The 2014 NCAA tournament has lived up to its March Madness nickname so far, and there's no reason to believe that won't continue into the Sweet 16 and beyond. The chase for the national title is wide open without a clear championship favorite.
All three of the remaining No. 1 seeds face tricky tests in the Sweet 16, which further illustrates the parity among the teams left standing. A strong case can be made for just about every team about why it should be viewed as a legitimate title contender.
Knowing that, let's check out all of the updated bracket information heading into the fourth round of tournament play. It's followed by a complete Sweet 16 schedule with picks and a breakdown of some key players worth watching over the next few days.
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Sweet 16 TV Schedule and Picks
|3/27||Dayton vs. Stanford||7:15 p.m.||CBS||STAN|
|3/27||Baylor vs. Wisconsin||7:47 p.m.||TBS||WIS|
|3/27||UCLA vs. Florida||9:45 p.m.||CBS||FLA|
|3/27||San Diego St. vs. Arizona||10:17 p.m.||TBS||ARZ|
|3/28||Tennessee vs. Michigan||7:15 p.m.||CBS||TENN|
|3/28||Connecticut vs. Iowa State||7:27 p.m.||TBS||ISU|
|3/28||Kentucky vs. Louisville||9:45 p.m.||CBS||LOU|
|3/28||Michigan St. vs. Virginia||9:57 p.m.||TBS||MSU|
Key Players to Watch
Scottie Wilbekin (Florida)
The SEC Player of the Year has continued his strong play into the tournament. He was on top of his game against Pittsburgh, scoring 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting while also grabbing three rebounds, dishing out a pair of assists and racking up a couple steals.
It was that performance that allowed Florida to cruise past a talented Panthers squad that could have otherwise posed a serious challenge. When Wilbekin takes over a game like that and the role players continue to chip in, Florida is the team to beat.
The journey to this point hasn't always been smooth sailing, though. Juliet Macur of the New York Times discussed the senior guard's two suspensions and near exit from the team before passing along comments from head coach Billy Donovan about his turnaround:
For me, it's been one of the greatest experiences as a coach going through what he and I have gone through together. People get a chance maybe to see him grow as a player. I got a chance to see him grow as a person.
A refocused Wilbekin helped Florida capture the top overall seed in the tournament and now look poised to lead a deep—and a potential championship—run. He will need to shine again for the Gators to get past a UCLA squad playing its best basketball of the season.
Aaron Gordon (Arizona)
Gordon arrived to Arizona with plenty of hype after a decorated high school career. It turned out all of that attention was warranted, as he was the driving force behind Arizona's climb into the title picture with strong play at both ends of the court.
He averaged more than 12 points per game during the regular season, good for second on the team, and has upped that to 17 points in the tournament. He's connected on 15 of his 21 shot attempts in the Big Dance, showing off his offensive efficiency.
Gordon really stands out on the defensive end, though. His ability to block and alter shots with strong man defense while also cleaning up rebounds is crucial for the defensive-minded Wildcats. It's caught the eye of Utah assistant coach Tommy Connor:
I love how we often judge /evaluate players for their offense/shooting. Aaron Gordon changes the game defensively.— Tommy Connor (@coachtconnor) March 24, 2014
There are plenty of players who can make an impact offensively or defensively. The number who can make their presence felt consistently on both ends, especially at such a high level like Gordon, is extremely limited. He will be in the spotlight a lot in a defensive battle with San Diego State.
Luke Hancock (Louisville)
Something about the NCAA tournament leads Hancock to do great things. Last season, he averaged just eight points per game before scoring 42 points in the final two rounds of Louisville's championship run to earn the Final Four Most Outstanding Player nod.
Which of these players will have the best Sweet 16 performance?
This season, his average was up to 12 points per contest, but that still ranked third on the team. The tournament arrived, and now he's poured in 37 points over the team's first two games. It's clear he doesn't shy away from the bright lights of March Madness.
With Russ Smith shooting 32 percent in the tournament and Chris Jones struggling even more at 26 percent, Hancock's contributions have been vital in keeping the Cardinals' repeat hopes alive through the first two rounds. He almost single-handedly saved the day against Manhattan.
The task certainly doesn't get any easier for Louisville from here. Next up is a matchup with rival Kentucky, which is fresh off an upset of previously undefeated Wichita State. Hancock must continue to lead the charge until his teammates find their shooting strokes.