The stage is now set for the Sweet 16 after the first three rounds of play are in the book. Here are the games that everyone will be keeping their eyes on this upcoming weekend.
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#11 Dayton vs #10 Stanford
How They Got Here: It’s not too often that a #10 seed will be the favored team in a Sweet 16 matchup. However, with Dayton being the lowest remaining seed left after knocking off Ohio State and Syracuse in the first two rounds, the Stanford Cardinal will be the higher seeded team in this #10 vs #11 matchup. Dayton had one of the most exciting moments of the tournament with a 60-59 win over Ohio State that went down to the wire. And they followed it up with a 2-point win over Syracuse, to knock the team that spent most of the year as the #1 team in the nation out of the National Tournament. For anyone that said that the A10 wasn’t legit, Dayton is proving it’s worth getting its bid, despite being the sixth ranked team in that conference. Dayton is looking to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 1984. Stanford pulled the upset over the #7-seed New Mexico Lobos in the first round with a 58-53 win. However, their 60-57 win over Kansas was what much of the conversation was about come Monday morning in the sports world, especially with how the Jayhawks mismanaged their time remaining in the game. Nonetheless, the Cardinal are looking to make it into the Elite 8 for the first time since 2008, when they had the Lopez brothers on their team.
Odds To Win: Dayton + 3; Stanford -3
#6 Baylor vs #2 Wisconsin
How They Got Here: After their impressive 30-point win over Doug McDermott and Creighton, many people were calling Baylor one of the best looking teams in the opening weekend of the tournament. They will need to be all that impressive and even more if they hope to knock off #2 Wisconsin. The Badgers opened up with a 40-point beating of American and, say what you will about American, having a huge win like that in the tournament is certainly eye-opening. Wisconsin then handled Oregon quite easily, 85-77, in a game where the Badgers were expected to be much closer. Wisconsin finished second in the Big 10 this year, lumped between Michigan and Michigan State. Therefore they know what it means to play when it’s important. Not to say Baylor can’t handle their own, but this could be the most attention they’ve had all year long.
Odds To Win: Baylor +3; Wisconsin -3
#4 UCLA vs #1 Florida
How They Got Here: Florida and UCLA will be our first #1 vs #4 matchup that we have on the weekend, though there will be two others to keep your eye out for. The Gators have lived up to their seeding as the top team in the tournament, especially with an impressive 61-45 win over Pittsburgh last weekend. Oh yeah, it also doesn’t hurt that their wins over the Panthers and Albany have extended the Gators win-streak to 28-games. UCLA deserves credit and they could be the toughest challenge the Gators have faced in quite some time. The Bruins had a strong start and a strong finish to the season, and only had a few hiccups in the middle of their schedule. Overall, they ended the season 28-8 and second in the Pac-12, only behind Arizona (including a win over the Wildcats back on March 15). This one should be a great matchup that tests Florida’s stingy defense, which is third in the nation with only allowing 57.5 a game, and UCLAs offense, which is ranked 12th at 81.8 per game.
Odds To Win: UCLA +4.5; Florida -4.5
#4 San Diego State vs #1 Arizona
How They Got Here: In our last game on Thursday night, it will be another #1 vs #4 when the Aztecs from San Diego State take on the Wildcats from Arizona. San Diego only has four losses on the season, though they were in the Mountain West, which certainly led to some concerns when they were seeded for the tournament. And after they got a scare in the first round against New Mexico State where they edged out a 73-69 win in overtime, they came a bit more prepared for their 19-point win over North Dakota State two nights later. Whether or not San Diego State has been tested or not will be put to the test when they play Arizona on Thursday. The Wildcats spent many weeks on the year as the top team in the nation. And with a couple key losses from other teams at the end of the season was good enough to get them into the top seed in the West Region. Their wins thus far have been impressive, including a 68-59 win over Webber State in the second round and a surprising huge win over Gonzaga, 84-61. Both of these teams rank in the top-five in the nation for points allowed, so we could be looking at a defensive stalemate to see who gets to go to the Elite 8. However, the 6.5 point spread in favor of Arizona is the biggest of any of the Sweet 16 games.
