Syracuse (28-5) vs. Dayton (24-10)
Time, TV: 7:10 p.m. (TBS)
Why Syracuse will win: The return of a fully healthy Jerami Grant has given the Orange the look of a legit national championship contender once more. Trevor Cooney regained his shooting touch (four 3-pointers) in the round-of-64 rout of Western Michigan. Coach Jim Boeheim is 53-29 (.646) all-time in the NCAA tournament, fourth-highest win total for any coach.
Why Dayton will win: The Flyers got hot at the right time, winning 11 of its past 13, including Top 50 RPI teams in Massachusetts and George Washington and ranked teams in Saint Louis and Ohio State. The Flyers have not allowed an opponent to score 70 or more points in 10 of their past 14.
Florida (33-2) vs. Pittsburgh (26-9)
Time, TV: 12:15 p.m. (CBS)
Why Florida will win: The defense, which allows just 57.9 points per game, tends to get better when the competition level goes up and there’s no chance the Gators will be caught by surprise after Pitt’s 29-point victory over Colorado in the round of 64. In a close game, Scottie Wilbekin’s knack for hitting big shots will make the difference.
Why Pitt will win: The Panthers were nearly perfect against Colorado with their help and rotations, forcing 17 turnovers and allowing very few clean looks at the basket. That spells trouble for a Florida team that can go through dry spells, commits turnovers on nearly 18 percent of its possessions and shoots just 66.4 percent from the foul line.
Villanova (29-4) vs. Connecticut (27-8)
Time, TV: 9:40 p.m. (TBS)
Why Villanova will win: 70 is the magic number. The Wildcats are 25-1 when scoring at least that much. Villanova shoots well from the outside (nine 3-pointers a game).
Why Connecticut will win: Shabazz Napier is an all-everything guard who can take over a game. UConn hit 18 of 20 against Saint Joseph’s, including 15 of 16 in OT.
Michigan State (27-8) vs. Harvard (27-4)
Time, TV: 8:40 p.m. (TNT)
Why Michigan State will win: Adreian Payne exploded for 41 points on only 15 shots (4 of 5 from 3-point range). At 6-foot-10, 245 pounds, Payne showed off ability that could lift the Spartans to another level.
Why Harvard will win: Tommy Amaker has recruited athletic, quick players. Harvard defended very well, especially on the interior against Cincinnati’s bigger lineup. Michigan State is a bigger, better challenge, but the Crimson is unlikely to be intimidated.
Michigan (26-8) vs. Texas (24-10)
Time, TV: 5:15 p.m. (CBS)
Why Texas will win: Six players scored in double figures in the 87-85 buzzer-beating thriller over the Sun Devils. They can dump it inside to Cameron Ridley, Thursday night’s hero. Javan Felix can knock down the three-pointer. Isaiah Taylor can drive or dish.
Why Michigan will win: Tournament tested. The Wolverines ran all the way to the national title game last year before bowing to Louisville.
Louisville (30-5) vs. Saint Louis (27-6)
Time, TV: 2:45 p.m. (CBS)
Why Louisville will win: When you look at the teams that have beaten or given Louisville problems this season (North Carolina, Kentucky, Memphis and even Manhattan), they are all teams willing and able to get up and down the court with the Cardinals and use tempo against them. Saint Louis is not one of those teams.
Why Saint Louis will win: If there’s one thing they don’t lack, it’s belief they can play against anyone. They also will present an intriguing matchup in center Rob Loe, who can shoot the three and draw Louisville big man Montrezl Harrell out to the perimeter, making it easier to score around the rim.
Wisconsin (27-7) vs. Oregon (24-9)
Time, TV: 8:15 p.m. (CBS)
Why Oregon will win: Elgin Cook’s career-high 23 points in Thursday’s second-round victory highlighted what the Pac-12 knows all too well: Oregon has one of the best benches in the country.
Why Wisconsin will win: Not only does Wisconsin have its most well-rounded team in recent memory, it might have its most mature.
San Diego State (30-4) Vs. North Dakota State (26-6)
Time, TV: 6:10 p.m. (TNT)
Why San Diego State will win: Xavier Thames, the Mountain West player of the year, scored 23 points against New Mexico State, including five in overtime. Dwayne Polee, the MWC’s sixth man of the year, added 15 points and six rebounds (five points in overtime).
Why North Dakota State will win: The Bison are riding the momentum from an 80-75 overtime win against No. 5 seed Oklahoma. North Dakota State was in control for most of the game before a late, frenzied Oklahoma run. It wasn’t a flukish victory. North Dakota State won despite an off night from star senior Taylor Braun. If he returns to form, there’s no reason the Bison won’t pull off another upset.