The first weekend of the NCAA tournament is all about the pageantry of the event, Cinderellas, upsets, busted brackets and buzzer beaters, but from the Sweet 16 onward, it becomes about nothing more than basketball.
While the allure of the Big Dance has worn off by the second week for much of the country, those willing to stick around are treated to some unbelievably enticing matchups.
The amount of glaring, exploitable weaknesses within teams is significantly less, the talent across the court is undeniably more impressive and the battles are far more even.
As such, the individual matchups aren't exactly terrible, either.
Let's take a look at the best potential ones looming in the Sweet 16.
Note: You can find a link to a complete bracket at the bottom of this page.
Victor Oladipo vs. Michael Carter-Williams
Syracuse has already done its part, breezing through Montana and California. As long as Indiana gets past Temple in the round of 32, we'll be treated to this future NBA standoff.
Michael Carter-Williams is one of the most unique players in America, blending size, explosiveness, playmaking ability and terrible decision-making all into one exciting package. The 6'6" point guard is nearly impossible to stay in front of and has arguably the best vision and most flare while distributing the ball in the country.
Unfortunately, he combines his dynamic 7.6 assists and 2.7 steals with oftentimes silly 3.5 turnovers per game. He's a sneaky candidate for the classic points-assists-turnovers triple-double every time he steps onto the court.
How do you shut down one the biggest feast-or-famine players in America?
Put a freak athlete and tenacious perimeter defender on him, of course.
Oladipo, a legitimate contender for national player of the year, is an unbelievable specimen to behold. He is one of the most active, athletic and intelligent defenders in the country, and could give Carter-Williams' length some issues that few others are capable of.
Adreian Payne/Derrick Nix vs. Mason Plumlee
In Michigan State's first two tourney games, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix have combined for 57 points, 37 rebounds, five blocks and eight steals.
Payne adds some athleticism and NBA outside ability to his 6'10", 240-pound frame, while Nix, an absolute load at 6'9", 270, has provided gaudy production in the past two games.
Together, they give Tom Izzo one of the most imposing, physical front lines in America.
The stereotype is that Duke—who still must knock off a talented Creighton team—is soft on the inside, and while part of that may be true simply because power forward Ryan Kelly is more of an outside threat, I wouldn't say that to Mason Plumlee.
The senior is 6'10", 235 pounds, can bang down low (10.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game) and has unbelievable athleticism for a player his size.
MSU may still have the advantage in a truly physical battle, but Plumlee will make things enticing in the middle.
Jamaal Franklin vs. Will Yuguete
San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin does things like this:
He also averages 16.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.5 steals and does just about everything on the court to lead the Aztecs. There are few players more crucial to their team's success than this potential first-round pick.
Florida has a heap of defensive-minded players capable of matching up with Franklin, but Will Yuguete is the most intriguing.
The 6'7", 240-pound Frenchman has lost a bit of explosiveness since having knee surgery in February, but he is still a strong, athletic wing willing to do all of the little things to help the Gators win. He averages just 5.3 points per game, but he rebounds (5.9 per contest) and plays physical, hard-nosed defense.
These two may not get matched up for the majority of the game, as Yuguete comes off the bench, but this is an underrated matchup to look for.
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