NCAA March Madness: Sweet Sixteen Preview, Day 2

After an exciting night of action saw #3 Oregon, #1 Gonzaga, #1 Kansas, and #11 Xavier advance to the Elite Eight, the Fourth String team previews the second night of this year’s Sweet Sixteen.

#1 UNC vs #4 Butler

7:09 PM on CBS
UNC -7 | UNC 68%

#1 UNC is the only team from the hyped ACC to make the Sweet Sixteen after #2 Duke,#2 Louisville, #3 FSU, #5 Virginia, #5 Notre Dame, and #8 Miami were all eliminated early on in the tournament. UNC, however is the best the ACC has to offer, boasting a 29-7 regular season record that was 14-4 in conference play. UNC breezed by #16 Texas Southern in its first game, but star Junior Guard Joel Berry III sprained his ankle and proceeded to go 1-8 from the field for the night. In their round of 32 game against #8 Arkansas, the Tar Heels shot only 38% from the field (compared with their 47% average) while Berry went a meager 2-8. UNC blew a 15 point lead from early in the first half, and was only able to defeat Arkansas by scoring 10 unanswered points in the final three minutes of the game. The Tar Heels have to get out of their shooting slump if they hope to advance to the Elite 8.

#4 Butler is also the only remaining representative of their Big East conference after #1 Villanova was upset in the round of 32. The Bulldogs cleaned up consistent bracket-busters #12 Middle Tennessee behind 51% shooting from the field and 53% from beyond the arc. Three Bulldogs had double-digit scoring that game, and Junior Forward Kelan Martin lead the team with 19 points and 6 rebounds. Butler will have to continue this level of consistent shooting and offensive production while finding a way to keep UNC’s shooting slump going if they want to upset the Tar Heels.

#3 Baylor vs #7 South Carolina

7:29 PM on TBS
Baylor -3 | Baylor 56%

#3 Baylor has been flying under the radar despite their highlighter uniforms being as eye-catching as possible. The Bears breezed past #14 New Mexico State and survived a close game with #11 USC to advance, making #7 South Carolina the highest seeded team they will play so far this tournament. Baylor’s shooting is nothing to write home about, so they often have to rely on their 38 boards per game in order to keep them in tough games: they out rebounded USC by 11 to compensate for shooting 5% worse than the Trojans.  The Bears will need to beat South Carolina on the glass and will need production from Junior Forward Johnathan Motley, who averages 9.9 boards and 17 points per game.

#7 South Carolina had never won an NCAA tournament game before this year, and now have become hometown heroes for knocking off #2 Duke in Greenville, SC. The Gamecocks scored a monstrous 65 points in the second half, the most points ever scored in a single half against Coach K. South Carolina also forced 18 turnovers in that game, allowing them to come back from a 10 point deficit to win the game. Senior Guard Sindarius Thornwell made a name for himself by dropping 25 points against the Blue Devils while Sophomore Forward Chris Silva dropped 17 points, 13 of which came in the second half. The Gamecocks’ stars must continue their amazing tournament play if they want to advance to the Elite 8.

#2 Kentucky vs #3 UCLA

9:39 PM on CBS
UCLA -2 | Kentucky 68%

Probably the most hyped and most competitive game of the Sweet Sixteen pits two powerhouse Final Four favorites and top-ten overall teams against each other for a shot at the Elite Eight. Kentucky and UCLA are the two highest scoring teams left in the tournament, with 85 and 90 points per game respectively and their regular season showing was arguably the best college game this year. UCLA ended up winning at Kentucky, but both teams claim to have learned from their past confrontations.

#2 Kentucky is led by star Freshman Guard Malik Monk, who averages 20ppg but has been comparatively slumping so far this tournament. In their last game against #10 Wichita State the Wildcats came within a couple clutch blocks of being dethroned while Monk only put up 14 points with a total offensive production of only 65 points. The Wildcats have to raise their pace and production offensively to remain in control of the game against #3 UCLA.

The Bruins, however, have more than proved themselves to be a force to be reckoned with on the court. With 52% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc, the Bruins are easily the best offensive team in the NCAA, and so far have not had much trouble disposing of their first and second round opponents. The Bruins have 6 player who average double digit scoring, lead by Freshman Forward TJ leaf’s 16 points and 8 rebounds per game. If the Bruins want to win this game, they simply need to replicate their monstrous regular season offensive production and remain in control of the game’s tempo.

#4 Florida vs #8 Wisconsin

9:59 PM on TBS
EVEN | Florida 54%

The criminally under-seeded #8 Wisconsin Badgers are riding high after defeating reigning champions and #1 overall seed Villanova in the round of 32. Senior Guard Bronson Koenig, Senior Forward Nigel Hayes, and Sophomore Forward Ethan Happ have done it all for the Badgers, averaging double digit points in the regular season and in the tournament. It was Nigel Hayes clutch reverse left-handed layup that put the Badgers over Villanova, and it will be these three who will decide if Wisconsin can defeat the #4 Florida Gators and advance to the Elite Eight.

The #4 Florida Gators are also coming off of a dominant performance against #5 UVA where the Cavaliers lost by almost thirty points. The Gators defense combined with awful shooting from UVA resulted in a dismal 26% from the field and an awful 6.7% from beyond the arc. The Badgers will present more offensive pressure for the Gators than UVA did, but it still may not be enough to break Florida’s quietly quality defense. Junior Forward Devin Robinson has stolen the show so far for the Gators, scoring 24 and 14 points in Florida’s first two tournament games. He will need to continue his hot streak to keep Florida’s tournament hopes alive.

-Joseph Politano

The Fourth String team

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