Title favorites Florida and Arizona will each look to avoid falling victim to an upset Thursday night as they take aim at a spot in the Elite Eight.
At the same time, No. 4 seeds UCLA and San Diego State are sure to embrace the underdog role.
But before the Gators and Wildcats tip off, Cinderellas Dayton and Stanford will go head-to-head for a berth in the South Regional final.
With the storylines ready to write themselves, let's get you ready for the tournament's second weekend with a closer look at the latest odds and which teams project to advance all the way to the Final Four.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
|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|
|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)||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)||9:45 p.m.||CBS|
|Fri, March 28||(4) Michigan State vs. (1) Virginia||Michigan State (-2)||9:57 p.m.||TBS|
Updated Final Four Predictions
East Region: No. 4 Michigan State Spartans
Despite No. 12 Harvard and No. 7 Connecticut shaking things up during the first weekend, nothing changes in the East Region, where Big Ten tournament champion Michigan State appears to be the team to beat.
If Tom Izzo's Spartans can find a way past defensive-minded Virginia in the Sweet 16 on Friday, they'll be favored against either No. 3 Iowa State or No. 7 Connecticut in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
ESPN Stats & Info provides an encouraging fact for Michigan State:
Although Big Ten squads are typically known for their defensive prowess, the Spartans have been getting it done on the offensive end over the course of their current five-game winning streak, scoring 80 points or more in three of those five games.
Needless to say, that bodes well for their chances against the nation's top defensive team in Virginia on Friday night.
Midwest Region: No. 4 Louisville Cardinals
Although early losses by No. 1 Wichita State and No. 3 Duke made a mess of the loaded Midwest Region, Louisville has been the team to beat in this bracket all along and should still make its way to North Texas.
ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf breaks down why he likes Louisville to advance:
I wasn’t impressed by Louisville’s opening weekend (wins over Manhattan and Saint Louis), but I believe that the Cardinals recognize they had more to give in both games. And they’ll prove it with a double-digit win over Kentucky. More experience. More balance. Rick Pitino’s 11-0 record in the Sweet 16. (Calipari is 5-1 against Louisville since arriving at Kentucky, though.) This game won’t live up to the hype. Russ Smith & Co. will pressure the young Wildcats for 40 minutes and avenge an earlier loss against Kentucky.
A win over the Wildcats would set up an Elite Eight clash with either No. 2 Michigan or No. 11 Tennessee. But it's likely the Cardinals would be favored against either team. Remember, Louisville beat Michigan for the national title a year ago and would enter Sunday's regional final having won nine straight NCAA tournament games.
South Region: No. 1 Florida Gators
The first weekend hasn't convinced me or anyone else the overall top-seeded Florida Gators will fall short in the second week of action in the South Region.
Following a baffling second-round performance against No. 16 Albany, Billy Donovan's senior-laden club turned up the heat defensively in a 16-point win over No. 9 Pittsburgh.
With only No. 4 UCLA, No. 10 Stanford and No. 11 Dayton standing in Florida's path to the Final Four, you've got to love the Gators' chances to cut down the nets in Memphis, Tenn.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle in the way of Florida's fourth consecutive Elite Eight appearance is UCLA sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson, who stands 6'9" and presents a nightmare matchup for any team.
In addition to ranking second on the team in scoring, Anderson leads the Bruins in assists and rebounds.
Florida center and defensive stalwart Patric Young is well aware of the danger Anderson and UCLA present, per The New York Times:
You can’t let him operate at his own speed, you have to make him do what he doesn’t want to do. He likes to throw the ball up to his faster teammates. He likes to rebound, he averages 9 a game, and then those guys go out for him.
It’s going to be a lot harder for our guards to deflect balls from him, because he’s 6-8, 6-9, but while he’s dribbling they can get into him, get low and make him feel uncomfortable.
But if there's any defense around that can slow Anderson, it's Florida's, which currently ranks third in the nation in fewest points per game allowed (57.5).
In the tournament, Florida is allowing just 50 points per game.
West Region: No. 1 Arizona Wildcats
Aside from No. 12 North Dakota State's upset win over No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Baylor's 30-point thrashing of No. 3 Creighton, the West Region has gone mostly to plan, with No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Wisconsin each one win away from the Elite Eight.
But it's Sean Miller's Wildcats who are favored to win two more games in Anaheim, Calif. and advance to North Texas.
Arizona was firing on all cylinders in its most recent 23-point win over No. 8 Gonzaga, and according to Medcalf, is playing like an overall top seed:
Arizona toyed with Weber State in the round of 64. That was expected. But Gonzaga was a legitimate opponent as a No. 8 seed that appeared to possess the tools to give Arizona a fight. That didn't happen. The Wildcats topped the Zags by 23 points in a lopsided win that allowed them to showcase their championship potential. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon each finished with 18 points. Nick Johnson, a shooting guard, had four blocks. Arizona is athletic and versatile and ranked No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. The Wildcats played better than any team in the field this weekend.
If the Wildcats can continue to hold teams to 60 points or less and shoot 47 percent from the floor on average, they'll easily make the Final Four and have a legitimate shot to win it all.