The NCAA tournament gets back underway today with four games in the Sweet 16, and I hope you have either picture-in-picture on your television or a laptop you can set on your coffee table, because this is going to be good.
You can watch all the action streamed online here. A brief look at each of the games:
No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton: It was only a couple of weeks ago that we WSU fans were listening to a couple of Pac-12 Networks lecture us about just how "on the bubble" Stanford was, and just how crippling a loss to the hapless Cougars would be. Of course, after topping No. 2 Kansas last weekend, the Cardinal are now just a win over a No. 11 seed away from advancing to the Elite Eight.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor: The Badgers proved they could not only survive the first weekend of the tournament, but do it by beating an uptempo team, knocking off Oregon. Wisconsin will never not have a reputation as a great defensive team under Bo Ryan, but the reality is that the Badgers' defense is pretty average by NCAA tournament team standards. But the offense? Rated fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency by kenpom.com. That, by the way, is two spots ahead of Baylor's offense. And if you think Pomeroy is engaging in some funky math, you clearly didn't watch the way Wisconsin roared back on the Ducks. This game honestly has the potential to be the most aesthetically pleasing game of the night.
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA: This looks like a pretty good matchup based on the seeds, and it even looks decent when you consider the Gators are the second rated team by kenpom.com and the Bruins are rated 11th. Here's the thing: The difference between UCLA and Florida -- and Arizona and Louisville, the other two teams in the "elite" category via his system -- is actually pretty big. One key area to watch: The Bruins love to run (their average offensive possession is the 15th shortest in the country) but the Gators have the second-longest average defensive possession, and (not coincidentally) the second-best adjusted defensive efficiency. While great offenses can often put great defenses to the test, I'm not sure UCLA is going to be able to impose its stylistic will, which gives me a sneaking suspicion that Florida could actually make the Bruins look pretty bad tonight.
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State: Speaking of matchups where someone might look bad, it's quite possible this could be the least aesthetically pleasing matchup of the night. It's a rematch of a November game that the Wildcats won by nine, and if anything, Arizona is stronger now than then. SDSU's offense, meanwhile, can be positively putrid at times -- not a good match for the Wildcats' suffocating pack line. Outside of an unexpected offensive hero emerging for the Aztecs, SDSU is going to have a tough time being more than a speed bump for Arizona as it rolls through to the Elite Eight. (Gamblers agree - this is the biggest line of the night Arizona -7.5.)
Thursday NCAA Regional Semifinals
|South||(10) Stanford Cardinal vs. (11) Dayton Flyers||FedExForum
|415p||CBS||Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols|
|West||(2) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (6) Baylor Bears||Honda Center
|447p||TBS||Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager|
|South||(1) Florida Gators vs. (4) UCLA Bruins||FedExForum
|645p||CBS||Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols|
|West||(1) Arizona Wildcats vs. (4) San Diego State Aztecs||Honda Center
|717p||TBS||Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager|