First, we saw the field.
Then, we made our picks.
After that, I listed the five must-watch games for the Round of 64.
Now it's time to do a little hoping and wishing. Each year this beautiful gridded arrangement offers up some tantalizing possible matchups in the Round of 32, Sweet 16 and beyond. So here are five games I would love to see -- pre-Final Four edition. It goes without saying that getting a Creighton-Wichita State Final Four (old Missouri Valley foes) or Kansas-Wichita State (for obvious reasons) title game would be amazing.
I'm also not including Kentucky-Louisville in the Sweet 16 because, as nice as that would be, we did just see that in the Final Four in 2012. It would be great to see again, don't get me wrong, but I wanted to include five matchups that haven't happened in the past five years in the NCAA Tournament.
But let's look at the next two weekends' worth of possibilities. In order:
1. West Region -- Arizona vs. Creighton in the Elite Eight: I mean, how could you not want this one? This would be an Elite Eight game that would pit the No. 1 team in defensive efficiency (Arizona) against the No. 1 team in offensive efficiency. Both clubs have at times looked elite this season, Arizona for much longer stretches. The Wildcats have the better athletes, a solid point guard and a coach destined to make multiple Final Four trips.
Creighton has the Player of the Year in Doug McDermott and a team full of guys who know how to shoot, spread the ball around and kill you with spacing. This is the Elite Eight game I want more than any other.
2. Midwest Region -- Wichita State vs. Kentucky in the Round of 32: It would be a battle between the two most polarizing programs in the country. Yes, Wichita State has oddly earned that title this season. Kentucky has it forever, just ahead of Duke. You have a lot of people that would love to see Kentucky lose to Kansas State, but if you're in that group, why not wait and see if WSU can out the Wildcats instead? Wouldn't that be more enjoyable?
And if you're a Kentucky fan, how badly do you want to take out the Shockers right now? There's no question that game would be more hyped than any other in the Round of 32. Must-see, for certain. But first UK has to get past K-State (Wichita State will romp its No. 16 seed).
3. South Region -- Florida vs. VCU in the Sweet 16: Here's a matchup that would be really funny. Remember, Shaka Smart was once an assistant under Billy Donovan. (Side note: If Donovan opted to leave for the NBA in the next few years, would Shaka take the Florida job if asked? I say yes.) As for the game, hey, the Gators are strong, but could they handle Havoc? It would be a great defensive battle. And VCU has become a top-10 team in terms of watchability.
Could VCU be the team that exploits UF's lack of an alpha dog? The Gators are so well-rounded and solid, but there is no player that's a clear go-to in a big moment. The Rams could bring this matter to the surface.
4. West Region: Arizona vs. Oklahoma State in the Round of 32: Yeah, another Arizona game. That West Region is better than most realize. We have two games involving No. 1 seeds in the Round of 32 here, which normally isn't the case. The 8/9s are usually compelling but seldom seen as a threat to impede the top seed's Sweet 16 chances. That's not the case with 50 percent of the field here. (Maybe even three out of four, if you happen to think Memphis is a dark horse.) Oklahoma State has been inconsistent but unquestionably has top-20 talent.
Marcus Smart will be the best player on the court in this game, and that's not a flop joke. It should be noted that Arizona has gone 9-4 since Brandon Ashley's injury. It has been good but absolutely beatable. OSU is dangerous at its peak. This would only take a back seat to WSU-UK in terms of pregame anticipation.
5. East Region -- Saint Joseph's vs. Villanova in the Round of 32: A Big Five game in the NCAA Tournament? That's rare. And rivalry games with the NCAAs as a backdrop are also not common and really treasured whenever they happen. We're just two wins away from that being a reality, though. The selection committee has teased us with this by placing both these teams in the East. Villanova getting past Milwaukee shouldn't be too tough. It's the Hawks' game against UConn that could cause a problem. The good news is: Villanova could face UConn in a meeting of old Big East rivals, and that's not so bad either.
Five more that would be terrific: Kentucky-Louisville in the Sweet 16; Michigan-Duke in the Sweet 16; Florida-Kansas in the Elite Eight; Kansas-Syracuse in the Sweet 16; Michigan State-North Carolina in the Elite Eight.