Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

The 2023 NCAA Tournament is ready to crack back up Thursday night with action from the Sweet 16 getting underway. The field will be narrowed further as four regional semifinals highlight the evening, with winners advancing in the bracket to the Elite Eight. Thursday features games from the East Regional in New York City and the West Regional in Las Vegas -- the two regions where the No. 1 seed was eliminated in the opening weekend. 

Purdue, the No. 1 seed in the East, fell more famously to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the West, lost 72-71 to No. 8 seed Arkansas in the second round while playing without coach Bill Self, who was recovering from a medical procedure earlier this month. 

The bracket has really opened up for both of these regionals as a result, giving all four teams the belief they are capable of winning two games in three days to book a spot in the Final Four. The first weekend of this tournament is often a whirlwind of upsets and late-game heroics, but the second weekend is when we get dramatic moments that will be remembered for decades to come. 

Lets get into some of the storylines for Thursday's Sweet 16 action. 

A rematch two times over 

Thursday marks 17 years to the day that UCLA overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 3:26 to beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. The Bruins' 11-0 run to close the game put an end to the college career of First Team All-American and co-national player of the year Adam Morrison. The images of Morrison's tears and Gonzaga's turnovers as the lead slipped away are a lasting piece of the tournament's modern era history. 

But so, too, is Gonzaga's response in the 2021 Final Four, with Jalen Suggs serving up what Bill Raftery accurately described as major onions "with a kiss." 

Suggs' game-winner in overtime kept Gonzaga's perfect season alive for one more game and snapped UCLA's epic run as an No. 11 seed from the First Four in Dayton all the way to the Final Four. It's one of the greatest shots in tournament history and signaled another great chapter in this Gonzaga-UCLA rivalry. 

So Thursday night we get another edition of this modern rivalry (tip at 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS), with the No. 2 seed Bruins picked as narrow favorites over the No. 3 seed Bulldogs. The game features two of the best players left in the tournament, UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Gonzaga's Drew Timme, the latter of whom is one 20-point performance away from having the most in the NCAA Tournament history. 

Timme has averaged 23.0 points per game and shot 61% from the field across 11 tournament games. Coming off the back of his high-volume night against TCU, it's clear his production is a key to the team's success. Jaquez has been the engine of UCLA's offense, but he's also a part of a great team defense that's having to step up its level of play without its best defender, Jaylen Clark. Gonzaga's offense against UCLA's defense is strength on strength, and the disparity in pace makes this game ripe for big swings back and forth. It's a game worthy of being called a prize fight, which makes the Las Vegas setting all the more fitting.    

New York state of mind 

Madison Square Garden will be the setting for one of the best guard matchups of the entire round when Kansas State's Markquis Nowell leads the No. 3 seed Wildcats against Tyson Walker and No. 7 seed Michigan State (6:30 p.m. ET on TBS). Nowell has been one of the five best players in this entire tournament, totaling 44 points and 23 assists combined in the wins over No. 14 seed Montana State and No. 6 seed Kentucky. A New York City native who started his college career at Little Rock, Nowell plays the game with an immense amount of energy and bounce. If shots are falling, it's going to make for a terrific scene in MSG.  

But Tyson Walker has his own homecoming story to tell, as well as his own history with Nowell. Walker, like Nowell, developed as a player in the New York City hoops scene. They both played CHSAA ball in high school -- Nowell at Bishop Loughlin Memorial and Walker at Christ the King -- and Walker, like Nowell, started his college career at the mid-major level with a couple of years at Northeastern before transferring to Michigan State. The two vets are embracing the journey that's brought them all the way from growing up playing ball in NYC to playing on college basketball's biggest stage in MSG, and the homecoming narrative adds yet another layer of intrigue to one of the best matchups of the night.  

In the wake of the 1s  

One thing the West Regional semifinal between No. 4 seed UConn and No. 8 seed Arkansas (7:15 p.m. ET, CBS), and the East Regional semifinal between No. 4 seed Tennessee and No. 9 seed FAU (9 p.m. ET, TBS) share is the absence of the No. 1 seed in that top half of the Sweet 16 bracket. It's an advantage for UConn and Tennessee, and not a luxury that's afforded to No. 5 seeds San Diego State or Miami, both of which face top seeds in their respective regional semifinals. 

But taking advantage of this bracket opportunity may be more difficult than it appears on first glance. The first issue is that both Arkansas and FAU are tough outs for any team in this tournament. The Razorbacks have proven their high quality of form with a win against Kansas, and there's arguably another gear for Eric Musselman's squad that it has yet to hit. And while FAU may seem like a Cinderella type coming out of the single-bid Conference USA, the Owls have won 33 games this season and finished inside the final AP poll. The opportunity that Tennessee and UConn have to advance to the Elite Eight in the wake of the 1-seeds losing is also a benefit to these underdogs, who now are one win away from being deeper in the NCAA Tournament than most expected on Selection Sunday. 

Check out the full TV and streaming schedule for Thursday's Sweet 16 below. 

Sweet 16

Thursday, March 23

Time (ET)GameTV / Stream
6:30 p.m.(7) Michigan St. vs. (3) Kansas St.
Madison Square Garden -- New York   
TBS (watch live)
7:15 p.m.(8) Arkansas vs. (4) UConn  
T-Mobile Arena -- Las Vegas
CBS (watch live)  
9 p.m. (9) FAU vs. (4) Tennessee  
Madison Square Garden -- New York   
TBS (watch live)
9:45 p.m.(3) Gonzaga vs. (2) UCLA  
T-Mobile Arena -- Las Vegas   
CBS (watch live