KANSAS VS. PURDUE
While this one isn’t the overall team showdown that Kentucky vs. UCLA looks to be, it does contain perhaps college basketball’s two most exciting gamers—Caleb Swanigan of Purdue, a monster on the boards and in the paint with a jumper to match, and the Jayhawks’ Frank Mason, a favorite for national player of the year whose unapologetic crossovers have humiliated dozens this season. The game is in Missouri, so top-ranked Kansas is closer to home, but Purdue did top 80 points the last two game—it’s March, so who knows!
OREGON VS. MICHIGAN
Michigan is not only fun to watch, but easy to root for—after the team’s plane crashed earlier this month, the under-ranked Wolverines went on a surprise six-game winning streak that finds John Beilein’s squad in a prime Sweet Sixteen showdown with Oregon (namely, with Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey). Earlier in the tournament, the Ducks barely fought off Rhode Island, and all betting odds currently have Derrick Walton, Jr. and Michigan (the lower ranked team) as the favorites. But again…Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey.
NORTH CAROLINA VS. BUTLER
On paper and in the record books, ACC champion North Carolina has Butler outgunned and outclassed, but on the actual hardwood, the Tarheels do have some worries. Despite a characteristically mighty effort from Justin Jackson, Arkansas nearly ousted them last week, and led by Kelan Martin, Chris Holtmann’s Butler boys are certainly no longer the first-round fodder they were a few years back. Amazingly, NC is the last ACC team in the tourney, and will inarguably arrive prepped to rep their conference, but this one is closer than it looks.
GONZAGA VS. WEST VIRGINIA
Boasting a similar story to Butler’s, Nigel Williams-Goss and Gonzaga enter this one as the favorite, despite a recent rough handling by lesser Northwestern. West Virginia is no traditional powerhouse either, though in a tourney that finds many storied teams now watching from home (Duke, Villanova, we’re looking at you), no-nonsense newcomers have become the norm. Quick verdict? Gonzaga is huge and smart, West Virginia is mean and title-ready, and March is mad as ever.
KENTUCKY VS. UCLA
It doesn’t take an expert to identify the top showdown—both of these squads are legendary NCAA programs (two of the few left in the running), they collectively hold 19 national championships, and both rosters hold multiple NBA-bound talents. Earlier this season when the two schools squared off, Lonzo Ball and the Bruins proved themselves worthy of all respect, but John Calipari is back in Memphis and Malik Monk is on fire. We’re looking at one of the top sweet sixteen games in the past ten years, so make sure you’re watching live and don’t forget to set the DVR.