The 2014 NCAA tournament has lived up to its billing as March Madness, and the exciting matchups will continue into the Sweet 16 on Thursday and Friday.
With several No. 1 seeds living up to expectations and Cinderella teams looking to continue their dream runs deep into the Big Dance, the fourth round of college basketball action is must-watch television.
Here are the latest bracket updates, a full schedule of remaining games and the odds for each matchup in the Sweet 16.
All Your Bracket Essentials
|Full 2014 March Madness Schedule and Odds|
|Date||Regional Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds|
|Thu, March 27||(11) Dayton vs. (10) Stanford||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Stanford -3|
|Thu, March 27||(6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Wisconsin -3|
|Thu, March 27||(4) UCLA vs. (1) Florida||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida -4.5|
|Thu, March 27||(4) San Diego State vs. (1) Arizona||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona -6.5|
|Fri, March 28||(11) Tennessee vs. (2) Michigan||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Michigan -2|
|Fri, March 28||(7) Connecticut vs. (3) Iowa State||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Iowa State -1|
|Fri, March 28||(8) Kentucky vs. (4) Louisville||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Louisville -5|
|Fri, March 28||(4) Michigan State vs. (1) Virginia||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan State -1.5|
|Date||Regional Finals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds|
|Sat, March 29||Regional Final - TBD||6 p.m.||TBS||n/a|
|Sat, March 29||Regional Final - TBD||8:30 p.m.||TBS||n/a|
|Sun, March 30||Regional Final - TBD||2:10 p.m.||CBS||n/a|
|Sun, March 30||Regional Final - TBD||4:55 p.m.||CBS||n/a|
|Date||National Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds|
|Sat, April 5||National Semifinal - TBD||6 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||n/a|
|Sat, April 5||National Semifinal - TBD||8:30 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||n/a|
|Date||National Championship||Time (ET)||TV||Odds|
|Mon, April 7||National Championship - TBD||9:10 p.m.||CBS||n/a|
|Source: NCAA.com and VegasInsider.com|
Sweet 16 Matchup to Watch: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky
When the No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals (31-5, 15-3 AAC) square off against the No. 8 seed Kentucky Wildcats (26-10, 12-6 SEC), the in-state battle will steal the show Friday night.
This is the kind of marquee rivalry college basketball fans love.
Not only do the two programs have a long history, but the matchup of the previous two national champions also has added more significance to the Sweet 16 meeting, according to ESPN’s stats department:
Louisville is one of the most gifted offensive teams in the tournament. After averaging 82.1 points per game (eighth in the nation) and a .474 field-goal percentage, the Cardinals managed to advance past Manhattan and St. Louis in the second and third round, respectively.
As well as the team has played at the offensive end of the court, there have been questions about the consistency of the defense.
The talk has shifted to Louisville’s ability to defend and the importance of defense during March Madness, and head coach Rick Pitino told Jeffrey Greer of The Courier-Journal about his game plan and mindset:
You know, the NCAA, the one thing I've known throughout the years, being in this business, is people get very conservative, and they talk about‑‑ I've always felt‑‑ you hear the expression defense wins championships. A lack of offense keeps you from winning a championship. All these teams can guard. And it's really, really important. We beat Michigan and Wichita State and the teams before that, and we were a very good defense because of our offense. We didn't win because of our defense. Every team can play defense at this stage. So you've got to have great offense to win, and you've got to really execute and make free throws, do smart things.
While Louisville is led by senior guard Russ Smith, Kentucky has built a program with a core of freshmen players. With a scoring tandem of James Young and Julius Randle, as well as the guard tandem of brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the key to the Wildcats' success will be the play of their freshman stars.
The Cardinals have done a great job of recruiting a strong core of prospects, but the program also values the experience of older players. Friday’s battle will be a good experiment to determine which method of building a program is more effective.
John Calipari deserves immense credit for getting his team ready for a deep run in the NCAA tournament after starting the season slow, but the leadership and raw talent of Louisville will give the program the victory in the Sweet 16.
Expect a fierce battle, though.
Predicted Final Score: Louisville 80, Kentucky 76
*Stats via ESPN.com.