2011 NCAA Tournament: Ranking the Sweet 16 Matchups

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IMarch 23, 2011

2011 NCAA Tournament: Ranking the Sweet 16 Matchups

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    TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 19:  Mike Bruesewitz #31, Jon Leuer #30, Jordan Taylor #11 and Tim Jarmusz #24 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrate during their 70 to 65 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats in the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tourname
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Ohio State and Kentucky Highlight the Best of the Sweet 16 Matchups

    The Sweet 16 has given us some amazing college basketball games over the years.

    Think UCLA vs. Gonzaga in 2006 or Duke and Indiana in 2002. UConn vs. Clemson in 1990 was among the best, as was Connecticut's matchup with Washington in '98. 

    The list could go on and on, but the point is simple—the Sweet 16 is a round for epic matchups.

    For some of the Cinderellas, this will be their last stand. For the giants, it may just be another step towards a national championship. 

    Here's a ranking of all eight games in the round of 16. 

VCU vs. Florida State

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    PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 19:  T.J. Gwynn #42 of the VCU Rams drives past Nikola Dragovic #41 of the UCLA Bruins during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Wachovia Center on March 19, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    In the first-ever matchup of No. 10 (Florida State) vs. No. 11 (VCU) in the Sweet 16, one Cinderella will be heading to the Elite Eight.

    Florida State, fresh off its upset wins over Notre Dame and Texas A&M, has relied mostly on Derwin Kitchen (10 points per game) and a stifling defense.

    Also, star Chris Singleton is slowly making his way back after missing more than a month with a hurt foot. 

    VCU features a furious attack that beat USC to get into the 64, then cruised past Georgetown and Purdue. 

    Bashed thoroughly after being selected into the field, Jamie Skeen (15.2 points per game) and the Rams have shown the nation they deserved their spot. 

    Will Florida State's tough defense be enough to slow VCU and their red-hot offense (94 points vs. Purdue)? 

Wisconsin vs. Butler

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 19:  The Butler Bulldogs celebrate their victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Verizon Center on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Butler, the national runner-up from a year ago, struggled to an eighth seed this season but has now caught fire.

    The Bulldogs have taken down Old Dominion and No. 1 seed Pittsburgh to get to the Sweet 16 and they have their eyes on another Final Four appearance. 

    Wisconsin, on the other hand, is in its fifth Sweet 16 since 1985 after beating 30-win Belmont and a one-man wrecking crew in Kansas State's Jacob Pullen.

    Led by Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, the Badgers feature a solid defensive team that doesn't make many mistakes on the offensive end.

    With both teams solid defensively, this could be the lowest-scoring matchup in the Sweet 16. The winner could be the favorite to come out of the Southeast Region, however.

San Diego State vs. UConn

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 19:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates their 69-58 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Verizon Center on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    San Diego State, the No. 2 seed in the West, beat Northern Colorado and snuck past Temple to get to the Sweet 16. 

    Drawing No. 3 seed UConn was a tough break for the Aztecs. Winner of the marathon Big East tournament, UConn continued its winning streak by beating both Bucknell and Cincinnati in the first two rounds. 

    SDSU will need both Kawhi Leonard and D.J. Gay to be at the top of their games to beat Kemba Walker and the Huskies. 

    A Player of the Year candidate, Walker can single-handedly beat a team and he's an assassin with the ball in his hands at the end of close games. 

Kansas vs. Richmond

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    TULSA, OK - MARCH 20:  Tyshawn Taylor #10 of the Kansas Jayhawks jogs off the court after defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 59-73 in the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 20, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  (Ph
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Kansas is among the remaining favorites to win the whole thing, but it faces a dangerous Richmond team in the Sweet 16. 

    Things have seemingly set up perfectly for Kansas, who will face the 12th-seeded Spiders, then the winner of No. 11 VCU and No. 12 Florida State if the Jayhawks beat Richmond. 

    That might be easier said than done, however. Richmond took down Vanderbilt in the first round, then beat fellow Cinderella Morehead State in the round of 32. 

    Led by the inside-outside combination of Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson, Richmond will give Kansas and the Morris twins plenty to worry about. 

    Can Richmond continue its tournament journey and be the next George Mason, or will Kansas make amends for its shocking loss to Northern Iowa in last year's dance?

BYU vs. Florida

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars runs off of the court after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Southeast Region features a rematch of BYU's first-round win over Florida a year ago.

    Written off by many after the suspension of Brandon Davies, BYU flew past dangerous teams in Wofford and Gonzaga. 

    Jimmer Fredette, who scored 37 against the Gators a year ago, has carried the Cougars into the Sweet 16 with a tournament-leading 66 points.

    However, the Gators are one of the more underrated squads left in the tournament. After beating California schools UC Santa Barbara and UCLA in the first two rounds, Florida is the highest remaining seed left in the Southeast Region. 

    Guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker will have their hands full with guarding Fredette, but Chandler Parsons can score in bunches for Florida. 

    Expect a high-scoring affair for the right to go to the Southeast Region championship.

Duke vs. Arizona

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils waits to enter the game while taking on the Michigan Wolverines during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Charlott
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Two teams with some impressive history in college basketball face off in the West Region. 

    Duke, the fourth-winningest team in college basketball history, beat Hampton soundly, then held off Michigan to get the Sweet 16. Coach K won his 900th career game in the process. 

    Facing Duke will be Arizona, winner of the 24th-most games and the No. 5 seed in the West. 

    Led by Derrick Williams and Lamont Jones, the Wildcats have the firepower to beat the region's top seed. 

    However, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and the recently recovered Kyrie Irving will give Arizona all it can handle. 

    Overall, this game has the most star power of any game besides the top game of the Sweet 16.

UNC vs. Marquette

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    CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 20: Joseph Fulce #21 and Darius Johnson-Odom #1 of the Marquette Golden Eagles celebrate with teammates after defeating the Syracuse Orange during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    After a tough start to the season, UNC has stormed back into contention with an impressive second-half run. 

    Young guns Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller propelled the Tar Heels to the No. 2 seed in the East Region, where they knocked off Long Island and Washington in the first two rounds. 

    Marquette had a similar up-and-down season, but it survived the Big East gauntlet and beat both Xavier and fellow Big East rival Syracuse to get to the Sweet 16. 

    Jimmy Butler is one of the more unknown and underrated players left in the tournament, and the shooting of Darius Johnson-Odom could give UNC some problems on the perimeter. 

    This game will be an uptempo, high-scoring contest that should be among the most exciting games to watch. It'll also be a good-looking game—no two teams have better looking jerseys than Marquette and UNC. 

Ohio State vs. Kentucky

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    CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 20: Aaron Craft #4, Jared Sullinger #0 and Jon Diebler #33 of the Ohio State Buckeyes look on from the bench late in the second half against the George Mason Patriots during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Q
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Much like Duke and Arizona, Ohio State and Kentucky are drenched in college basketball history. 

    Kentucky has won more games than any other program in college basketball, and its young roster advanced to the Sweet 16 with close wins over Princeton and West Virginia. 

    The tournament's top seed, Ohio State, has been one of the more successful schools in college basketball over the past decade. The Buckeyes beat both UT-San Antonio and George Mason handily in the first two rounds. 

    Kentucky is led by freshmen hotshots Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, but Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson are key players for the Wildcats. 

    The Buckeyes counter with fellow freshman star Jared Sullinger and a mix of solid veterans in Jon Diebler, William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale. Don't sleep on freshman guard Aaron Craft, either. 

    With plenty of talented players and experienced head coaches in John Calipari and Thad Matta, this game has the most potential to be among the classics of Sweet 16 history.