Breaking Down All of the Sweet 16 Matchups
The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament always promises the thrills and disappointments of great endings and upset wins.
Now we’ve reached the Sweet 16 where we’ll learn which teams stand above the others and if Cinderella can keep dancing.
There are 16 quality teams remaining in the tournament, however only eight can survive and advance.
No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 2 Miami
The Marquette vs. Miami matchup is an exciting one that is loaded with star talent. The Golden Eagles are led by guard Vander Blue and have shown plenty of resilience in the tournament, coming back from two halftime deficits.
Shane Larkin leads the Hurricanes attack that cruised in the first round and survived against Illinois to reach the Sweet 16. Miami will be without their starting center for this game, however. According to the AP, Reggie Johnson had surgery to fix a meniscus problem that will keep him out this weekend.
This is one of the more intriguing games because there’s no clear favorite. Miami would have a big advantage in the paint, but Johnson's injury hurts their plans. I still think the Hurricanes have too much firepower and will be able to outlast Marquette.
Prediction: Miami 68, Marquette 62
No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 1 Indiana
Two of the better programs in the history of college basketball will faceoff with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. Syracuse and Indiana are both very evenly matched teams that were ranked highly throughout the season.
Jim Boeheim leads the Orange as he tries to add another Final Four appearance to his Hall-of-Fame resume. His squad this year is stacked with quality playmakers like Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland. The Orange have looked decent so far, blowing out Montana and holding on to defeat Cal.
Indiana, for the better part of the year, was ranked first in the nation. The Hoosiers are led by big man Cody Zeller and explosive guard Victor Oladipo. Similar to Cuse, Indiana rolled in the first round and won a hard-fought battle with Temple.
This game will be one of best matchups we see all tourney long. With there being such a slight difference of skill between the two teams, I turn to another factor that could determine the outcome. Coaching is more important during this time of year than at any other point in the season. For this reason I think Boeheim and the Orange advance past Tom Crean’s Hoosiers in a thriller.
Prediction: Syracuse 72, Indiana 69
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 2 Ohio State
The Arizona vs. Ohio State regional semifinal involves the last two major conference teams remaining in the West region. After Gonzaga fell, Ohio State became the favorite to advance to the Final Four, but they still have some tough tests ahead of them.
Ohio State won easily in the opening round but found themselves in a clash with Iowa State that resulted in a three-point victory. Coach Thad Matta knows he’ll need a better output from both Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas if the Buckeyes want to move on again.
Arizona has surprised some people so far as they have strolled into the Sweet 16 with ease. They rely heavily on guard Mark Lyons, who has averaged 25 points per game in the tournament.
I don’t see either team running away with this game. Both squads are playing well at the right time of the season and a close game will be the result. Ohio State will advance based on having more playmakers that will step up in the clutch.
Prediction: Ohio State 80, Arizona 75
No. 13 La Salle vs. No. 9 Wichita State
La Salle vs. Wichita State is probably the most unlikely of any matchup this round. Both teams will look to continue their improbable runs and solidify themselves as one of this tournament’s Cinderella teams.
The La Salle Explorers are coming off two very impressive, two-point upsets in the opening rounds. After sending No. 4 seed Kansas State home, they returned the favor two days later to Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss. If not for Florida Gulf Coast, La Salle would likely be the top story in the tournament.
Wichita State ran away from Pitt in their first game, and then took down No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the Round of 32. The Shockers have played some great basketball of late, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
Again, this game will most likely come down to the wire because there isn’t much separating these teams. Wichita State will prevail as their previous opponents have them more prepared for this moment than La Salle.
Prediction: Wichita State 70, La Salle 64
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 1 Louisville
Louisville vs. Oregon could be the most lopsided game of the Sweet 16. Oregon has been on a winning streak since the Pac-12 tournament, but this could be where the magic ends.
The Ducks were unhappy on Selection Sunday when they received only a No. 12 seed from the committee, despite winning their conference tournament. They proceeded to show this anger on the court, taking out No. 5 seed Oklahoma State and No. 4 seed St. Louis.
Louisville might be the best team of the tournament through two games. The No. 1-overall seed hasn’t been tested yet, due in large part to the play of guard Russ Smith.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, I don’t see many ways in which they advance to the Elite 8. Louisville’s exceptional guard play with Smith and Peyton Siva as well as the inside presence of Gorgui Dieng will prove to be too much for Oregon to handle.
Prediction: Louisville 76, Oregon 62
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke
Another marquee matchup this round involves two very illustrious basketball schools in Michigan State and Duke. Both head coaches have been extremely successful throughout their careers and would love to continue that this year.
Tom Izzo leads the Spartans into the regional semifinals without much of a test from either opponent thus far. They’ve done a great job slowing games down to their pace, forcing teams to try to score against them in half-court sets.
Mike Krzyzewski has another Duke team in the Sweet 16, and they’ve looked good getting here. The Blue Devils haven’t blown out either opponent completely, but both games were comfortably out of reach down the stretch.
This game will most likely be a classic among two all-time great coaches. However, Tom Izzo is only 1-6 against coach K, and I see that trend continuing. Duke wins in a nail-biter.
Prediction: Duke 68, Michigan State 63
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 1 Kansas
Michigan and Kansas are two more storied programs set to play Friday night. In order for Kansas to get back to the National Championship, they must first take down Trey Burke and the Wolverines.
Kansas hasn’t looked dominant at all in their two victories, just edging out teams they were clearly better than.
On the other hand, Michigan has looked fantastic in the tournament. In the Round of 32 they dismantled Shaka Smart’s VCU squad thanks to the athleticism of Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
It won’t be an easy task, but Michigan will take one step closer to returning to the Final Four by beating the Jayhawks in a close affair.
Prediction: Michigan 82, Kansas 77
No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 3 Florida
The Florida Gulf Coast vs. Florida game could end up being the most watched game this weekend. America will be tuning in to see if this year’s Cinderella story can continue its unlikely run.
The Eagles have looked incredible so far, shocking No. 2 seed Georgetown in the opening round, then beating San Diego State by a double-digit margin too. As a team, FGCU looks extremely comfortable on this big stage and their confidence has only grown.
Florida has come off two quality wins as players like Mike Rosario have caught fire since the tournament began.
Some may think that Florida Gulf Coast will be overmatched in this game, but they’ve shown that means nothing. I think the Eagles ride the wave of momentum they’re on for at least another night as they upset Florida and make history.
Prediction: Florida Gulf Coast 62, Florida 61