For the past week, March Madness has been in full throttle as the road to the Sweet 16 has been as competitive as ever with some unpredictable endings.
Some of the traditional heavyweights of the NCAA tournament have made an early exit. The perfect record of one seed Wichita State (35-0) was shattered in a loss to Kentucky, who started five freshman to defeat the Shockers by two.
There is an 11 seed, two 10 seeds, and an eight seed still remaining, providing some interesting matchups.
UCLA and Florida will face off for the third time in the tournament in the last eight years. Billy Donovan has been the coach for the Gators for all three games, and has successfully knocked the Bruins out all three times. Led by 6’9’’ point guard, Kyle Anderson, the Bruins look to flip the script on the top-ranked Gators, and seek some tournament revenge.
The other game in the South section will 11 seed Dayton and 10 seed Stanford. Dayton has proven they are for real, after knocking out two powerhouse teams in Ohio State and Syracuse. Stanford is responsible for the exit of Kansas, and look to use their inside size and strength to overpower Dayton.
As for the East, Virginia versus Michigan State might be the most highly anticipated game in the round. With a roster that is finally healthy, Michigan State has become a hot pick to go all the way. Virginia’s defense looks to shut down Tom Izzo’s offense.
Iowa State and Connecticut will also play in New York, representing the last two spots in the East. Iowa State suffered a big loss after key scorer Georges Niang was injured in their first tournament game. Without him, they still managed to put up 85 points against a solid UNC defense, that was capped off by DeAndre Kane’s game-winner. Kane will need to replicate another stellar performance, and the Cyclones need to find a way to stop UConn’s Shabazz Napier.
Top-seeded Arizona will take on San Diego State in a game showcasing two of the elite defenses in the nation. SDSU held their opponent to only 44 points in the last round, while U of A forced 21 turnovers in their victory over Gonzaga.
Baylor versus Wisconsin will showcase two of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation. Baylor is coming off a 30-point win over Creighton University. Wisconsin is coming off a win over Oregon. This will be a high scoring game and will ultimately come down to which backcourt has a better night of shooting.
Defending national champions Louisville and coach Rick Pitino are looking to make a second straight appearance to the big dance. Standing in their way are John Calipari’s freshman-filled Kentucky Wildcats. Rick Pitino has never lost in the Sweet 16. However, the Wildcats have already beaten the Cardinals once this year.
The last of the eight games consists of the 11 seed Tennessee Volunteers taking on the two seed Michigan Wolverines. The Vols have looked impressive, as they blew out both UMass and Mercer. They will face their toughest task yet in Michigan, led by Nik Stauskas, who is coming off a 17-point outing in the 79-65 win over the Texas Longhorns.
Four games will be played Thursday and the other four on Friday. With every game packed with hostile crowds, players leaving it all on the floor, and national championship contention on the line, expect the “Madness” to continue this week in the Sweet 16.