MIDWEST

No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincinnati (CBS, 11:45 a.m.): Creighton won the Missouri Valley Conference and features forward Doug McDermott (23.1 points, 7.5 rebounds), one of the nation's best all-around players. But he'll need help against a tenacious Cincinnati defense. Too close to call, but since we have to . . . Pick: Cincinnati.

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Albany (CBS, 9:15 a.m.): Duke usually struggles in March -- it has advanced past the Sweet 16 only once in the past eight years -- but Albany doesn't have the talent to send the Blue Devils packing. Starting with the third round, Coach K is on upset alert. Pick: Duke.

WEST

No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Mississippi (truTV, 9:40 a.m.): Ole Miss is fresh off a surprising run through the SEC tournament, but the Rebels drew the wrong opponent: Nobody kills momentum like Wisconsin, arguably the most methodical team in the tournament. It won't be pretty, but it will be decisive. Pick: Wisconsin.

No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 13 La Salle (truTV, 9:15 a.m.): Look for La Salle to be the sharper team early, thanks to its get-the-kinks-out experience in the First Four. But Kansas State, which tied Kansas for the Big 12 regular-season title, should rally in the second half behind guard Rodney McGruder. Pick: Kansas State.

No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Iowa State (CBS, 6:45 p.m.): Has the makings of a highly entertaining duel. Both teams are offensive-minded, especially Iowa State. The Cyclones, who beat Oklahoma State and Kansas State and took Kansas to overtime twice, are coached by former player Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg. Pick: Iowa State.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Iona (CBS, 4:15 p.m.): Ohio State enters the NCAAs as one of the hottest teams in the field, having won the Big Ten tournament and climbed to a No. 2 seed. Iona finished fourth in the MAAC but earned the automatic bid -- and will bow out of March Madness quickly and quietly. Pick: Ohio State.

SOUTH

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky (TNT, 6:50 p.m.): Kansas, the 2012 runner-up, begins its quest for a fourth NCAA title with a cupcake from the Sun Belt. The Jayhawks would be best served by taking care of business early and resting up for what could be a difficult third-round game against North Carolina or Villanova. Pick: Kansas.

No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova (TNT, 4:15 p.m.): One of the marquee second-round matchups. North Carolina's switch to small ball helped fuel a late-season charge. (At one point, the Tar Heels were considered a bubble team.) Forward James Michael McAdoo leads UNC in scoring (14.4 points), but the key to surviving the first week is freshman point guard Marcus Paige. Pick: North Carolina.

No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota (truTV, 6:57 p.m.): The Bruins take the floor without wing Jordan Adams, their No. 2 scorer who's out for the tournament because of a broken foot. Minnesota will pose matchup problems with its frontcourt. All eyes will be on UCLA coach Ben Howland, whose job is on the line. A loss here would likely result in his termination. Pick: UCLA.

No. 3 Florida vs. No. 14 Northwestern State (truTV, 4:27 p.m.): Florida is a popular Final Four pick for those who don't like Kansas in the South. But the Gators, for all their talent and experience, won't go very far unless they learn how to win close games. That process won't start here, however. The Gators should roll. Pick: Florida.

No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 10 Oklahoma (TBS, 6:20 p.m.): SDSU won 11 of its first 12, then struggled in the ultra-competitive Mountain West. The Aztecs are facing an old foe -- Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger spent many years at UNLV -- but have an elite playmaker in wing Jamaal Franklin, who will be the difference against the Sooners. Pick: San Diego State.

No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (TBS, 3:50 p.m.): No. 2 seeds don't lose in the round of 64 often. But if it's going to happen this year, Georgetown is the most likely to fall. The Hoyas tend to underachieve in the NCAAs, and they're facing an opponent that's better than the name on the front of its uniform suggests. Florida Gulf Coast beat Miami earlier this season. Pick: Georgetown.

EAST

No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 16 James Madison (TBS, 1:10 p.m.): The Hoosiers lost in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, which only means they will be that much fresher for a run to the Final Four. Indiana is the most polished offensive team in the field with center Cody Zeller, wing Victor Oladipo and a slew of shooters. Trouble might surface along the way, but it won't be in the second round. Pick: Indiana.

No. 8 North Carolina State vs. No. 9 Temple (TBS, 10:40 a.m.): Way back in November, N.C. State was a top-10 team and considered a Final Four contender. Then the Wolf Pack lost seven games in the ACC and dropped down the seed ladder. But they have more than enough talent, starting with forward C.J. Leslie, to make a deep run. Pick: N.C. State.

No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 10 Colorado (TNT, 1:40 p.m.): Looking for a lower seed to advance? Colorado is your team. The Buffaloes have tournament experience, a playmaking guard in Spencer Dinwiddie, a sound defensive plan and a first-class coach in Tad Boyle. Illinois' up-tempo attack will hit a pothole or two. Pick: Colorado.

No. 2 Miami vs. No. 15 Pacific (TNT, 11:10 a.m.): The beginning of the end for Pacific coach Bob Thomason, who will retire at the conclusion of the season. Will that be Friday, Sunday or sometime next week? The Tigers won't be intimidated by the stage or the opponent. But they must contain Miami guard Shane Larkin in order to extend Thomason's career. Pick: Pacific.

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.