NCAA Tournament Schedule 2013: Breaking Down Most Intriguing Sweet 16 Battles
Your bracket is undoubtedly ruined, but this is a time for March Gladness, not March Madness.
With just 16 teams remaining in the most thrilling tournament in the world, there are no more snoozers. Every matchup has two elite teams. Every matchup has all-star battles. Every matchup has NBA talent. Every matchup has potential to be an instant classic. Every matchup has intrigue.
This is no longer a time to be concerned about beating Sally from Accounting in your pool, but a time to be entertained with some truly scintillating basketball.
Let's take a look at the most enticing games on the slate.
Note: You can check out the full tournament schedule here, and you can find an entire bracket at the bottom of this page.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
In two NCAA tournament upsets, Florida Gulf Coast has poured in 159 points. Of those, 108 have come via two-point field goals.
For those unwilling to do the math, that means the Eagles powered in 54 spectacular dunks over the past week.
OK, so maybe all of their field goals from inside the arc haven't been of the slamma jamma variety, but it sure has felt like it. During a time in which college basketball has received nasty criticism for a slowed-down, physical style of play, "Dunk City" is a breath of fresh air, getting out in transition at every possible moment and throwing spectacular, rim-rattling lobs like they're playing on a Nerf hoop.
Simply put, FGCU is easily the most entertaining Cinderella—and quite possibly team—since the 1990 Loyola Marymount squad.
Not only does this Sweet 16 matchup pit Andy Enfield's squad against big brother Florida, but it will be fascinating to see how the fast, above-the-rim style works against Florida's overly-physical play.
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 4 Syracuse
Did anyone else kind of forget that Syracuse was in the tournament?
Maybe it's a result of playing two late games, but the Orange are quite possibly flying further under the radar than any of the other remaining 15 teams right now.
As such, most of the country has missed two masterful defensive performances.
Against Montana, a squad that ranks 27th in America in effective field-goal percentage, Jim Boeheim's squad allowed a minuscule 0.495 points per possession. That's the 16th-most stingy performance all season, and it came in a tournament that is basically playoffs on steroids.
Against Cal, the Orange only won by six, but had the game in hand the entire time and were so good defensively—0.857 points allowed per possession against one of the nation's best backcourts—they were able to survive a 12-minute field-goal drought in the second half.
Put it all together, and they have given up 94 tournament points over 137 possessions. That's 0.69 PPP allowed (by comparison, the nation's No. 1 team in that category, Stephen F. Austin, had a mark of 0.82 this season).
I'd say the zone's working.
And how do you beat a zone? You shoot over it, you crash the offensive glass and you score before the defense can set up.
Indiana struggled offensively against Temple, but the Hoosiers' strengths are perfect for this matchup. They have the shooters (third in the nation in three-point field-goal percentage), the rim attackers (Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Christian Watford) and the ability in transition to create an alluring contrast of styles.
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke
It's Izzo vs. Krzyzewski. What else do you need to know?
Most intriguing match of the Sweet 16?
Tom Izzo is 39-14 (.736) in the NCAA tournament with six Final Four appearances and one national championship.
Mike Kryzewski is 81-24 (.771) with 11 Final Four appearances and four national championships.
You will come for the No. 6 team in the country dueling with No. 9. You will come for a dazzling display of size, strength and athleticism in the middle between Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix and Mason Plumlee. You will come to see two of most talented, well-grounded true freshman in the country in Gary Harris and Rasheed Sulaimon. You will come for the galvanizing guard play.
But you're going to stay for a chess match of epic proportions between two Hall of Fame head coaches.
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