We have four teams already in the Elite Eight field for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. By the end of Friday we'll have all eight teams who are headed to the regional finals.
Thursday's scores and results set the regional finals in the South (Houston vs. Villanova) and West (Duke vs. Arkansas). The East Regionals and Midwest Regionals take center stage on Friday, a night that features a historic Cinderella story and the promise of at least one double-digit seed punching a ticket to the Elite Eight.
The night gets started with one of the tournament's biggest story's in Saint Peter's, just the third No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16. Each of the previous two No. 15 seed runs — Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 and Oral Roberts in 2021 — ended in the Sweet 16, but the Jersey City-based Peacocks are hoping the proximity to East Region action in Philadelphia might be a boost against a daunting Sweet 16 opponent in No. 3 seed Purdue (7:09 p.m. ET).
Also in the early slate will be No. 1 seed Kansas, the lone top seed in action on Friday, facing No. 4 seed Providence (7:29 p.m.). The Jayhawks' national title odds have improved after the No. 2 seed, No. 3 seed, No. 5 seed and No. 6 seed were all eliminated from the Midwest Region in the first two rounds. But any talk of cutting nets has to start with beating the Friars, the highest-ranked seed left in the region.
The night cap in the East Regional features two of the winningest programs in NCAA Tournament history with No. 4 seed UCLA facing No. 8 seed North Carolina (9:39 p.m. ET). The East, like the Midwest, has seen a ton of upheaval and a big part of that was the Tar Heels taking down the reigning champion No. 1 seed Baylor. Now the encore is another Final Four team from a year ago in UCLA, which is rolling with momentum after a dominant win against Saint Mary's. The other late night offering is No. 10 Miami and No. 11 Iowa State closing things down in the Midwest Regional (9:59 p.m. ET), with the winner joining the exclusive club of double-digit seeds to make it to the Elite Eight.
You can check out a full streaming schedule below. Now, let's dig into big storylines for the night.
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Blue blood showdown in the East Regional
Two of the top-three programs in total number of Sweet 16 appearances will take the floor against each other when No. 4 seed UCLA faces No. 8 seed North Carolina in the late game from Philadelphia in the East Regional. But for all the NCAA Tournament wins and Sweet 16 appearances between these two blue bloods they have only met in the tournament twice: UCLA beat North Carolina in the national championship game in 1968 -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor, had 34 points and 16 rebounds in the win -- and then the Tar Heels bounced the Bruins from the second round in 1989, a game that featured a five-minute appearance from then-future and now-current Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis. Overall, North Carolina is 10-3 in the series riding a streak of five straight wins.
The game itself shapes up to be a fascinating matchup between a UCLA team that expected to be here and a North Carolina team that has been playing its best basketball over the last month. The Bruins started the year at No. 2 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, and after some midseason injuries and a COVID pause disrupted the team's rhythm Mick Cronin's group course corrected and has won 10 of its last 12 games. UCLA's 16-point win in the second round against No. 5 seed Saint Mary's may have been one of the team's best performances of the month, though the result also included an injury for Jaime Jaquez that will be monitored closely leading up and during the game.
North Carolina also has played some of its best basketball recently with the exception of about a handful of minutes against No. 1 seed Baylor in the second round, as the Bears roared back from a 25-point second half deficit and forced overtime in what would be a narrow Tar Heels win. Getting out with a win in overtime not only punched a ticket to the Sweet 16 but validated the high level of play from North Carolina in its first 60 minutes of NCAA Tournament action.
Big 12 looks to take over in Chicago
There is a chance that Chicago looks like Kansas City and the travel advantage for Kansas and Iowa State will give the United Center a Big 12 Tournament feel on Friday night. Compare not just the travel but overall school size with their foes Providence and Miami, and it's a good bet Kansas and Iowa State will be well-represented in the arena for both of the Midwest Regional semifinals. If those fans all get their way we'll not only see a boost for the Big 12 teams but set up an All-Big 12 Elite Eight showdown for Sunday. But before we get to cooking up potential Elite Eight narratives, it's important to recognize the potential for both of these teams to get bounced by worthy opposition.
No. 1 seed Kansas is a notable Creighton -- suggest the game will be closer than the computers expect. Providence has been beating the oddsmakers and the computer models' expectations all season, and the team's success in close games could be a challenge for Kansas' hopes to advance to the Elite Eight.against No. 4 seed Providence, checking in with the third-biggest point spread of the eight Sweet 16 games, but the Friars' profile -- and the Jayhawks' performance against another Big East foe in
Unlike Kansas, No. 11 seed Iowa State finds itself as an underdog against No. 10 seed Miami after the Hurricanes went wire-to-wire knocking off No. 2 seed Auburn in the second round. The Cyclones have been excellent in non-conference play this year and rank as one of the best defensive teams in the tournament, but they could find it a challenge stopping Miami's playmaking guards and high-level offense. Auburn ranks in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency just like Iowa State does, and the Tigers did not have answers for Kameron McGusty, Charlie Moore and Isaiah Wong.
Can Saint Peter's make history?
One of the most intriguing questions of the entire Sweet 16 will be answered by the end of the early slate on Friday night, where either the Peacocks will join Dunk City and Oral Roberts as No. 15 seeds to bow out in the regional semifinals or make history as the first No. 15 to make it all the way to the Elite Eight. Shaheen Holloway has done a terrific job of getting Saint Peter's prepared for the challenge with gameplans that been successful, but up next is a massive challenge in stopping the offensive onslaught that is Purdue basketball.
The Boilermakers rank No. 2 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom and are led by a future lottery pick in 6-foot-4 sophomore Jaden Ivey. But Saint Peter's, a team that has bigs who check in around 6-7 and 6-8, may have just as much trouble with Purdue's 7-4 big man Zach Edey and the 6-10, 255-pound Trevion Williams who spells him off the bench. That one-two punch has overwhelmed teams with more size than Saint Peter's during the course of the year, and while the Peacocks overcame similar size and talent disadvantages in wins against Kentucky and Murray State there is a uniqueness to what Edey and Williams present down low.
Friday's Sweet 16 schedule
|7:09 p.m.||(15) Saint Peter's vs. (3) Purdue||CBS|
|7:29 p.m.||(4) Providence vs. (1) Kansas||TBS|
|9:39 p.m.||(8) North Carolina vs. (4) UCLA||CBS|
|9:59 p.m.||(11) Iowa St. vs. (10) Miami||TBS|