Everyone loves the all-you-can-eat buffet of college basketball that the first week of March Madness presents. However, the second week of the NCAA tournament is when the premier matchups occur and the true championship contenders arise.
Below is a link to an updated bracket via Bleacher Report, as well as all your essential bracket links:
For fans planning to tune in to next weekend's action, here is all the relevant TV information you will need. All games can also be viewed on NCAA.com's March Madness Live stream.
|Dayton vs. Stanford||Thu., Mar. 27||7:15 p.m.||CBS|
|Baylor vs. Wisconsin||Thu., Mar. 27||7:47 p.m.||TBS|
|UCLA vs. Florida||Thu., Mar. 27||9:45 p.m.||CBS|
|San Diego State vs. Arizona||Thu., Mar. 27||10:17 p.m.||TBS|
|Tennessee vs. Michigan||Fri., Mar. 28||7:15 p.m.||CBS|
|UConn vs. Iowa State||Fri., Mar. 28||7:27 p.m.||TBS|
|Kentucky vs. Louisville||Fri., Mar. 28||9:45 p.m.||CBS|
|Michigan State vs. Virginia||Fri., Mar. 28||9:57 p.m.||TBS|
Though there are fewer games on the dock, the higher stakes arguably create even more drama. In examining the Sweet 16 slate, these contests stand out as particularly enticing matchups.
(4) Louisville vs. (8) Kentucky
The Battle for the Bluegrass is typically a regular-season affair, but Kentucky and Louisville have carried over their strong late-season form into the tournament. The matchup between the top-ranked preseason team and the defending champs stands out as the best of the round.
The Wildcats clipped the Cardinals, 73-66, in their regular-season meeting at Rupp Arena. After that contest, Louisville senior guard Russ Smith made a statement, per ESPN's Jeff Goodman, that may prove ominous for the fourth-seeded Cardinals:
Russ Smith quote to me after UK beat Louisville back in Dec. at Rupp. "Its not a good matchup for us." Teams will meet in Sweet 16 in Indy.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 23, 2014
In the regular-season victory, the Harrison twins scored a combined 28 points. Coincidentally, Aaron and Andrew are on a roll at the moment, as well, having combined for 39 points in the Wildcats' upset victory over Wichita State.
However, Kentucky's biggest advantage is actually in the frontcourt, where the Cardinals have been susceptible since the dismissal of Chane Behanan. If Julius Randle and Co. can force Montrezl Harrell into foul trouble, the Wildcats could have a huge edge in the post and on the glass.
The Cardinals need to continue their hot shooting, particularly from Luke Hancock, who has nailed several timely threes this tournament. In this matchup of contrasts, the team that dictates the game's style will also control its complexion.
(2) Michigan vs. (11) Tennessee
Tennessee barely snuck into the field, needing to defeat Iowa in the First Four just to reach the round of 64.
Forward Jarnell Stokes has been on an absolute tear this tournament and is coming off an eye-popping 17-point, 18-rebound performance against Mercer. Michigan's frontcourt depth has been thinned since Mitch McGary's season-ending back surgery, and the duo of Josh Morgan and Jon Horford will have their hands full:
Jarnell Stokes has put up a double-double in all three tournament games. Beast headed your way, Michigan.— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) March 24, 2014
However, the Wolverines also have a deep backcourt that should be able to spread teams out and fire at will from deep. Michigan has shot 21-of-45 from deep this tournament, and Player of the Year candidate Nik Stauskas is in a dangerous zone reminiscent of how Trey Burke powered the Wolverines to the championship game last year.
There is a significant difference in seeding, but make no mistake, Tennessee has an excellent shot of winning this game. For Michigan to reach their second consecutive Elite Eight, they cannot sleep on the under-seeded Vols.
(1) Virginia vs. (4) Michigan State
Though it seems a national consensus has put Michigan State as the East Region's favorite, the numbers suggest that top-seeded Virginia still holds the inside track to the Final Four:
Apart from a shaky first half against Coastal Carolina, Virginia's lockdown defense has been on full display. The Cavaliers suffocated eighth-seeded Memphis to 40.7 percent shooting from the field, including a paltry 23.1 percent from deep. With Joe Harris on a roll after a down regular season, the Cavaliers are more dangerous than their reputation suggests.
Of course, Michigan State possesses one of the nation's most multifaceted attacks. After center Adreian Payne led the Spartans over Delaware with a dominating 41-point performance, the wing tandem of Gary Harris and Branden Dawson combined for 44 points to stave off Harvard's upset bid.
Thus, the Spartans and Cavaliers represent each other's toughest challenge to date. Though there is a vast disparity in tournament success over the past 20 years, Friday's contest should be significantly tighter.