The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament always brings excitement, and this year was nothing short of that. The NCAA tournament has already set the stage for what is shaping up to be another fantastic March. Here is a look at the Sweet Sixteen, which tips off Thursday, March 27.
11 Dayton vs. 10 Stanford Thursday 7:10 pm: The two “Cinderella’s” of the tournament so far, will matchup in the Sweet Sixteen. Dayton is coming off of two close wins over Ohio State and Syracuse. Dayton was originally a questionable pick to even make the tournament, but have proved doubters wrong with two huge wins. Stanford provided the upset of the tournament so far with a win over National Championship hopeful Kansas. It’ll be interesting to see which one of these “Cinderella’s” will be marching on to the Elite Eight.
6 Baylor vs. 2 Wisconsin Thursday 7:47 pm: Baylor was able to upend Doug McDermott and the Creighton Blue Jays on their way to the Sweet Sixteen, while the Badgers came back from a twelve point deficit at halftime to defeat the Oregon Ducks. It will be interesting to see how the length and athleticism of the Bears is handled by Wisconsin. It should be an interesting matchup of contrasting styles.
4 UCLA vs. 1 Florida Thursday 9:45 pm: Florida is the overall one seed for the tournament, while UCLA has rolled in their first two matchups. Florida has all the components of a championship team, a proven coach, senior leadership, strong backcourt, and a dominant big man. UCLA will have to rely on point guard Kyle Anderson. Anderson does everything for UCLA, and will need to take his play to another level in order to beat Florida.
4 San Diego State vs. 1 Arizona Thursday 10:17 pm: Arizona was rolling before it lost Brandon Ashley to a season ending knee injury. With the absence of Ashley, the Wildcats have had to rely on freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to carry his load. Behind Xavier Thames, the Aztecs escaped New Mexico State and rolled past North Dakota State en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Both of these clubs are elite defensively so this game could prove to be a good old fashioned heavyweight fight in the West. The Wildcats have already defeated the Aztec’s this season, but that was before the loss of Ashley.
11 Tennessee vs. 2 Michigan Friday 7:15 pm: Tennessee had to play in the play-in game just to get into the field of sixty-four, and after handling Iowa, the Volunteer’s set their sight on UMass and, potential Cinderella, Mercer. Tennessee blew both teams out and are riding high heading into their matchup with the Wolverines. The Wolverines were the regular season Big Ten Champions, even after losing player of the year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway to the NBA Draft. Both of these teams can score at will, but the matchup of the game will be the one happening in the paint. Jarnell Stokes and Jordan Morgan have been beasts so far this tournament, and who ever should win that matchup should win the game.
7 UConn vs. 3 Iowa State Friday 7:27 pm: Behind the terrific Shabazz Napier, the Huskies were able to put the city of Philadelphia in shambles after defeating both St. Joseph’s and Villanova. Iowa State narrowly got past North Carolina on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. Playing without forward Georges Niang, the Cyclones have relied more on Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane. Will the magic of Napier continue, or will the offensive minded Cyclones be too much for the Huskies to handle?
8 Kentucky vs. 4 Louisville Friday 9:45 pm: One of the top rivalries in college basketball will be on display in this Sweet Sixteen matchup. The Wildcats were able to defeat the unbeaten Wichita State Shockers to advance to this matchup. The Wildcats already defeated Louisville this year, but that was inside the vaunted Rupp Arena in Lexington. Coming off of a national championship run last season, the Cardinals survived a major scare from Manhattan before dominating St. Louis. Are the inexperienced but supremely talented Wildcats figuring it out at the right time? Or was that a fluke game against the Shockers? Louisville will be another test in their maturation process.
4 Michigan State vs. 1 Virginia Friday 9:57 pm: Even though they are a four seed, Michigan State was a popular pick to win the National Championship. Standing in their way will be the extremely disciplined and defensive minded Cavaliers of Virginia. The Cavaliers were put on upset alert against the sixteenth seeded Coastal Carolina, but were able to defeat them and destroy Memphis to advance to this matchup. The Spartans are finally healthy and are really hitting their stride at the right time. It should be an awesome game in Madison Square Garden in New York City.