We've gotten some solid time to recharge our jets after a wild opening weekend in the NCAA tournament, but there's only so much patience a person can have when such an alluring Sweet 16 awaits.
Of the eight games on the slate for Thursday and Friday, seven feature a spread that is five points or less. If the first four days—and, you know, the last almost 30 years—are any indication, we should expect fireworks in the regional semifinals.
All Your Bracket Essentials
Friday may be the day most are looking forward to with Kentucky vs. Louisville and Michigan State vs. Virginia on the docket, but don't for a second think about missing any of Thursday's action.
We get to see arguably the two most complete teams in the nation (Florida and Arizona) taking on squads that match up very well against them—San Diego State guards extremely tough, and UCLA has an explosive offense.
We get to see Baylor's athletes and disruptive length against Wisconsin's well-oiled machine of an offense.
We get to see Stanford's tremendous frontcourt vs. Dayton's white-hot backcourt in a battle of the Cinderellas.
March is the best, and here's a look at all the info you need to know to stay on top of the action. You can watch all games online with March Madness Live.
Sweet 16 Schedule
|Sweet 16 Schedule|
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV Info||Live Stream|
|Thurs., March 27||No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton||7:15 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Thurs., March 27||No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor||7:47 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Thurs., March 27||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA||9:45 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Thurs., March 27||No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State||9:55 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV Info||Live Stream|
|Fri., March 28||No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee||7:15 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Fri., March 28||No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut||7:47 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Fri., March 28||No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky||9:40 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Fri., March 28||No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State||9:55 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
Thursday Game to Watch: (2) Wisconsin vs. (6) Baylor
There is perhaps no team in the country playing better than Baylor right now.
The Bears won 10 of 12 down the stretch of the regular season, culminating in a trip to the Big 12 conference championship, where they lost to fellow Sweet 16 participant Iowa State. That success continued into the Big Dance, as they walloped both Nebraska (74-60, but it wasn't even that close) and Creighton (85-55).
Led by Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers and Royce O'Neale on the inside, Scott Drew's squad controls the offensive glass, and the vast amount of second chances lead to a dangerous offensive attack. According to kenpom.com (subscription needed), the Bears rank third in America in offensive rebounding percentage and sixth in offensive efficiency.
Not only are they long and athletic on the inside, but Kenny Chery gives them a true pass-first point guard they didn't have a year ago, and Brady Heslip is an assassin from beyond the arc.
However, the real key might reside on the other side of the ball.
Baylor's defense has been shaky this season, but a matchup zone befuddled Nebraska and Creighton. Per bbstate.com, the Bears held the Cornhuskers to 0.888 points per possession, their fifth-best performance of the season, and held the Bluejays to 0.91 points per possession, which was the second-worst mark of the season for the ultra-efficient Creighton squad.
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan talked about how to beat Baylor's suddenly suffocating zone, via USA Today:
You have to probe. But I've seen the way they're playing it. Attacking it and getting people to move a certain direction, and using your angles and misdirection and different things that good zone offensive teams use, we're going to have to put all those together.
If there's a team that can bust the zone, of course, it's probably Wisconsin.
The Badgers protect the ball, have multiple guys who can handle the rock in Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and Sam Dekker, can score from all three levels and usually have five guys on the court who can knock down the three. They rank fourth in Pomeroy's offensive efficiency rankings.
Moreover, while they still typically play that slow Bo Ryan pace in the half court, this year's team isn't afraid to get into transition and get up a shot before the Bears settle into their zone.
Baylor guard Gary Franklin talked about that, via USA Today:
Just because of how they play in the half-court, using the whole clock, you would think that they wouldn't score a lot of points in transition. But when you see them on film and see how fast they get out, you can tell they want to score right away.
There will be other intriguing chess matches in this one. For example, how big will Wisconsin play? The Badgers tend to have Jackson (6'2"), Brust (6'1") and Josh Gasser (6'3") on the court at the same time, but against Baylor's size, that might not always be an option.
In addition to Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky, freshman big man Nigel Hayes will be key for the Badgers on the interior.
As you can see, there are compelling matchups all over the floor—the clash in both personnel and style of play provides endless intrigue—and you shouldn't be surprised if the winner is decided on the final shot.
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