Odds To Win: San Diego State +6.5; Arizona -6.5
#11 Tennessee vs #2 Michigan
How They Got Here: Tennessee has played more games than anyone left in the tournament, needing a win in the First Four over Iowa. While many people probably assumed the Volunteers may get ousted by Duke in the next round, the Blue Devils lost to Mercer, who the Volunteers would then go on to beat by 20-points last weekend. Tennessee may be a 24-12 team, but they’ve looked extra impressive with their large scoring margins in the tournament thus far. Michigan is the #2 seed in the Midwest, which many considered to be the hardest to advance from. But with a win over Tennessee, Michigan would advance to its second Sweet 16 in as many years. And after making it all the way to the National Championship last year, they might be exactly where they want at this point in the tournament. Michigan was a favorite heading into the tournament, but Tennessee’s recent success has the Wolverines on upset alert.
Odds To Win: Tennessee +2; Michigan -2
#7 Connecticut vs #3 Iowa State
How They Got Here: Iowa State may be the best team left in this tournament that many people don’t know about. Connecticut is just doing what the Huskies have done time and time again, being led in the tournament by a stellar point guard. Iowa State is a #3 seed and had an 11-7 record in the Big-12. However, before two losses in a row to Kansas State and Baylor, the Cyclones were in the top-10 in the nation and looking at cracking the top-five. They’ve won six straight since that loss, including wins against Kansas and Baylor to end the regular season. In the tournament they have wins over North Carolina Central, but then they edged out North Carolina 85-83 to earn their spot in the Sweet 16. The Huskies are coming out of the American conference in their first year after exiting the Big East. And while it was looking like they may not get much love for an NCAA Tournament bid, their success late in the season, including wins over ranked Memphis and Cincinnati teams, helped them earn the #7 seed. They went to overtime against Saint Josephs, before running away with an 89-81 victory in the second round. They followed that up with an upset over Villanova, 77-65. In both games, Shabazz Napier has been a beast. He had 24 points against Saint Jo’s and 25 against Villanova. Though it looked like he could score at will in either game. His performance reminded many of that of Kemba Walker, when he led UCONN to a National Championship in 2011. They’ll need Napier to have a similar performance against the Cyclones if they want to make it to the Elite 8.
Odds To Win: Connecticut +1.5; Iowa State -1.5
#8 Kentucky vs #4 Louisville
How They Got Here: One of the most anticipated games of the weekend is going to be this matchup between Kentucky and Louisville. Kentucky is coming off of ending the winning streak of Wichita State and Louisville is still trying to prove why they should’ve been seeded as a one-seed. Plus, this Bluegrass rivalry is one of the best in college basketball. Kentucky already has one win over Louisville, in a 73-66 win back on December 28th. And while the Wildcats were a bit surprised when they were ranked as low as a eight seed, they showed with their win over the Shockers that they are hitting well at this point in the tournament. Louisville is looking to repeat as National Champions, and they’ll need to get past their in-state rivalry to have that chance. Surprisingly the Cardinals are five-point favorites in this game, which is a huge spread when you consider the bad blood between these teams. This will likely be a great game and, hopefully, one of the best of the tournament.
Odds To Win: Kentucky +5; Louisville -5
#4 Michigan State vs #1 Virginia
How They Got Here: The final game in the Sweet 16 will be between the team that many people expect could make a run to the National Championship, in Michigan State, and the #1 seed that was a bit of a surprise in Virginia. However, the Cavaliers won the ACC outright and the ACC Tournament, and they have looked just as impressive thus far in the tournament. Last weekend they had an 18-point win over Memphis, after an 11-point win over Coastal Carolina in the second round. Michigan State had a bit of scare last week, but they were still able to pull out an 80-73 win over Harvard. Before that, they beat Delaware quite handedly in the second round. But even more impressive was the two wins to close out the regular season, including wins over Wisconsin and Michigan. The Spartans have made it to the regional semifinal in the last two years. They’ll have to get past Virginia this year if they want to repeat that success.
Odds To Win: Michigan State +1.5; Virginia – 1.5
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