The Best Head-to-Head Matchups in the Sweet 16

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2019

The Best Head-to-Head Matchups in the Sweet 16

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Matchup conversations during the NCAA tournament usually center around how one team's style of play stacks up to another. Can the defensive-minded team slow down the high-scoring offense? Can the fast-paced team control the tempo against the grind-it-out, half-court team?

    Those are important factors in determining which team will advance, but it can just as easily boil down to individual matchups.

    With that in mind, we've highlighted the five best head-to-head matchups in the Sweet 16 and ranked them from least to most compelling.

    If nothing else, this should serve as a nice preview of what's to come on Thursday and Friday.

5. Virginia's Ty Jerome vs. Oregon's Payton Pritchard

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    Payton Pritchard
    Payton PritchardEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    Point guard Ty Jerome is the unsung hero on a Virginia team led by the high-profile duo of De'Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy.

    Aside from his 13.0 points per game and 40 percent from beyond the arc with 66 made threes, Jerome also leads the team in assists (5.3 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG). He has four games with double-digit assists this season, three of which came against tournament teams in North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Syracuse.

    That said, his biggest contributions in the Sweet 16 will come from trying to stop Payton Pritchard on the defensive end.

    While Pritchard averages a modest 13.0 points, he's upped his output to an impressive 19.0 per game over his last five games, all of which were against tournament teams. He had 19 points and eight assists in the Ducks' first-round win over Wisconsin and followed that with 18 and seven against fellow low-seeded upstart UC Irvine.

    The 6'2" junior has become the go-to option offensively for Oregon, and it will be up to Jerome to slow him down. If the Ducks are going to keep rolling, they'll need another big game from their point guard.

4. Michigan's Charles Matthews vs. Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver

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    Jarrett Culver
    Jarrett CulverHarry How/Getty Images

    Michigan senior Charles Matthews was snubbed from the Big Ten's all-defensive team this season, much to the surprise of coach Jon Beilein.

    "People are watching a different game than I'm watching obviously with Charles. ... The guy has never had a bad defensive game and he's taking care of everybody," Beilein told reporters following the snub.

    Matthews' toughest test will come Thursday, when he squares off against Big 12 Player of the Year and projected lottery pick Jarrett Culver. The rangy 6'5" wing filled it up against Northern Kentucky in the first round with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He followed that up with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against Buffalo on Sunday.

    While defense will be his biggest impact on the game, Matthews is also capable of making a difference offensively when things are clicking. He had 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting in the first round against Montana.

    Regardless, this will be the matchup to watch.

3. Tennessee's Jordan Bone vs. Purdue's Carsen Edwards

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    Carsen Edwards
    Carsen EdwardsMaddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Can Jordan Bone slow down Carsen Edwards? That's the biggest X-factor for Tennessee as it looks to advance past Purdue and into the Elite Eight.

    Edwards went off for 42 points on 9-of-16 from beyond the arc against Villanova on Saturday, and his 23.6 points per game rank 10th in the nation. However, he's a volume shooter, and when he goes cold the Boilermakers are in trouble.

    The Big Ten tournament game against Minnesota was the perfect example. Edwards had just 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting, and Purdue lost 75-73 to a team squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.

    Luckily for Tennessee, Bone has shut down high-profile point guards before. He held Gonzaga's Josh Perkins without a point in 37 minutes of action back on Dec. 9, and in the SEC tournament title game, he limited Jared Harper to nine points on 1-of-11 shooting.

    Another strong defensive effort could propel the Volunteers to the next round.

2. Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke vs. Florida State's Mfiondu Kabengele

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    Brandon Clarke
    Brandon ClarkeTom Pennington/Getty Images

    Gonzaga star Brandon Clarke is one of the most disruptive post players in the country. 

    He leads the nation in blocks (107) and shoots 69.9 percent from the floor while pulling down 3.1 offensive rebounds per game. The 6'8" junior just scored a career-high 36 points against Baylor, adding eight rebounds and five blocked shots.

    Florida State sophomore Mfiondu Kabengele does not have the same impressive stat line, but he can be just as disruptive inside at 6'10" with a 7'1" wingspan. He's led the Seminoles in scoring in both of their NCAA tournament games, racking up 21 points against Vermont and 22 against Murray State on a combined 16-of-25 shooting.

    The Bulldogs have a lot of weapons, but if Kabengele can slow down Clarke and have another strong game himself, the Seminoles' chances will improve significantly.

1. Michigan State's Cassius Winston vs. LSU's Tremont Waters

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    Cassius Winston
    Cassius WinstonJamie Squire/Getty Images

    The East Region matchup between No. 2 Michigan State and No. 3 LSU will feature a head-to-head battle of two of the five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which is handed out annually to the best point guard in the nation.

    Winston was the Big Ten Player of the Year after leading the conference in assists (7.6 APG) and finishing fourth in scoring (18.9 PPG). The 6'1" junior posted an excellent 272-to-104 assist-to-turnover ratio.

    On the other side, Waters is one of the most disruptive defensive players in the nation. The 5'11" sophomore leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the nation with 93 steals and 2.9 steals per game, and he serves as the catalyst for a young LSU squad.

    This matchup will go a long way in determining who advances to the Elite Eight.


    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference, unless otherwise noted.