Ranking the Sweet 16 matchups

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There was no Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16 this season, but it certainly hasn’t been chalky. There are three double-digit seeds in the regional semifinals, while only two regions have at least three of their top four seeds. We will also end up with at least one double-digit seed in the Elite Eight.

Can Tennessee continue its surprising run? Can either Dayton or Stanford make it to Dallas? Moreover, there are some serious showdowns on Thursday and Friday. How do the Sweet 16 matchups stack up?

1. No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky (Friday, 9:45 p.m., CBS): Easily the most anticipated regional semifinal. The biggest rivalry in college basketball, Rick Pitino vs. John Calipari – not to mention the last two national champions. Both teams are different than they were in December, and the Harrisons’ ability to handle the Louisville pressure will be huge.

2. No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State (Friday, 9:57 p.m., TBS): Two of the best teams left in the field. Michigan State was one of the favorites to cut down the nets heading into tournament, despite being a No. 4 seed, while Virginia’s defense gives them a chance against anyone. The key will be the Cavaliers’ ability to slow down Adreian Payne; can they match up with him?

3. No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor (Thursday, 7:47 p.m., TBS): Baylor’s zone completely neutralized Doug McDermott and Creighton last weekend, and it will have to do the same against Wisconsin. The Badgers have to knock down open shots, and spreading the court with five shooters helps. Can Wisconsin keep Baylor off the offensive glass, though?

4. No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA (Thursday, 9:45 p.m., CBS): One of the defenses in the country against one of the most explosive offenses. UCLA is the toughest offense Florida has seen in a long time, and the Bruins’ ability to score at four or five positions makes them difficult. Can they get out and run against Florida’s physical unit? The Gators will look to push UCLA around on the inside.

5. No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut (Friday, 7:27 p.m., TBS): The best individual matchup of the Sweet 16 will take place at Madison Square Garden, where Shabazz Napier will battle DeAndre Kane in the backcourt. Both players put their respective teams on their back in the Round of 32. One thing to watch will be Connecticut’s pseudo-homecourt advantage.

6. No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee (Friday, 7:15 p.m., CBS): Clash of styles and personnel. Michigan wants to spread the floor with shot-makers, while Tennessee wants to crash the glass and get physical in the lane. Nik Stauskas vs. Jordan McRae will be intriguing, but Jordan Morgan’s ability to battle Jarnell Stokes down low will also be a key matchup for the Wolverines.

7. No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State (Thursday, 10:17 p.m., TBS): Another rematch of a non-conference battle. Both teams have plenty of size and athleticism in the frontcourt, and both teams are terrific on the defensive end. Can San Diego State make shots again, though? Xavier Thames put the Aztecs on his back in the Round of 32; he might not find the same freedom against Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell.

8. No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton (Thursday, 7:15 p.m., CBS): One of these teams will be in the Elite Eight. Dayton utilizes its depth and ability to spread the floor with face-up players to create matchup difficulties, while Stanford has plenty of size in its frontcourt. Dayton will have to keep Chasson Randle out of the lane, while Stanford has to guard the perimeter. 

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