If your 2014 NCAA tournament bracket is still alive, you are either a genius or a liar. The Sweet 16 features a host of usual suspects and a handful of schools looking to make their name against powerhouses.
This is the kind of mix that makes March the wonderfully mad time it is. Having teams like Duke and Kansas lose in the first weekend is good for college basketball, compounded by the fact that excellent teams like San Diego State, Iowa State and Tennessee can take their rightful turn in the spotlight.
With such a wide array of teams composing the Sweet 16, here are updated predictions and a look at the schedule starting Thursday.
All Your Bracket Essentials
Sweet 16 Schedule
|Date||Regional Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Prediction|
|Thu, March 27||South - No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Stanford|
|Thu, March 27||West - No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Wisconsin|
|Thu, March 27||South - No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida|
|Thu, March 27||West - No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona|
|Fri, March 28||Midwest - No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Tennessee|
|Fri, March 28||East - No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Connecticut|
|Fri, March 28||Midwest - No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Kentucky|
|Fri, March 28||East - No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan State|
Predictions for Notable Games
Midwest Region: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee
Forget seeds in the NCAA tournament, especially at this point, because matchups determine winners.
For Michigan, an excellent shooting team that most analysts had making it to the Sweet 16, playing a team like Tennessee is the worst thing that could happen. All you have to do is look at the Wolverines' last game against Texas for proof of that.
Even though the Wolverines defeated the Longhorns, Rick Barnes' group put on a rebounding clinic because Michigan didn't have the bodies inside to match up with them. Texas out-rebounded Michigan 41-30, including 21 offensive rebounds.
Michigan still won by 14 because the Longhorns are such a young group with 10 underclassmen on the roster.
Tennessee has the bodies inside to do what Texas did, but the difference is the Volunteers have eight upperclassmen who won't be intimidated by this stage. John Beilein basically said as much in an appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike (via Daniel Lewis, Nooga.com):
Michigan coach John Beilein on playing UT (via Mike & Mike show): 'It's a tough matchup...they'll probably win the rebounding battle'— Daniel Lewis (@DanielNooga) March 24, 2014
The Wolverines will never be out of a game because they can shoot with anyone, as evidenced by the 14 three-pointers made against Texas, but that lack of an inside presence is going to catch up to them eventually.
That day will come Friday.
Prediction: Tennessee 73, Michigan 68
Midwest Region: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky
If there's one definitive thing to say about the NCAA tournament, it's the best team doesn't always win. The team that plays the best when the games start is going to walk away with a championship.
No team was getting more attention when the regular season ended than Louisville. Rick Pitino's group was expecting to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed after steamrolling through the American Athletic Conference tournament and winning 29 games.
Even as a No. 4 seed, FiveThirtyEight.com gave the Cardinals the second-best percentage odds to win the national championship (17 percent, tied with Arizona).
But after a sluggish win against Manhattan in the second round and an ugly battle against Saint Louis in the third round, Louisville has some cracks in its armor.
Meanwhile, Kentucky is hitting its stride at the right time. The Wildcats shut down Kansas State in the second round with a stifling defensive effort, limiting the "other" Wildcats to 35.8 percent shooting and out-rebounding them 40-28.
Kentucky's best game of the year came against Wichita State in the round of 32. The Wildcats showed more moxie in that game than they had all year, battling back from a six-point halftime deficit and making crucial free throws down the stretch.
If you have followed John Calipari's career, you know his teams often struggle at the free-throw line in big moments.
There is also the play of the Harrison brothers, Andrew and Aaron, who combined for 39 points on 12-for-22 shooting.
Kentucky is starting to jell as a unit, instead of trying to play as five separate-but-talented pieces. It's made this team the most dangerous in college basketball.
Prediction: Kentucky 68, Louisville 63
Note: All stats courtesy of SportsReference.com unless otherwise noted.
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