Commentary Sports

March Madness: How Sweet Is This 16?

Rodney Campbell
Written by Rodney Campbell

We rank the Sweet 16 games as college basketball’s best march toward the NCAA Tournament championship. March Madness 2015.

rodney-campbellaNewDomain — After a week of March Madness surprises, we have reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Fittingly, there are some sweet match-ups unfolding on Thursday and Friday as we see who moves on to Indianapolis for a shot at the national title.

First things first, let’s take a look at this week’s games, ranked from best to worst. Of course, even the worst game is better that most of what you’ll find on TV either Thursday or Friday night.

All times listed are Eastern.

  1. Notre Dame vs. Wichita State, Thursday, 7:15 p.m. (CBS)

Oddsmakers are close to calling this game a toss-up. This matchup features a Fighting Irish team that surprisingly won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament against a Shockers club that’s trying to get back to the Final Four for the second time in three years. Guard Jerian Wright, who averages 16.8 points and 6.6 assists per game, leads Notre Dame. Seventh-seeded Wichita State is coming off a surprising victory over Kansas in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, a hugely satisfying win for the Shockers.

 

  1. Oklahoma vs. Michigan State, Friday, 10:07 p.m. (TBS)

One of two remaining teams left from the Big 12 flameout, the Sooners have the conference’s player of the year in Buddy Held. Of course, Oklahoma didn’t exactly beat a murder’s row in the first two rounds in eliminating Albany and Dayton. Under Coach Tom Izzo, seventh-seeded Michigan State is once again moving through the NCAA Tournament. Izzo has led the Spartans to six Final Fours and a national title in his tenure. This could be another of his masterpieces.

 

  1. Wisconsin vs. North Carolina, Thursday, 7:47 p.m. (TBS)

Top-seeded Wisconsin will certainly be able to say it earned its way to the Final Four if it reaches Indianapolis. First up is a tough out in North Carolina and coming up next could be a rematch with Arizona, which the Badgers edged out in last year’s Elite Eight. Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky is often Wisconsin’s key, as he was in putting up 27 points and 12 rebounds in the opening round against Coastal Carolina. While this may not be a vintage North Carolina team, the Tar Heels have as good a chance as anyone of keeping the Badgers from reaching a second consecutive Final Four. North Carolina dominates the boards and Marcus Paige is always a factor.

 

  1. Louisville vs. North Carolina State, Friday, 7:37 p.m. (TBS)

A No. 4 seed, it was a little surprising to see the Cardinals eliminate fifth-seeded Northern Iowa over the weekend. Much of the credit for that victory goes to guard Terry Rozier, who refused to let Louisville go home early. North Carolina State got here by knocking out top-seeded Villanova, which was riding a 16-game winning streak. The Wolfpack barely got past LSU in the opening round, but that’s irrelevant now.

 

  1. Gonzaga vs. UCLA, Friday, 7:15 p.m. (CBS)

Is this the year Coach Mark Few gets Gonzaga into the Final Four? This talented Bulldogs team could be the best one Few has had in his Gonzaga tenure; the Bulldogs are in their first Sweet 16 since 2009. UCLA, on the other hand, is making the most of its opportunities after barely getting into the NCAA Tournament field. The Bruins have five players who average double figures in scoring. Getting into the Elite Eight will require UCLA to fire on all cylinders.

 

  1. Duke vs. Utah, Friday, 9:45 p.m. (CBS)

Duke has reached this point on the strength of center Jahlil Okafor and great team defense. The Blue Devils had their usual No. 1 seed trip through North Carolina in the first two rounds, all but assuring they would make it to the Sweet 16. Utah flamed out late in the season, losing three of its last five games and making an early exit in the Pacific 12 Conference Tournament. Delon Wright makes this team go, though the Utes will need a total team effort to advance past this round.

 

  1. Arizona vs. Xavier, Thursday, 10:17 p.m. (TBS)

This is Coach Sean Miller’s best Wildcats team although Arizona wound up with a second seed behind Wisconsin in the West Region. Point guard T.J. McConnell drives this team of future NBA players, and it’s hard to imagine anything other than an Arizona-Wisconsin rematch in the Elite Eight. Xavier, the team Miller coached before going to Arizona, is probably the weakest team left in the field. But the Musketeers have made the NCAA field in all but one season since 2001, so they know success.

 

  1. Kentucky vs. West Virginia, Thursday, 9:45 p.m. (CBS)

Not much drama here. Kentucky is unbeaten in 36 games this season and is beyond the odds-on favorite to win it all. West Virginia is the other remaining Big 12 team and would need a stunning upset to see its season extend beyond Thursday.

For aNewDomain, I’m Rodney Campbell.

Photo: Duke Photography, all rights reserved

About the author

Rodney Campbell

Rodney Campbell

Based in Phoenix, Rodney Campbell is a sportswriter and travel editor for aNewDomain and our sister pub, BreakingModern.