The excitement of the opening rounds of action has given way to the drama and intrigue of the Sweet 16. Four wins now stand in the way of a national title for one of the 16 squads remaining in the Big Dance.
Fourth-round action tips off Thursday night with four big showdowns in the East and West Regions.
The Midwest and South Region Sweet 16 tilts will take place on Friday night with a marquee matchup between two legendary tournament coaches sure to steal the spotlight.
We’ll break down the three best Sweet 16 games to watch, including where and when to catch those contests. The full NCAA tournament schedule can be found at SportsMediaWatch.com.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Michigan State
Friday, March 29, at 9:45 p.m. ET on CBS
Parity won’t be hard to find in the matchup between No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Michigan State on Friday. The two squads are led by a couple of the best coaches in tournament history and paced on the court by some terrific big men and quality perimeter scorers.
Bovada.lv lists Duke as a two-point favorite in this Sweet 16 bout, and a one- or two-point finish won’t be a surprise. If you’re hoping to pick a winner in this contest, then flipping a coin might be your best option.
Senior forward Mason Plumlee will be the player to watch when Duke takes the floor. He was impressive in the Blue Devils’ wins over Albany and Creighton in the last two rounds, and the presence of senior forward Ryan Kelly will aid in Plumlee’s solid work in the paint.
Kelly has the ability to step outside and make shots from anywhere on the floor. A 45.9 percent three-point shooter this season, his consistent outside stroke will spread the floor and allow Plumlee to work with mismatches under the hoop.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
Friday, March 29, at 9:57 p.m. ET on TBS
‘Dunk City” has stolen the show through the first three rounds of the tournament, but the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast may have to part with their tournament hopes, following a Sweet 16 showdown with Florida on Thursday.
Gators coach Billy Donovan owns a 30-10 record in the Big Dance, and his tournament squad this season is as strong as ever. The Gators have the ability to flourish in both the half and full court, and while the Eagles run the floor as well as any team still in the tournament, they will have a hard time countering a bigger and more physical Florida squad.
Everyone’s favorite Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast is a living highlight reel with an up-tempo game and plenty of high-flying action.
Unfortunately, the Eagles are also 12.5-point underdogs.
Expect Florida to run away with this game in the second half, but don’t count on it being an unexciting affair.
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 4 Syracuse
Thursday, March 28, at 9:45 p.m. ET on CBS
Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone has garnered a lot of discussion leading up to Thursday’s contest. Indiana boasts the No. 2 offense in the nation, and finding a way to shut down sophomore Cody Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo will be key.
While Zeller has played well through the Hoosiers’ first two games, he may struggle to produce in the paint in this contest. For Indiana to put up points, it will have to generate excellent ball movement and rely on Oladipo and freshman point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell to full up the bucket from behind the arc.
Syracuse can certainly score points, but Indiana’s defensive prowess matches its offensive firepower. Holding opponents to just 62.1 points per game on the season and 57 points per tilt in the tournament, Indiana has the recipe for shutting down the Orange’s best scorers.
After edging out Temple in a close third-round contest, the Hoosiers should come out firing in this game. Syracuse will keep it close for most of the contest, but expect the Hoosiers to pull away in the second half en route to an Elite Eight appearance against either Marquette or Miami.
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