The madness of March continues over the next two days with a marvelous medley of mixed storylines in the 2014 NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. Many of the teams that played the best basketball all season long are still alive, while a few inevitable surprising squads still linger in the Big Dance.
Some of the impending matchups are more predictable in others. According to CBS Sports' bracket data, over half of its participants correctly chose the three games involving No. 1 seeds. The rest weren't as easily forecast:
As unexpected as it was to see Stanford and Dayton advance to this juncture of the tourney, one of those teams will be a double-digit seed headed to the Elite Eight after Thursday's slate of games. That's just the type of craziness that makes this one-and-done format so compelling.
Take a look at the updated bracket information below, along with predictions for every regional semifinal, followed by analysis focusing on the projected upsets.
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|Thursday, March 27||Time (ET)||TV||Pick|
|South - No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Stanford|
|West - No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Baylor|
|South - No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida|
|West - No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona|
|Friday, March 28||Time (ET)||TV||Pick|
|Midwest - No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Tennessee|
|East - No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut||7:27 p.m.||TNT||Iowa State|
|Midwest - No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Louisville|
|East - No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan State|
Source: CBSSports.com, VegasInsider.com
Baylor (6) over Wisconsin (2)
A zone defense deployed by Baylor coach Scott Drew has paid huge dividends for the Bears en route to the Sweet 16, and that will make the Badgers' preferred perimeter-oriented offense all the more important to execute.
Wisconsin has excellent size and spacing, with all five starters capable of lighting it up from beyond the arc. Getting to the paint to penetrate and set up some of those open looks will prove difficult, though.
The postseason record the Bears boast alone over the past six years is impressive, which 247 Sports' Evan Flood highlighted:
Baylor owns the nation's best postseason record over the last six seasons at 17-3. However those numbers include a couple trips to the NIT.— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) March 25, 2014
Drew takes pride in that excellent mark—even with the NIT trips—and he hopes the players can continue this year's strong run in the Big Dance, per Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports:
As a coach, all you want is for your players to be thought of highly for what they've accomplished. In the last five years, the postseason record really speaks for itself. We've had players who have really played for each other and done a great job. You definitely want your players to get their due.
Baylor center Isaiah Austin is 7'1" but has finesse to his game and can protect the rim well, and he's complemented well on the front line by forwards Cory Jefferson and Royce O'Neale. The latter frontcourt stalwart actually led the Bears with eight assists in a 30-point rout of Creighton in the third round.
Bo Ryan's Wisconsin teams are reputed to be slow and methodical, completely reliant on slowing the game down and pounding opponents to death. That isn't really the case this year, as guard Traevon Jackson and even Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker can run the floor and get points in transition.
That should create a thrilling, back-and-forth affair that winds up being tight, but look for the Bears to come out on top with the only upset from Thursday's Sweet 16 action.
Prediction: Baylor 77, Wisconsin 72
Tennessee (11) over Michigan (2)
The Wolverines will miss star big man Mitch McGary more than ever in this showdown with the Volunteers, whose frontcourt is as formidable as any remaining in the tournament.
Jarnell Stokes is the clear star, averaging 20.3 points and 15 rebounds in Tennessee's previous three wins. Vols coach Cuonzo Martin feels very few players in the nation are playing better than Stokes at the moment, per Tennessee's Twitter account:
MARTIN: With @JarnellStokes It’s his confidence. I don’t think there are five guys playing better than him right now.— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 26, 2014
It's incredible that the Volunteers needed to play a first-round entry game just to gain the right to face UMass in the round of 64. Three double-digit wins later, and here they are, on the cusp of making an even bigger splash than expected.
There is history to suggest Tennessee will be in trouble, as double-digit seeds are just 2-14 in the Sweet 16 or deeper since 2009, per Fox Sports Live's Todd Fuhrman:
Since 2009 double digit seeds in Sweet 16 or deeper are 6-10 ATS, 2-14 SU. Only one match up featured 2 DD seeds (via @StevenSteinman )— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) March 26, 2014
Which Swet 16 upset is likeliest to happen?
Nik Stauskas leads the charge for Michigan with his outstanding shooting and ability to create for his teammates. The knack the Wolverines have for creating offense from the perimeter is almost unparalleled, despite the departure of Trey Burke from last year's Final Four team.
Another significant contributor to that cause was McGary, though. He won't be available for this one, and it will cost Michigan. It would likely take a career performance from versatile forward Glenn Robinson III, who is often too passive.
Robinson will get outmuscled by Stokes and Jeronne Maymon in the paint and be unable to assert himself at the rim. Senior guard Jordan McRae is Tennessee's leading scorer, and between him, Josh Richardson and Antonio Barton, the Volunteers have a strong enough backcourt rotation to hang with Michigan.
Prediction: Tennessee 80, Michigan 76
Michigan State (4) over Virginia (1)
Both backcourts should be fun to watch, given their quickness, the shooting ability of Cavaliers star Joe Harris and the playmaking ability Michigan State's Gary Harris—not related.
Gary Harris hit some big shots versus Harvard in the round of 32 to help the Spartans advance, leading the Lansing State Journal's Chris Solari to confirm his belief that the guard is Sparty's MVP this season:
That shot, that's the kind of shots at critical moments that big-time players make. That's why Gary Harris is MSU's MVP this year.— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) March 23, 2014
This is a classic battle of strength versus strength. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is known for toughness and defense, but his squad this year is ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. Meanwhile, Virginia—perhaps the least heralded No. 1 seed—is fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency.
The critical individual clash to watch in this one will be Michigan State star Adreian Payne and Virginia's Akil Mitchell, who has the defensive prowess to stop Payne. The senior Spartan is coming off a lackluster effort in the win over the Crimson, where he scored 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting and grabbed just four rebounds.
A more aggressive mindset is necessary for Payne to help Michigan State advance. Expect him to come to the court reinvigorated, and with Izzo having extended time to prepare for this opponent, Sparty should emerge victorious.
Prediction: Michigan State 70, Virginia 59
While it may be a bit hyperbolic to say that the Spartans will go on to win the national title, they can't be counted out given the experience they have on the roster and Izzo's sustained success. VegasInsider.com even lists Michigan State as the favorite in this game.
That isn't the case for any of the other matchups, as all the higher seeds are favored. However, just about anything can happen—even though this is the point in March Madness where the best teams are supposed to rise to the occasion.
Several premier squads had shots to prove themselves early on and came out flat, which cost them to the point that they didn't advance. It's all about survival, and the vast majority of the teams remaining understand that concept extremely well. That should create an excellent display of hoops over the next two days, and these projected upsets seem to be the most logical to happen.