Ranking the Sweet 16 matchups
There are several intriguing matchups in the next two days -- which is the best?
While the West Regional is a mess and a No. 15 seed and No. 12 also reached the regional semifinals, the Sweet 16 is otherwise relatively chalky this year. At least three of the top four seeds in three of the regions advanced out of the first weekend, with the East Regional seeing all four of its top seeds move on.
Can Florida Gulf Coast or Oregon continue their surprising runs? And we know we’ll have either a 9 seed or 13 seed in the Elite Eight, but can either of them make it to Atlanta? It makes for some intriguing Sweet 16 match-ups on Thursday and Friday, but how do all the games stack up?
1. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (Friday, 9:45 p.m., CBS): Two of the best coaches and programs in college basketball battle it out a bit earlier than usual. Both teams looked terrific in their first-weekend wins, but it will be interesting to see which team wins the battle at point guard and inside. Quinn Cook and Keith Appling have to be consistent, and Adreian Payne or Derrick Nix has to keep Ryan Kelly in check on the perimeter.
2. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (Friday, 7:37 p.m., TBS): Heading into the tournament, many people didn’t even have Michigan in the Sweet 16 -- as the Wolverines had really struggled away from home to end the season. The Wolverines seem free and energetic now, and they have a shot to reach Atlanta. The key in this one will be Trey Burke against Kansas’ inconsistent point guards, and the ability of Mitch McGary to neutralize Jeff Withey on the interior.
3. No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers vs. No. 4 Syracuse Orange (Thursday, 9:45 p.m., CBS): No Keith Smart in this one, but it will still be a great game. Syracuse was dominant defensively in the first weekend, while Indiana needed to squeak by Temple Owls in the Round of 32 to advance. How will the Hoosiers deal with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone? Can they get Cody Zeller touches inside? On other side, Syracuse is going to have to keep Indiana out of transition and knock down shots.
4. No. 3 Florida Gators vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (Friday, 9:57 p.m., TBS): On paper, this would probably be ranked as the worst game of the Sweet 16. But who isn’t going to tune in to watch Florida Gulf Coast after the performance they put on last weekend? The Eagles have become absolute must-watch TV for hoops fans -- and human beings in general. With that said, Florida will be prepared for FGCU and won’t be caught by surprise.
5. No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (Thursday, 7:47 p.m., TBS): With the West seeing seeds 1, 3, 4 and 5 get bounced before the Sweet 16, these are the top two teams remaining in the region. The winner will certainly be the favorite to reach the Final Four. In this one, it will be interesting to see how Arizona deals with Deshaun Thomas , while the point guard matchup between Mark Lyons and Aaron Craft will also be a factor.
6. No. 2 Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes vs. No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles (Thursday, 7:15 p.m., CBS): By seed, this could be one of the better games of the weekend. Miami will be without big man Reggie Johnson , although he has generally struggled since returning from injury back in January. Julian Gamble will likely get most of the minutes, but he and Tonye Jekiri will have to battle Davante Gardner in the post. There is also a ton of perimeter talent, with Vander Blue and Shane Larkin playing well.
7. No. 1 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 12 Oregon Ducks (Friday, 7:15 p.m., CBS): Oregon really proved to the committee that a 12 seed was far too low on Selection Sunday, beating both Oklahoma State and Saint Louis by double-digits in the Round of 64 and Round of 32, respectively. How will the Ducks fare against Louisville, the tournament favorites? The key will be Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd against Louisville’s press; they need to handle it with poise.
8. No. 9 Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 13 La Salle Explorers (Thursday, 10:17 p.m., TBS): As far-fetched as it would have seemed heading into the tournament, one of these teams will be playing for the right to go to the Final Four. Both teams have their advantages in this one. Wichita State goes with Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early down low, while La Salle plays mostly a four-guard lineup that loves to attack. Will fatigue be a factor for La Salle, which played three games in five days?
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