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NCAA tournament to punch first Sweet 16 tickets

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The NCAA tournament second round was filled with madness on March 20 and 21. Seven double digit seeds won, while many more threatened favorites and three No. 1 seeds got scared. But this is often when the NCAA tournament begins to restore order, although the likes of the Pitt Panthers, North Dakota State Bison, Harvard Crimson and Dayton Flyers look to change that as the third round starts on March 22.

The No. 1 overall seeded Gators didn't start their NCAA tournament run on a high note, only beating the Albany Great Danes by 12 points on March 20. In contrast, the Panthers had the big blowout of the South region in throttling the Colorado Buffaloes. Pitt often got knocked off early as a top seed in years past, but now it looks to be on the other end against Florida.

If the Gators lose in the first game of the third round, it could set the tone for even bigger March Madness ahead. After a round of 64 with many upsets and near-upsets, time will tell if the tournament favorites can round back into form.

The Syracuse Orange are trying to round back into the form that got them a 25-0 start, with the 11'th seeded Dayton Flyers standing in the way. The now-healthy Michigan State Spartans seem to have become the dominant team they were expected to be, yet the Harvard Crimson are now out to derail them. Meanwhile, the defending champion Louisville Cardinals need a championship-level performance after surviving their near-upset to the Manhattan Jaspars.

By the time the day is over, half of the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 field will be set. Will the eight winners be mostly made up of favorites, or will the chaos reign for one more weekend? Even if most of the prospective Cinderella meet their end, all it takes is one to change the trajectory of March Madness -- which the Panthers, Crimson and even the Saint Louis Billikens can still do.

The accompanying list details the eight third round games being held today, including their projected starting times. Projecting the results stands to be much trickier, however.

Gators look to dominate again
Gators look to dominate again Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Gators look to dominate again

Pittsburgh vs Florida, 12:15 p.m. est: After Florida struggled to beat No. 16 seed Albany while Pittsburgh blew out Colorado, the Gators look to restore some order.

Cardinals, Smith aim for Sweet 16 return
Cardinals, Smith aim for Sweet 16 return Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Cardinals, Smith aim for Sweet 16 return

Saint Louis vs Louisville, 2:45 p.m. est: The Billikens and Cardinals should have both been upset in their first games, but they each survived and are out to take advantage of their second chance.

Wolverines take on Texas
Wolverines take on Texas Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Wolverines take on Texas

Texas vs Michigan, 5:15 p.m. est: Caris LeVert, Wolverines won low scoring contest in second round, while Longhorns won high scoring thriller over Sun Devils at the buzzer.

Bison go for second upset
Bison go for second upset Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Bison go for second upset

North Dakota State vs San Diego State, 6:10 p.m. est: The Bison go after their second straight upset, while the Aztecs look to recover from overtime scare against New Mexico State.

Orange coming back?
Orange coming back? Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Orange coming back?

Dayton vs Syracuse, 7:10 p.m. est: Struggling Orange got back on their feet in opening win, but will potential Cinderella Flyers finish off their late free fall?

Badgers try to cruise again
Badgers try to cruise again Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Badgers try to cruise again

Oregon vs Wisconsin, 7:45 p.m. est: Bo Ryan, Badgers got biggest blowout victory of second round, yet Ducks stand to put up a greater fight.

Payne to put on another show?
Payne to put on another show? Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Payne to put on another show?

Harvard vs Michigan State, 8:40 p.m. est: The Crimson pulled a second round upset for the second year in a row, but Adreian Payne and the Spartans are in the way of Harvard taking the next step.

Wildcats face familiar foe
Wildcats face familiar foe Elsa/Getty Images

Wildcats face familiar foe

Connecticut vs Villanova, 9:40 p.m. est: Jay Wright and the Wildcats take on former Big East rivals in the Huskies, who already knocked off local Villanova rival St. Joseph's.



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