Sweet 16 Regional Semi-Final Previews
7:15 pm (7) Wichita State (30-4) vs (3) Notre Dame (31-5) CBS - This is likely to be the most entertaining game of the evening, as both teams like to get up and down the floor and can really light it up from beyond the arc.
The Irish are quite a dangerous commodity, presently, having beaten Duke and North Carolina to win the ACC tournament, and gutting out close wins over Northeastern (69-65) and Butler, beating the Bulldogs in overtime, 67-64.
Wichita State downed Indiana in their tourney opener and then stunned the region's #2 seed, Kansas, with a 78-65 whipping. The Shockers were fortunate to receive a seeding that kept them on the underside of the Kentucky bracket and there is little doubt that they can match up quite well with Notre Dame.
9:45 pm (5) West Virginia (25-9) vs (1) Kentucky (36-0) CBS - Knocked out of the Big 12 tournament in the first round by Baylor, Bob Huggins' Mountaineers may be the tournament's poster boys for overachievement, knocking off Buffalo, 68-62, and then Maryland, 69-59, to get to this game against the Wildcats.
The chances of West Virginia pulling off the upset over the nation's #1 team? Slim. Kentucky has too much size on the front line and too much skill in the back court, which can involve as many as four guards, including the twins, Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Since LSU nearly ended Kentucky's undefeated run on February 10 in a 71-69 loss, the closest any team has come to beating the Wildcats is Georgia, which lost, at home, 72-64. In the SEC tournament, won by 13, 24 and 15 points, and their average magin of victory in the NCAA tourney has been 18 points.
7:47 pm (4) North Carolina (26-11) vs (1) Wisconsin (33-3) TBS - A real heavyweight battle here between two teams that are perennial tournament participants. Wisconsin has been to the tourney 17 straight seasons and are likely to be moving forward here. Frank Kaminsky leads a veteran group that is notorious for closing out opponents. The Tar Heels have had a successful season up to this point, but they've often wilted in late stages of games. It will be noteworthy to watch what happens at about the seven-minute mark of the second half. That should be about the time the teams will either show up or give in to pressure.
10:17 pm (6) Xavier (23-13) vs (2) Arizona (33-3) TBS - Viewers on the East coast haven't likely seen much of the Wildcats, but they're about to get an eyeful from this well-balanced and very dangerous team. Arizona has won 13 straight, their last loss an 81-78 defeat at in-state rival Arizona State on February 7. That's history, and the Wildcats steamrolled through the PAC-12 tourney with wins of 22, 14, and 28 points, slaughtering Oregon, 80-52 in the final. A 93-72 win over Texas Southern in their first toruney game and a ho-hum, 73-58 rout of Ohio State has them here.
Xavier hasn't met much competition in the tourney, beating Ole Miss in their opener and handling upstart Georgia State (a 14 seed) in the next round. Teams from the Big East have a 5-5 record in the tournament through the last round, while the PAC-12 boasts a 7-1 mark.
Tomorrow: Friday games previewed.