The overall top-seeded Florida Gators and defending national champion Louisville Cardinals enter the 2014 NCAA tournament Sweet 16 as the two favorites to cut down the nets next month.
But 14 other teams will have a say in whether either side reaches their destination in North Texas.
Below, we'll get you set for Thursday and Friday's Sweet 16 action with a breakdown of the latest odds and which teams are poised to keep marching.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
|Latest 2014 NCAA Tournament Title Odds|
|(4) Michigan State||9-2|
|(3) Iowa State||25-1|
|(4) San Diego State||38-1|
|Sweet 16 TV Schedule and Spread Info|
|Thu, March 27||(11) Dayton vs. (10) Stanford||Stanford (-3)||7:15 p.m.||CBS|
|Thu, March 27||(6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin||Wisconsin (-3.5)||7:47 p.m.||TBS|
|Thu, March 27||(4) UCLA vs. (1) Florida||Florida (-4.5)||9:45 p.m.||CBS|
|Thu, March 27||(4) San Diego State vs. (1) Arizona||Arizona (-7.5)||10:17 p.m.||TBS|
|Fri, March 28||(11) Tennessee vs. (2) Michigan||Michigan (-2.5)||7:15 p.m.||CBS|
|Fri, March 28||(7) Connecticut vs. (3) Iowa State||Iowa State (-1.5)||7:27 p.m.||TBS|
|Fri, March 28||(8) Kentucky vs. (4) Louisville||Louisville (-4.5)||9:45 p.m.||CBS|
|Fri, March 28||(4) Michigan State vs. (1) Virginia||Michigan State (-1.5)||9:57 p.m.||TBS|
|Sweet 16 Predictions|
|(10) Stanford (-3)||(11) Dayton|
|(6) Baylor (+3.5)||(2) Wisconsin|
|(1) Florida (-4.5)||(4) UCLA|
|(1) Arizona (-7.5)||(4) San Diego State|
|(2) Michigan (-2.5)||(11) Tennessee|
|(3) Iowa State (-1.5)||(7) Connecticut|
|(4) Louisville (-4.5)||(8) Kentucky|
|(4) Michigan State (-1.5)||(1) Virginia|
West Region: No. 6 Baylor (+3.5) over No. 2 Wisconsin
Bo Ryan's second-seeded Badgers are slight favorites to reach the Elite Eight in Anaheim on Thursday night, but don't be surprised to see Scott Drew's Baylor Bears playing for the regional crown instead this weekend.
After all, Baylor has been to the Elite Eight twice since 2010 while Wisconsin hasn't made a regional final since 2005, coming up short in each of its last three Sweet 16 matchups since 2008.
Plus, the Bears are more dangerous team. Not only are they playing with incredible confidence following their 30-point thrashing of third-seeded Creighton in the round of 32, but they are more explosive than the Badgers offensively and a much better rebounding team.
SI.com's Brian Hamilton details Baylor's strengths ahead of the Sweet 16:
The Bears are on quite a roll, having won eight of nine and 12 of 14, and are constructed for a deep tournament run. Baylor is No. 9 in rebound percentage nationally (54.7) and No. 3 in offensive rebound percentage (41.1). Its 199 blocked shots rank 14th nationally. Its solid enough with the ball (11.7 turnovers per game) and it can score (1.16 points per possession, seventh nationally). Those wondering how the Bears went 9-9 in the Big 12 have a reasonable question, but the destruction of Creighton was the latest signal that this team may have reached its potential.
With 7'1" sophomore Isaiah Austin patrolling the paint and senior sharpshooter Brady Heslip finding the range from downtown (5-of-7 from beyond the arc vs. Creighton), watch for Baylor to upend Wisconsin and reach the Elite Eight for the third time in five years.
Wisconsin senior guard Ben Brust recently talked about the danger Heslip presents from distance, per Fox Sports' Jesse Temple:
Looking at just a little bit, you see what the coaches bring out there, I think he's got 117 3s on the year. I've got like, what, 228 in three years? That's a lot of numbers right there. He's got me beat in two years. He can fill it up. Just got to make sure we make him take some tough ones and try and make him put it on the floor.
Heslip's 117 made three-pointers this season rank fifth-most in the nation.
The Bears play both ends of the floor as well as you can in two NCAA tournament wins this March, and they should continue their ascent into a showdown with the winner of No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.
East Region: No. 3 Iowa State (-1.5) over No. 7 Connecticut
Although you can make a case for either No. 3 Iowa State or No. 7 Connecticut to advance to the Elite Eight in the East Region on Friday night, the Cyclones would appear to be the safer bet.
Not only has Fred Hoiberg's squad won six games in a row, but it's one of the top scoring teams in the country, ranking sixth in the nation while averaging nearly 83 points per game. Iowa State also ranks inside the top 25 nationally in rebounds and assists. The Cyclones' 18.5 dimes per game rank them tops in America. And in the NCAA tournament, Iowa State is averaging 89.5 points per game.
The Cyclones will likely prove too much to contain for the Huskies.
Hamilton makes another case as for why Iowa State can beat Connecticut on Friday and continue rolling into the Final Four:
Even without Georges Niang, lost for the rest of March with a broken foot, Iowa State has multiple offensive options. And now coach Fred Hoiberg has had a few days to plan accordingly for life without a primary playmaker. As it is, four other players are averaging 14 points per game or better in the tournament. None of those players is shooting worse than 46.7 percent from the field. And leading them all is DeAndre Kane, who represents that seemingly unflappable veteran point guard everyone believes you need to make a run. He’s averaging 19 points, 8.5 rebounds and six assists in the tournament – with the game-winning layup against North Carolina to his credit. All of that is potent enough to solve a Connecticut defense that ranks No. 10 nationally in adjusted efficiency, per kenpom.com, in the Sweet 16. On a good day it’s enough to pierce either Michigan State’s rugged defense or Virginia’s formidable pack line.
While the Huskies can't be ignored after surviving the tournament's opening weekend, their win over No. 2 Villanova wasn't all that shocking and especially not when you consider that the Wildcats attempted 31 three-pointers and shot just 7-of-20 from inside the arc in the 12-point loss.
Stopping senior point guard DeAndre Kane and Iowa State and securing rebounds possession after possession will be a much taller task for Connecticut—one that will prove too tall, even inside Madison Square Garden.
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