Sweet 16 Previews: Friday Games
7:15 pm (11) UCLA (22-13) vs (2) Gonzaga (34-2) CBS - The highest seed remaining in the tournament, UCLA will defend the honor of the PAC-12, which has done surprisingly well during the first two rounds, compiling a 7-1 mark from four teams (UCLA, UTAH, Arizona, and Oregon). What the Bruins face, however, is one of the best teams left in the tourney. Gonzaga hasn't been a "Cinderella" team for quite some time; they're established as a powerhouse on a national scale and perennial champions of the West Coast conference. Additionally, Gonzaga already has a win at UCLA in the books this season, a December 19, 87-74 victory.
9:45 pm (5) Utah (26-8) vs (1) Duke (31-4) CBS - As usual, the Blue Devils have raised their game as the tournament has proceeded. Under the tutelage of Mike Krzyzewski, nothing short of 100% is expected from the players on the floor and that's generally what he always gets. Duke can produce from the outside, raining down threes on the opposition or inside, using Jahlil Okafor's wide body for scoring and defense. The Utes will test the interior of Duke's defense, as they have significant size on their front line. Not an easy task for the Blue Devils and possibly a significant upset, should Utah prove too tough in the lane.
7:37 pm (8) NC State (22-13) vs (4) Louisville (26-8) TBS - An all-ACC meeting here in the East, and the edge belongs to the Wolf Pack, by virtue of a 74-65 win at Louisville during the regular season. Both teams are notable for athleticism and defense, and this will be as hard-nosed a game as one will see in the entire tournament. While Louisville was awarded a lower seed, there really isn't much differentiating these teams and the game could come down to fouls (who's left on the court) and free throws. If there's a "must see" game for potential upsetters of the status quo, this one is it.
10:07 pm (7) Michigan State (25-11) vs (3) Oklahoma (24-10) TBS - The Sooners and Spartans are both well-coached and highly regarded by the remaining competition. This game could turn into a brawl, with physicality in excess on both sides, but the duel between Michigan State's Travis Trice and Oklahoma's premier scoring threat, Buddy Hield, will be prominent. Oklahoma hasn't seen much in the way of serious competition, beating Albany, then Dayton, to advance, while the Spartans have made their way with a win over Georgia before upsetting the #2 seed in the region, Virginia, and doing so with apparent ease. Ought to be a good one leading up to Sunday's epic games.