MIDWEST

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T (TBS, 3:50 p.m.): North Carolina A&T's season is a success. The MEAC champion made the tournament and won a game (over Liberty in the First Four). Thursday evening, the Aggies will head home. This will be a wipeout from the start. Pick: Louisville.

No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Missouri (TBS, 6:20 p.m.): Two elite rebounding teams collide in a matchup that could be hard to play and even harder to watch. CSU coach Larry Eustachy is taking his fourth school to the NCAAs and will outmaneuver Mizzou's Frank Haith. Pick: Colorado State.

No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon (TNT, 1:40 p.m.): The Ducks should have significant crowd support -- there are approximately 25,000 Oregon alums in the Bay Area -- as they try to prove they're better than a No. 12 seed. The key to beating Oklahoma State is containing freshman guard Marcus Smart, the Big 12 Player of the Year. Pick: Oregon.

No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 13 New Mexico State (TNT, 11:10 a.m.): The Billikens are the champions of the Atlantic 10 and one of the best teams you haven't seen -- tough, unflappable and well-coached by Jim Crews, who took over for Rick Majerus last summer. It might take 25-30 minutes, but eventually they'll grind NMSU to a pulp. Pick: Saint Louis.


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No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 11 Saint Mary's (CBS, 11:45 a.m.): The Gaels will be tested physically: They flew cross-country Monday, played Tuesday, traveled Wednesday and now face a deep, athletic team. How much energy will they have in the final 10 minutes? If Matthew Dellavedova plays like he did in the First Four (22 points, six rebounds), SMC has a chance to advance. But he'll need help from Stephen Holt and Brad Waldow. Pick: Memphis.

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Valparaiso (CBS, 9:15 a.m.): It will take a monumental effort for Valpo to win what's essentially a road game in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Spartans aren't always smooth offensively, but they are big and tough and have one of the best tournament coaches in the land in Tom Izzo, who's aiming for his seventh Final Four. Pick: Michigan State.

WEST

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Southern (TBS, 1:10 p.m.): The original Cinderella enters the NCAAs as the hunted, with soaring expectations and accompanying pressure. Led by the dominant frontcourt duo of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, the Zags will have thousands of fans in Salt Lake City to provide moral support, and they have a cupcake opponent to devour. Pick: Gonzaga.

No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Wichita State (TBS, 10:40 a.m.): Points will be at a premium -- the leading scorer on either team, Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, averages only 13 points per game -- but this has the makings of a down-to-the-wire finish. Pittsburgh won four in a row before losing to Syracuse in its Big East tournament opener. Wichita State has dropped three of its last five. Pick: Pittsburgh.

No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Belmont (TNT, 4:20 p.m.): A popular upset pick, partly because Belmont is well coached by Bob McKillop, partly because pundits haven't been impressed with Arizona (for good reason). But the Wildcats will have thousands of fans in Salt Lake City and possess enough scoring options, starting with forward Solomon Hill, to survive a close game. Pick: Arizona.

No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 14 Harvard (TNT, 6:50 p.m.): The Ivy League champions beat Cal and nearly upset Saint Mary's -- they won't be overwhelmed by the NCAA stage. But New Mexico is big, balanced and plays stout defense. The Steve Alford-coached Lobos, who won the rugged Mountain West, just might be the best team in the region. Pick: New Mexico.

SOUTH

No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth vs. No. 12 Akron (CBS, 6:45 p.m.): VCU coach Shaka Smart knows how to navigate the NCAAs, but his Rams are no longer the lovable underdog -- like Gonzaga and Butler, they are playing with a target on their back. Akron, champion of the Mid-American Conference, has lost only twice since mid-December. Pick: VCU.

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota State (CBS, 4:15 p.m.): Terrific matchup of point guards -- arguably the best duel in the second round (any position) -- with Michigan's Trey Burke and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters. The Wolverines better not be looking past SDSU to a possible third-round duel with VCU, or they won't get that far. Pick: Michigan.

EAST

No. 5 UNLV vs. No. 12 Cal (truTV, 4:27 p.m.): The teams have met each of the past two seasons, with UNLV winning both, including a one-point escape in Berkeley in December. The Bears must hold their own up front against UNLV forward Anthony Bennett. They could also use a big game from guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. Will Cal rise to the moment in front of what should be a partisan crowd? Pick: UNLV.

No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Montana (truTV, 6:57 p.m.): There are no secrets with Syracuse: They're big, they're Big East-tested, and they will sit in a 2-3 zone and dare you to score from the perimeter. In Kareem Jamar and Will Cherry, Montana has the guards to keep it close, but the Grizzlies lack the frontcourt talent to finish the job. Pick: Syracuse.

No. 6 Butler vs No. 11 Bucknell (truTV, 9:20 a.m.): This shapes up as one of the best games of the second round: Butler vs. a Butler wanna-be. Both teams are superbly coached. The challenge for Butler will be stopping Bucknell big man Mike Muscala, who is good enough to carry the Bison to the Sweet 16. Pick: Butler.

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Davidson (truTV, 12:10 p.m.): Marquette is the most vulnerable No. 3 seed in the tournament, not because of its opponent so much as its own roster: The Golden Eagles overachieved during the season. In terms of talent, they're more like a No. 6 or 7 seed. Pick: Davidson.

For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.