve Wojciechowski matchup in the second round. Alas, South Carolina scored 54 second-half points to beat Marquette by 20, meaning that No. 2 Duke has to play a strange second-round game that will be close to an away game, against the Gamecocks in Greenville, S.C. South Carolina's scoring surge against Marquette was uncharacteristic, but then again Marquette had one of the weakest defenses in the tournament. While Duke isn't brilliant defensively, it'll put up a much tougher fight against Sindarius Thornwell and the Gamecocks than the Golden Eagles did. After all, this is still a South Carolina team that ranks 307th in effective field goal percentage. It'll have to go back to leaning on its excellent defense to slow down Duke's offensive trio of Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum and Grayson Allen.
13. (4) Florida vs. (5) Virginia
8:40 p.m., Saturday, TNT, East Region
Virginia pulled off a comeback against UNC Wilmington after falling behind by double-digits early, but there are still big concerns about the Cavaliers' scoring ability in their system that moves at the slowest adjusted tempo in Division I. There haven't been enough options beyond London Perrantes, although Marial Shayok emerged to bail the Cavs out in the first round, scoring 23 points. Florida is still adjusting to life without center John Egbunu, who tore his ACL a month ago. His absence hurts the Gators' defense, but they still rank among the nation's best defensive teams. This might prove to be a close, down-to-the-wire game, but it's unlikely to be a particularly exciting brand of basketball.
14. (1) North Carolina vs. (8) Arkansas
6:10 p.m., Sunday, TNT, South Region
Arkansas has had a good season, but it's also been blown out twice by Kentucky, swept by Florida and blown out by Oklahoma State. It beat Vanderbilt and South Carolina, but it has not been able to stand toe-to-toe with the best teams on its schedule. Based on the KenPom ratings, North Carolina has seven wins better than Arkansas' best win against No. 28 South Carolina. The Tar Heels are deeper and more talented, and they should put on a clinic on offense and dominate the offensive glass. That's not to say Arkansas doesn't have a chance; it's just that the three other matchups involving No. 1 seeds have a lot more intrigue surrounding them.
15. (3) Baylor vs. (11) USC
7:45 p.m., Sunday, TruTV, East Region
SMU was a popular pick to get to the Sweet 16, but instead the Mustangs blew a second-half lead and lost to USC for the second time this season. After barely getting into the field in the First Four, USC is now a win away from the Sweet 16, needing to beat a Baylor team that overcame a slow start to beat New Mexico State 91-73. The Bears faltered late in Big 12 play, but they built an excellent resume based on a run of impressive nonconference wins. They'll try to recapture that magic against a Pac-12 foe in USC, which actually has the lowest KenPom ranking (55th) of the teams left in the field by a significant margin.
16. (3) Florida State vs. (11) Xavier
6:10 p.m., Saturday, TNT, West Region
Xavier took down an overseeded Maryland in the first round behind a huge second half from Trevon Bluiett, who has to be leaned on even more than usual after Edmond Sumner tore his ACL in late January. Three of the Musketeers' past five wins are still against lowly DePaul, with seven losses in that span, but when Bluiett gets hot, they can hang with anybody. Florida State is inconsistent and capable of being upset -- Florida Gulf Coast gave it a run -- but it is also among the biggest, most athletic and talented teams in the tournament, led by Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac.