Sweet 16 2014: Predictions for Most Intriguing Matchups in Bracket

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Sweet 16 2014: Predictions for Most Intriguing Matchups in Bracket
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After three rounds of heart-pounding action at the 2014 NCAA tournament, we've arrived at the Sweet 16.

Not surprisingly, there are some seriously compelling matchups on the schedule when the action picks back up again on Thursday. Many of the top seeds survived the first couple of battles, but there are also a few Cinderella stories unfolding, thanks to a run of upsets. 

All Your Bracket Essentials

Here's a look at the most intriguing matchups of the Sweet 16. 

Kentucky (No. 8) vs. Louisville (No. 4)

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As pointed out by ESPN's SportsCenter, this matchup features one of the biggest rivalries in college basketball:

All season long, John Calipari's Wildcats struggled to maintain cohesion, leading to a disappointing 26-10 record. Talent hasn't been an issue, but the young stars Calipari assembled in his legendary recruiting haul failed to work together as a team too often to sustain success.

Calipari touched on this after his team knocked off Wichita State.

"It's so hard trying to figure out roles for guys when you got all these young guys here," Calipari said, via Yahoo! Sports' Pat

After two games in the tourney, it appears Kentucky has finally started growing up, and as such, nobody should be shocked if the Wildcats take down the defending champs. 

Louisville hasn't exactly been razor-sharp through two contests, scraping by with closer-than-expected wins over Manhattan and Saint Louis. 

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals haven't been able to count on Russ Smith's usually stellar scoring, as the senior guard has only been able to hit on six of his 19 attempts from the floor thus far. 

Meanwhile, Kentucky is fresh off its victory over the hottest team in the nation after knocking off previously unbeaten Wichita State. 

Louisville has the experience in this matchup, but Kentucky's talent will reign supreme. 

Prediction: Kentucky wins

Florida (No. 1) vs. UCLA (No. 4)

UCLA has been on fire since closing out the regular season with a whimper. 

Since losing three of their last five in the regular season, the Bruins have rattled off five straight postseason wins, including the shocker in the Pac-12 final against Arizona, which received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. 

This is a team that is equipped to take down the mighty Gators, if it can continue playing as it has since the streak began. 

It won't be easy, though. Florida has featured stifling defense thus far in the tourney, allowing just 128 points and holding both opponents to under 40 percent from the field. 

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If the Bruins are to have any chance against Florida, though, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, then the team "will have to be a little sharper than they were Sunday" against Stephen F. Austin.

Furthermore, as pointed out by OnlyGators.com on Twitter, Billy Donovan's teams have won all three tournament matchups in the past against UCLA and went through the Bruins both times they won the championship:

History isn't always a good indicator of what will happen in the future, but in this case, Florida's dominance over UCLA will remain intact.

Prediction: Florida wins

Dayton (No. 11) vs. Stanford (No. 10)

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One of these Cinderellas is going to advance into the Elite Eight. 

Dayton knocked off Ohio State and Syracuse in nail-biting fashion to reach the Sweet 16, while Stanford took down New Mexico and Kansas in similarly close contests. 

Poker player Jared Hamby wondered why Baylor and Wisconsin will be televised by TBS while this contest received a spot in CBS' schedule:

Which Cinderella will keep dancing?

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The simple truth is this: Everyone wants to see an underdog win the tournament (besides fans of top schools), and the game between Dayton and Stanford is simply more compelling to a broad audience. 

The two squads feature nearly identical seasonal stats in many of the major categories, and as such, it's impossible to predict a winner. That said, it's fun to try. 

Based on Stanford's balanced offense, the Cardinal get the nod. 

Prediction: Stanford wins 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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