The 2014 NCAA tournament just concluded an incredibly exciting first weekend of play, with the initial 68-team field being reduced to just 16 battle-hardened squads.
This Sweet 16 promises to be one of the best in recent years. There are a handful of intriguing Cinderella teams that navigated through the opening rounds to remain in the mix, as well as plenty of powerhouse programs that were expected to make it here.
Let’s take a look at all the Sweet 16 matchups, plus highlight where you can watch the action, note the latest odds on every game, predict some winners for each and more.
|Date||Regional Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds||Predicted Winner|
|Thu, March 27||(11) Dayton vs. (10) Stanford||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Stanford -3||Stanford|
|Thu, March 27||(6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Wisconsin -3||Baylor|
|Thu, March 27||(4) UCLA vs. (1) Florida||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida -4||Florida|
|Thu, March 27||(4) San Diego State vs. (1) Arizona||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona -6.5||Arizona|
|Fri, March 28||(11) Tennessee vs. (2) Michigan||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Michigan -2||Tennessee|
|Fri, March 28||(7) Connecticut vs. (3) Iowa State||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Iowa State -1||Iowa State|
|Fri, March 28||(8) Kentucky vs. (4) Louisville||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Louisville -5||Louisville|
|Fri, March 28||(4) Michigan State vs. (1) Virginia||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan State -1.5||Michigan State|
ESPN and ScoresAndOdds
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Best Sweet 16 Bet: Baylor over Wisconsin
The Baylor Bears are one of the darlings of this tournament, but it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this team is playing as well as it has.
Baylor shocked the world with a 30-point upset of Creighton on Sunday, but many should have seen it coming. The Bears might not have had an impressive start to their season, going just 2-8 during the first 10 games conference play, but their turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable.
This team has won 12 of its last 14 games and managed to run all the way through to the Big 12 championship against Iowa State, an impressive feat considering the sheer amount of talent in the conference.
Credit the roster that head coach Scott Drew has assembled, which includes plenty of experienced seniors mixed with prolific young scorers.
Cory Jefferson is one of the major catalysts for the success of this program, as the senior forward leads Baylor in scoring and rebounding. He’s an incredible player on both ends of the court and will undoubtedly need to have a great day to help his team advance further in the Big Dance.
Center Isaiah Austin is also a big part of this dominant frontcourt, using his 7’1” frame to amass over three blocks per game, and is one of four starters to average double digits in scoring.
Zack Miller of Rivals noted that posting up this pairing is one of two principles that the Bears’ offense relies upon:
Enter Baylor offense is based on 2 principles: 1) single and double screens to get Heslip free and 2) posting up Jefferson/Austin— Zack Miller (@miller_zack) March 24, 2014
The other is using a multitude of screens to get senior sniper Brady Heslip open looks. The guard is downright deadly from beyond the arc, as evidenced by his 5-of-7 shooting performance from deep against the Bluejays—a performance that set the pace for his squad’s overall 77.8 percent three-point shooting in the contest.
ShotAnalytics posted a picture of Heslip’s 2013-14 campaign shot chart ahead of the NCAA tourney:
Heslip seems to shine the brightest on the biggest stage, as many may remember his outburst against Colorado during Baylor’s run to the Elite Eight in 2012. The Canada native knocked in nine three-pointers during that game and could approach that number again in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin if he is locked in.
While Heslip can occasionally single-handedly shoot his side into contention, the Bears are at their best when playing tough team basketball and defending at a high level.
Austin explained that philosophy to Jeff Potrykus of the Journal Sentinel after the big win against Creighton:
It's a team sport and all five people played hard. We were running out contesting shots and making everything difficult for everybody.
Which team will win?
The Badgers aren’t going to go down without a fight, however, as they proved they are capable of overcoming quick, athletic teams. The No. 2 seed in the Western region survived a scare in the third round, when it came back from a 12-point deficit in the second half against Oregon.
It is going to be a tough, hard-fought battle between two programs that are hungry to keep advancing during March Madness. However, Baylor seems to be the hottest right now and should be able to eke out a win on Thursday.
Prediction: Baylor 68, Wisconsin 65