Now that 48 teams are officially finished with their seasons, just 16 remain to claim college basketball's ultimate prize of a national championship.
This season's Sweet 16 includes several historically great teams like Kentucky, UCLA and Arizona, but it also has several darlings in the running like No. 11 seeds Dayton and Tennessee. With the excitement of the opening weekend finally coming to a close, the stage is set for a sensational second weekend.
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Fans clamoring for action to start back up will have to wait for another few days, but the buildup to the teams taking the court again has already started.
With matchups like Louisville and Kentucky taking place along with three No. 1 seeds in Virginia, Florida and Arizona still in the field, there is plenty of intrigue for fans all over the country. Before the Sweet 16 officially gets underway, here's a look at the best storylines and matchups during the second weekend.
|Region||Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream||Pick|
|South||Thurs., March 27||No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford||7:15 p.m.||CBS||NCAA.com||Dayton|
|South||Thurs., March 27||No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor||7:47 p.m.||TBS||NCAA.com||Wisconsin|
|West||Thurs., March 27||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA||9:45 p.m.||CBS||NCAA.com||Florida|
|West||Thurs., March 27||No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Arizona||10:17 p.m.||TBS||NCAA.com||Arizona|
|East||Fri., March 28||No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee||7:15 p.m.||CBS||NCAA.com||Michigan|
|East||Fri., March 28||No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Iowa State||7:27 p.m.||TBS||NCAA.com||Connecticut|
|Midwest||Fri., March 28||No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky||9:45 p.m.||CBS||NCAA.com||Kentucky|
|Midwest||Fri., March 28||No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Virginia||9:57 p.m.||TBS||NCAA.com||Virginia|
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State
A high-scoring offense versus the best defense in the country. That's what fans will get when Virginia and Michigan State match up during the Sweet 16.
It has taken Tony Bennett a few years, but he's finally got the talent and experience on his team to run the style of play that he's shown flashes of with both Washington State and the Cavaliers. While the defense is No. 1 in points allowed (55.5 per game), the offense has been explosive during the tournament, as NCAA March Madness points out:
Bennett has experience against both Tom Izzo and the Spartans. After serving as an assistant coach for Wisconsin from 1999 to 2003, the former point guard has knowledge of the offense he'll be facing.
With the best all-around player on the team in Gary Harris and the smooth play of Keith Appling, stopping Michigan State might seem like an easy task. But with the way Adreian Payne has been playing as of late, it's tough to see Virginia limiting the star power that Sparty brings to the table, per the NCAA account:
In the 1st half Saint Louis and Louisville combined for 41 points. Adreian Payne scored 41 points by himself against Delaware. #MarchMadness— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 22, 2014
By no means are the Hoos a fluke No. 1 team that's undeserving of the honor, but the Spartans are clearly firing on all cylinders during the tournament. If Michigan State can hold down the Cavs offensively, Izzo will once again have a shot at a Final Four with one more game to get there.
Prediction: Michigan State 58, Virginia 52
No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford
Cinderella vs. Cinderella. Both of America's darlings now have to face off after pulling off monumental upsets over a couple of tournament favorites in Kansas and Syracuse.
How huge is the run by Dayton? So big that Archie Miller has already been locked into a long-term deal, according to ESPN, and even President Barack Obama congratulated the underdog Flyers, per The White House's official Twitter account:
Congrats to the @DaytonFlyers on a huge upset win! Devin Oliver, I may need to take you up on that pick-up game one of these days. -bo— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 23, 2014
Ironically enough, the matchup between Miller and Johnny Dawkins actually goes back to their days playing on Tobacco Road. While Miller got his start as a guard and assistant coach with N.C. State, Dawkins followed the same path with Duke under Mike Krzyzewski.
Shawn Ley of Local 4 in Detroit also shares another reason why these two coaches have ran into each other recently:
As for Stanford, the Cardinal went from relative unknown as a No. 10 seed—Kansas players didn't even know who Chasson Randle was the day before the game—to one of just 16 finalists with a shot to win it all.
Thanks to sharp shooting from Randle and good defensive play against Andrew Wiggins, who scored just four points during the matchup, the Cardinal now look like a complete team under Dawkins.
But the glass slipper can only fit for one double-digit seed. With Dayton already having to make its way through two teams in Ohio State and Syracuse, it's difficult to imagine the road ending so close to home against a nearly equal opponent.
Prediction: Dayton 62, Stanford 57
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky
Talk about the storylines. These two fanbases hate each other on a regular basis, much less having to face each other for a chance to advance in the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky won the NCAA tournament in 2012. Louisville then took the title last season. Oh, then there's the fact that Rick Pitino won a national championship with the Wildcats in 1996 before doing so with the Cardinals.
Needless to say, there's plenty of reason to watch even if you don't have a vested interest in either team. As for the way the game might go, Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report and the producer of "Red V. Blue" gives his thoughts on the two teams:
Right now, I'm leaning Kentucky. However, the notion of Russ Smith & Luke Hancock in a do-or-die situation...they'll pull out some miracles.— Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe) March 24, 2014
Rick Pitino is 11-0 in the Sweet Sixteen round. Think about that.— Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe) March 24, 2014
It won't take much for either team to go on a run and pull away thanks to their dynamic offensive players, but the Cards' ability to limit teams offensively will put them over the top.
With Louisville playing much better defensive basketball since losing earlier in the season to the Wildcats, expect Pitino to once again trump John Calipari and fight for a chance at a second straight Final Four.
Prediction: Louisville 81, Kentucky 77
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter. He goes hard in the paint.