The 2014 NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 contains a great mix of elite teams and big surprises, which promises to lead to a fantastic slate of games on Thursday and Friday.
As entertaining as the first few rounds of the tourney were, the Sweet 16 should be even better due to the fact that every team involved is playing some of its best basketball of the season.
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The level of play will be ratcheted up to a completely different level with an Elite Eight berth on the line, and college basketball fans everywhere will ultimately reap the benefits. Here is a look at the full Sweet 16 television schedule, along with further analysis regarding the games you simply can't miss.
|No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford||Thursday, March 27||7:15 p.m.||CBS|
|No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 2 Wisconsin||Thursday, March 27||7:47 p.m.||TBS|
|No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 1 Florida||Thursday, March 27||9:45 p.m.||CBS|
|No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Arizona||Thursday, March 27||10:17 p.m.||TBS|
|No. 11 Tennessee vs. No. 2 Michigan||Friday, March 28||7:15 p.m.||CBS|
|No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Iowa State||Friday, March 28||7:27 p.m.||TBS|
|No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Louisville||Friday, March 28||9:45 p.m.||CBS|
|No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Virginia||Friday, March 28||9:57 p.m.||TBS|
Top Sweet 16 Games to Watch
Kentucky vs. Louisville
As the two most recent national champions, it should come as no surprise that Kentucky and Louisville are receiving a ton of hype entering the Sweet 16. The fact that these in-state rivals happen to be facing each other makes things even more interesting. In fact, this may be the marquee matchup of the entire tournament based on how well both teams have been playing as of late.
The Wildcats are in top form as they handed Wichita State its first loss of the season in the round of 32. The Cardinals were ultimately able to outclass Saint Louis, and they remain one of the top picks to win the national title after doing so last year. Unfortunately for Louisville, however, Kentucky has had its number in recent years, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Since John Calipari took over at Kentucky in '09-10 season, he's faced Rick Pitino's Louisville team 6 times and won 5 of those games— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 24, 2014
That record includes a 73-66 Kentucky win over Louisville back on Dec. 28, so the Wildcats have every reason in the world to be supremely confident that they can reach the Elite Eight. The ultimate difference, though, could be experience when push comes to shove.
As talented as Kentucky is, the likes of Julius Randle and the Harrison twins have never taken part in such a huge game. Conversely, Louisville stars such as Russ Smith and Luke Hancock have been through all the battle after going the distance last year. This game should be a great one, but Louisville will escape victorious in the end.
Virginia vs. Michigan State
Contrasting styles often make for some of the most entertaining games in college basketball, so the Sweet 16 showdown between Virginia and Michigan State should be a treat. The Cavaliers are one of the best defensive teams in college basketball, while the Spartans have an abundance of offensive firepower at their disposal.
Virginia's defensive dominance was on full display in the round of 32 against Memphis, as the Cavs didn't allow the Tigers' fast-paced offense to get into any sort of rhythm. Michigan State had its hands full with a game Harvard squad, so the Spartans should be ready for a fight in the Sweet 16.
This game could potentially be the most physical of the entire tournament, and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated is hopeful that it isn't decided by the officials:
Virginia vs. Michigan State in MSG is going to be fun. Please don't assign some whistle happy officials, NCAA. Let the boys battle— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) March 24, 2014
Despite being a No. 1 seed as well as the ACC regular season and tournament champion, Virginia hasn't gotten much respect. Michigan State, on the other hand, has been tabbed as a top title contender due to its recent form.
There is no question that Virginia is for real, but with Tom Izzo at the helm and the likes of Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Gary Harris providing a great deal of scoring depth, Michigan State should prevail.
Dayton vs. Stanford
Few prognosticators even considered it as a possibility when the tournament started, but Dayton and Stanford will meet in the Sweet 16 for a chance to be among the final eight teams remaining with a shot at a national title. Both teams figure to have plenty of belief as the game approaches after knocking off some behemoths in the opening rounds.
The Flyers took down a pair of powerhouses in the form of Ohio State and Syracuse, while the Cardinal upended a top mid-major in New Mexico along with title contender Kansas. Dayton and Stanford have captivated college basketball fans over the past week, but only one Cinderella run can continue.
Which Sweet 16 game are you most excited about?
Dayton is certainly a talented team, but grit and determination have carried the Flyers through this tournament thus far. Nobody is more aware of Dayton's mettle than Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins, according to Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News.
"I'm impressed with them," Dawkins said. "They definitely have a toughness about them. They're very scrappy. Those kids make up for length with their activity and their effort."
Stanford has displayed some scrappiness in its own right by pushing through offensive droughts and still beating a pair of fantastic teams in this tournament. In what could be the tightest game of the entire Sweet 16, Stanford will survive due largely to guard Chasson Randle's ability to create shots and offensive opportunities for himself.
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