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Upset of Duke clears road for Michigan

Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (11) goes up for basket during second half second round NCAA college basketball tournament game against

Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (11) goes up for a basket during the second half of a second round NCAA college basketball tournament game against the Wofford Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

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Updated: April 23, 2014 6:19AM



A guide to NCAA tournament third-round action Saturday:

Michigan’s road

With Duke out of the tournament already — hadn’t you heard? — No. 2 seed Michigan becomes a real favorite to survive the stacked Midwest Regional.

There surely are more brackets out there with fourth-seeded Louisville advancing to the Final Four, but the Cardinals are in line to meet top-seeded Wichita State in the Sweet 16. If the Wolverines beat No. 7 seed Texas on Saturday, they’ll get Tennessee or Mercer in the Sweet 16. Huge difference.

The Longhorns, big and active at the rim offensively, will present a stern challenge. The Wolverines are in an enviable position, though — and smart enough not to take it for granted.

“Our kids were well aware of it going into [Thursday’s] Wofford game — that anybody can beat anybody,” coach John Beilein said.

Badgers’ turn to go down?

Wisconsin is a No. 2 seed and Oregon a No. 7, but their seasons have followed similar paths. When the Badgers were fumbling around midway through the season, losing five times in six games, the Ducks were searching for answers, too.

The deep, fast-paced Ducks were 15-8 overall and only 3-8 in Pac-12 play before a four-week stretch during which they went 8-0 and knocked off Arizona and UCLA. At its best, this team can hang with Wisconsin or anyone else.

“We have to face a team that gets it up and down,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “They can score in the halfcourt, they can score in the full court. They put a lot of pressure on you. And they’re very athletic.”

Other than that, the Ducks really stink.

Sparty party

After East No. 12 seed Harvard beat Cincinnati on Thursday, Cincy coach Mick Cronin called the Crimson one of the best teams he saw all season. High compliment, and undoubtedly sincere. Michigan State might be ready to make the Crimson look like an Ivy League team, though.

Harvard will do everything it can to keep the tempo under control. As much offense as the Spartans have been generating with their transition game, that’ll be very difficult to do. Gary Harris, Travis Trice and MSU’s other shooters all seem to be hot at the same time, too. The Spartans are awfully hard to guard right now. Harvard would have a better chance against any of the Big Ten’s other tourney teams.

Man vs. man

You’re going to want to find the Florida-Pittsburgh game, if for no other reason than the nonstop wrestling match that’s sure to take place in the paint between Gators senior Patric Young and Panthers senior Talib Zanna. Each man is a 6-9, chiseled Adonis — and plays like it.

“I know it’s going to be a battle up front,” Young said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity to go against someone like that.”

Pitt, the No. 9 seed in the South, is a legit threat to top seed Florida on the scoreboard, too. The Panthers were terrific during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and played as well as any team in the opening round of the NCAAs, absolutely mauling Colorado.

Shabazz Napier

Three years ago, Napier was a key reserve on the Kemba Walker-led Connecticut team that won the national championship. He’s a full-fledged star now and easily one of the best guards in the tournament.

Napier is only 6-1, 180, but that didn’t stop him from ripping down eight rebounds — to go with 24 points and six assists — in the Huskies’ tourney opener against St. Joseph’s. East No. 2 seed Villanova is Napier’s kind of opponent: up-tempo and soft defensively on the perimeter. Napier could go off for a huge game.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SLGreenberg



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