Fifty-two teams have been trimmed from the 2015 NCAA tournament herd, and only 16 remain.
College basketball fans will get a bit of a reprieve in the days ahead from the madness of the past weekend. While Thursday through Sunday featured essentially wall-to-wall action, the tourney will have a bit of a lull as everybody cools off and resets for the next round.
The Sweet 16 tips off on Thursday, with the action to spill over into Friday. With the stakes only continuing to be raised, what the next round lacks in improbable stories like the Georgia State Panthers, it will make up for in the drama category.
Here's a look at where the bracket stands, followed by a brief breakdown of some of the more interesting Sweet 16 matchups.
Sweet 16 Schedule
|2015 NCAA Tournament—Sweet 16 Schedule|
|Time (ET)||Matchup||TV Info||Pick|
|Thursday, March 26|
|7:15 p.m.||No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 3 Notre Dame||CBS||Wichita State|
|7:47 p.m.||No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Wisconsin||TBS||Wisconsin|
|9:45 p.m.||No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Kentucky||CBS||Kentucky|
|10:17 p.m.||No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 2 Arizona||TBS||Arizona|
|Friday, March 27|
|7:15 p.m.||No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 2 Gonzaga||CBS||Gonzaga|
|7:37 p.m.||No. 8 North Carolina State vs. No. 4 Louisville||TBS||Louisville|
|9:45 p.m.||No. 5 Utah vs. No. 1 Duke||CBS||Duke|
|10:07 p.m.||No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Oklahoma||TBS||Michigan State|
Games to Watch
No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 UCLA
Back in 2006, the UCLA Bruins and Gonzaga Bulldogs met in the Sweet 16. UCLA won 73-71, Gus Johnson shredded his vocal cords, and Adam Morrison couldn't hide his emotions, sitting with his head in his hands in the middle of the court:
As CBS Sports' Matt Norlander joked, fans better get used to the image above and/or similar pictures in the coming days:
That Gonzaga team represented the best chance head coach Mark Few has ever had to help the school break through the glass ceiling and make a run to the Final Four.
Now, Few will be offered a chance to exorcise some demons. He has arguably his strongest array of talent since that 2006 team, and in Kyle Wiltjer, the Bulldogs have their best player since Morrison departed.
Wiltjer was brilliant in the third round against the Iowa Hawkeyes, scoring 24 points in 25 minutes on the floor. He also missed just two of his 12 field-goal attempts.
The UCLA Bruins have been a bit charmed this March. Many were surprised to see they made the field of 68 at all, not to mention they avoided one of the play-in games. There was the goaltending call that decided their 60-59 win over the SMU Mustangs in the second round. UCLA also lucked out by drawing the UAB Blazers rather than the Iowa State Cyclones in the third round.
CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb isn't alone in questioning UCLA's strength despite the Bruins' last two wins:
A win over Gonzaga will silence the team's critics. From the Bulldogs' perspective, it's a chance for redemption and an opportunity to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in school history—and first time under Few.
Between Wiltjer's skill and UCLA's spotty defense—the Bruins are 214th in points allowed—Gonzaga should advance.
No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Wichita State
Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey set the standard for emotional strength on Saturday. After his team beat the Butler Bulldogs 67-64 in overtime, Brey admitted that his mother passed away the morning of the game.
After his postgame press conference, the Fighting Irish immediately became the rooting favorite for fans without a dog in the fight.
Notre Dame will have its hands full in the Sweet 16, though. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight noted that the Wichita State Shockers' seed is a bit deceiving in terms of their overall quality:
The Shockers are riding a wave of momentum created by their 78-65 win over the Kansas Jayhawks earlier today. Wichita State has long sought a regular-season meeting with Kansas to no avail, so beating the Big 12 power was particularly sweet.
Strictly from an aesthetic perspective, this game should be a lot of fun. Notre Dame and Wichita State rank third and 15th, respectively, in adjusted offense, according to KenPom.com. Although neither team pushes the ball up at a breakneck pace, their offensive efficiency makes them a joy to watch.
The Fighting Irish's defense will really be put to the test in this one. They're allowing opposing teams to shoot 42.6 percent from the field—156th in the country.
The Shockers boast two dynamic scorers in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. They're averaging 13.5 and 22 points a game through Wichita State's first two tournament games.
This one could easily go either way. The Shockers get the slight edge because of their stout defense—eighth in points allowed per game.
No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 North Carolina
There probably won't be another style clash quite like the Wisconsin Badgers and North Carolina Tar Heels' Sweet 16 battle. According to KenPom.com, the former is 346th in adjusted tempo, while the latter is 12th—the quickest team remaining in the field.
What the Badgers lack in pace, though, they make up for with ruthless efficiency. Bo Ryan's team tops the adjusted offense chart.
One of the storylines to watch in the coming days will be the health of Kennedy Meeks. The Tar Heels announced on Twitter early Sunday morning that the sophomore forward sprained his left knee and would have an MRI performed to reveal the extent of the damage.
Meeks' status for the Sweet 16 is not known, and if he's injured or out altogether, then that would be a big blow for UNC, especially as Roy Williams devises a game plan to neutralize Frank Kaminsky.
The Badgers' big man has mostly delivered in the tournament so far, scoring 27 points and grabbing a dozen boards in the second round against Coastal Carolina and then going for 16 and seven in a win over Oregon in the third round.
Wisconsin has plenty of talent on the roster, but Kaminsky is the key to everything. Over the last two years, the senior has averaged 16.5 points when Wisconsin has won but 13.5 in the team's 10 defeats, according to Sports-Reference.
Neutral fans should really be rooting for Wisconsin because it will mean at least one more game for the Badgers to interact with the postgame press conference stenographer:
North Carolina can be one of the best teams in the country on its best day, but the Tar Heels have been a bit schizophrenic this year. Depending on Meeks' injury, they could also be at a bit of a disadvantage inside as well.
Wisconsin should pull out an ugly victory and advance to the Elite Eight.