The 2013 NCAA tournament has officially reached the stage in which legends are made. The Sweet 16 is upon us and all eight games present us with the potential for glorious achievements.
The Madness continues on Thursday, March 28.
Thursday will feature four games from the East and West regions. Both sides of the bracket present the potential for Cinderella's to discover success, as well as favorites to advance.
The East Region includes No. 1 Indiana versus No. 4 Syracuse and No. 2 Miami against No. 3 Marquette. The West Region presents us with No. 9 Wichita State facing No. 13 La Salle, as well as No. 2 Ohio State against No. 6 Arizona.
The question is simple—what should we expect?
No. 1 Indiana versus No. 4 Syracuse, East Region
No. 1 Indiana is a popular pick to go all the way and win the 2013 national championship. It's led by Naismith Award finalist Victor Oladipo, All-Big Ten selection Cody Zeller and Coach of the Year candidate Tom Crean.
The question is, can Indiana get by legendary coach Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange?
Syracuse has struggled in recent weeks, but it still boasts one of the most talented rosters in the nation. Not only does it have an elite backcourt with Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, but the team's depth is limitless.
The return of James Southerland is just one of the reasons Syracuse has bounced back from its struggles and reached the Sweet 16.
Indiana will be the favored team, but it's hardly guaranteed to win. The Orange are a veteran team with NCAA tournament experience.
If the paper rosters mean anything, this one will come right down to the wire.
No. 2 Miami (FL) versus No. 3 Marquette, East Region
The No. 2 Miami Hurricanes are an elite team that doesn't get the credit they're due. They won both the regular season and tournament ACC titles, building a No. 1 seed resume in the process.
Even still, they're commonly viewed as the weakest remaining No. 2 seed—lord only knows why.
The No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles are in the same boat, as their lack of a star player has their national respect at a minimum. The fact of the matter is, Marquette is one of the most consistent squads in the nation—It hasn't lost two consecutive games all season.
Miami is led by premier point guard Shane Larkin and defensive specialist Durand Scott. Marquette is fronted by clutch scorer Vander Blue, who has already hit two game-deciding baskets in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Miami is fronted by tournament legend Jim Larranaga of George Mason fame and Marquette is coached by the ever-animated Buzz Williams.
Unfortunately, this will not be a game that sees both squads at full strength. Miami will be without its second-leading rebounder.
Center Reggie Johnson had surgery on his meniscus and is aiming for a Final Four return—if Miami makes it.
No. 2 Ohio State versus No. 6 Arizona, West Region
No. 2 Ohio State entered the 2013 NCAA tournament with as much momentum as any team in the nation. It powered its way to the Big Ten Tournament title and earned a No. 2 seed behind its smothering defense.
At the forefront is point guard Aaron Craft, who hit the game-winning three-pointer in round 32.
As for Arizona, it has quietly made its third Sweet 16 appearance in the past five years. It's led by a balance of experienced players such as Solomon Hill and explosive youth such as Brandon Ashley.
The potential battle between the defensive-minded Craft and scoring-specialist Mark Lyons is certain to be one of the best of the tournament.
Furthermore, we have a battle of two of the nation's top head coaches with Thad Matta taking on Sean Miller. Both have experienced significant success at their current programs and both are masters at capitalizing on the opposition's mistakes.
The question is, which major program will make its second Elite Eight appearance in three years?
No. 9 Wichita State versus No. 13 La Salle, West Region
In the ultimate underdog Sweet 16 game, the No. 9 Wichita State Shockers will face the No. 13 La Salle Explorers. Both teams were expected to lose earlier than this stage of the tournament.
Wichita State knocked off No. 1 Gonzaga and La Salle was forced to win a play-in game to enter the field of 64.
Wichita State entered the tournament as an at-large selection out of the Missouri Valley Conference. It's led by Cleanthony Early, who provides the scoring punch, and Malcolm Armstead, who has become the team's lead facilitator.
La Salle was also an at-large bid as it came out of the Atlantic 10. It's led by scoring guard Ramon Galloway and clutch scorer Tyreek Duren.
No matter who steps up, one thing is certain—at least one Cinderella will be in the Elite Eight.