Best is yet to come for March Madness
Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (11) goes to the basket against Wofford during the first half of a second round NCAA college basketball tournament game Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Is it a case of March Mildness?
The best is yet to come in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, after an opening week which featured plenty of good games but fell short of the Cinderella upsets and buzzer-beaters we’ve come to expect with the first two rounds.
But never fear: the potential with this Sweet 16 for entertaining games and down-to-the-wire insanity is strong.
Herewith, the regions (all times PT):
No. 7 South Carolina vs No. 3 Baylor Friday 4:29 p.m. TSN/TBS
South Carolina ousted Duke in front of a home crowd, thanks to North Carolina’s bathroom law, and is playing its best ball of the year.
Baylor will show up in its highlighter fluorescent green uniforms – which is the closest any of their “student-athletes” will ever come to an actual highlighter.
This should be a great matchup, with maybe a tiny edge to Baylor.
No. 8 Wisconsin vs No. 4 Florida Friday 6:59 p.m. TSN/TBS
Under-seeded Wisconsin has tons of experience in seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, who have been here before, plus rising sophomore Ethan Happ.
Florida’s offence is not very good, with struggling leading scorer KeVaughn Allen 3-for-21 in the tourney. The Gators D is terrific, however.
Expect a close, low-scoring game.
No. 4 West Virginia vs No. 1 Gonzaga Thursday 4:39 p.m. TSN/TBS
Of the West region’s coaches, only the Mountaineers’ Bob Huggins has made a Final Four.
West Virginia’s full-court pressure defence should make this a tough, close one, with Gonzaga’s big, well-rounded and deep roster providing a slight edge.
No. 11 Xavier vs No. 2 Arizona Thursday 7:09 p.m. TSN/TBS
Arizona coach Sean Miller faces his former school, Xavier, who are in tough here against the Wildcats.
Arizona was the Pac-12 tourney champs after dispatching fellow Sweet Sixteen-ers UCLA and Oregon.
No. 7 Michigan vs No. 3 Oregon Thursday 4:09 p.m. CBS
This one’s a real tossup.
Can Michigan’s magic run continue against Mississauga, Ontario’s Dillon Brooks and his talented Duck teammates?
The Wolverines Derrick Walton Jr. is playing as well as any point guard in the tourney, and UM had the fewest turnovers in the NCAA (9.2 per game).
Oregon will miss the inside presence of Montreal’s Chris Boucher (torn ACL) against Michigan’s emerging forwards.
No. 4 Purdue vs No. 1 Kansas Thursday 6:39 p.m. CBS
A star-studded matchup in Kansas City, with Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and Kansas’s Frank Mason and Josh Jackson.
Classic contrast in styles as the blue-collar Boilermakers grind it out with workmanlike play against the flashy Jayhawks.
Edge to Kansas, but don’t sleep on the Big 10 regular season champs.
No. 4 Butler vs No. 1 North Carolina Friday 4:09 p.m. CBS
Relatively untested Butler (opening week wins over #s 13 and 12) takes on a Tar Heels squad motivated by 2016’s last-second national title game loss (to Villanova).
No. 3 UCLA vs No. 2 Kentucky Friday 6:39 p.m. CBS
John Calipari returns to Memphis in the marquee matchup of the Sweet 16.
UCLA beat then #1 Kentucky on December 3 in Lexington 97-92 in one of the games of the year so far.
The Wildcats 3-headed freshman monster of De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo will try to put the brakes on Bruins super-frosh Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, plus sharpshooter Bryce Alford.
Don’t miss this one.