While there were some surprises in the Sweet 16, every matchup has its own level of excitement. The hope is that college basketball fans can get similar enjoyment out of the later rounds of the NCAA tournament.
It will be hard to match the rivalry and overall talent of Kentucky against Louisville, or the offense versus defense battle between Michigan State and Virginia. Still, the next few rounds should feature even better competition as the stakes get higher.
Of course, it all depends on which teams continue to advance. We all love Cinderella stories, but watching a No. 8 seed Butler against a No. 11 seed VCU does not necessarily qualify as a classic Final Four battle.
The good news is the bracket is set up to create some exciting battles in this year's Final Four. Here is a look at the best possible matchups in the semifinals.
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No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 2 Michigan
It has been a long time since conference foes competed in the Final Four, but the familiarity is certain to create an exciting matchup.
Wisconsin and Michigan split the season series, each winning one game on the road. Caris LeVert was arguably the most impressive with 45 points in the two contests.
However, the third version has the potential to be the best one yet. Both teams are playing at a high level at this point, and they each know how score, especially from the outside. A competition between the two would be a high-scoring affair with outstanding individual performances.
Nik Stauskas is already getting high praise from opposing coaches, including Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin:
Cuonzo on Stauskas: "Very talented... There's no doubt in my mind he'll play at a NBA level... It'll be a tall order."— Steven T. Cook (@steventerrycook) March 25, 2014
The question is whether the two teams have the ability to make it to Arlington. Michigan certainly has a good chance as the highest seed remaining in the Midwest. Herb Golud of the Chicago Sun Times discussed Wisconsin's chances:
The Badgers face the murkiest path to Cowboys Stadium. If they can corral Baylor, Arizona will be a major test. On the other hand, anyone who saw Wisconsin hitch up its pants to beat racing Oregon might have the impression that coach Bo Ryan’s 0-for-Final Four drought might be ending.
If this comes to fruition, it would certainly be worth watching for even fans outside of the Big Ten.
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 1 Arizona
Sean Miller has accomplished a lot in his time at Arizona, but he has never reached the Final Four. According to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, reporters asked him about being known as arguably the best coach without reaching that stage. Miller responded by saying:
Of course I would like to get off that list, but the way I look at it is every year you want to give yourself a chance to compete. For us, this is our third time in the Sweet 16 in the five years I've been at Arizona and what we have to do is be ourselves. It's going to happen if we continue to do things the right way.
If this matchup does come true, he will have his first Final Four appearance against a man who has been to this stage seven times before in Rick Pitino. Most impressively, the Louisville coach has gone to the Final Four with three different teams.
Still, the excitement from this game will come from the players and not the coaches. Arizona has been one of the best teams in the nation all year thanks to a great half-court defense that ranks first in the nation, according to KenPom.com.
Russ Smith can create his own shot as well as almost anyone in the country, but he would have a hard time against this aggressive team.
On the other end, Louisville utilize a full-court press for most of games, which would put a lot of pressure on T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson in the backcourt.
This would be a quick game featuring a lot of high-flying athletes and memorable plays. It will take a lot of effort for either side to come out on top.
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Florida
With so much talent on both ends of the floor, you have no idea where the points are going to come from in this game.
Florida has four senior starters to go with Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith each averaging over nine points per game. Casey Prather led the team in scoring while Scottie Wilbekin always seems to take the important shots when it matters.
If this was not enough, the Gators have a handful of elite athletes that can throw down big dunks:
Meanwhile, Michigan State has a similar selection of talent and leadership. Seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne have been inconsistent this year, but they are as good as anyone in the nation at their positions when healthy and playing at their best.
Gary Harris and Branden Dawson can also be counted on to provide a great deal of offense.
There are at least 10 players capable of dropping 20 points in this contest and carrying his squad to a win. This individual talent is something to be seen in what would be an excellent national semifinal. In reality, the winner would immediately become the favorite to take home the championship.
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