The first week of the NCAA Tournament was simply incredible. While Gonzaga did get knocked out by Arizona in the Round of 32, the first few days of the tournament were full of incredible upsets, finishes, and performances. In looking at the Sweet 16 matchups, I have to believe that we will continue to see amazing games as we approach the Final Four in Dallas. Let's take a deeper look at what to watch for...
No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton - South Region - 4:15 PM - CBS
It always bums me out when the two biggest surprises of the tournament come out of the same bracket and, this year, it has happened with Dayton and Stanford. Both teams have had very tough roads to get to this point with Dayton taking down in-state goliath Ohio State and a very strong Syracuse team. Meanwhile, Stanford had to battle New Mexico and then held on to upset Bill Self's Kansas squad. Stanford has the definite advantage in the paint but Dayton has the propensity to get hot from outside and make key runs which helped them get to this point. As Gonzaga fans are well aware, Jordan Sibert from Dayton has the potential to be the best player on the court no matter who Dayton plays but he can be streaky. If he is on tonight, look for Dayton to pull off yet another upset. I think he will be and I like the Flyers in this one.
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor - West Region - 4:47 PM - TBS
As I said in the intro, I'm very excited for virtually every Sweet 16 matchup but if I had to choose the one I am looking most forward to, it would probably be this one. In particular, the Baylor Bears could be the most impressive team of the tournament so far, especially if you exclude the No. 1 seeds. They completely waxed Doug McDermott and the Creighton Bluejays in the Round of 32 in probably the biggest 'wow' of the tourney thus far. That said, Wisconsin is a far more complete team than Creighton and the Badgers have a group that matches up nicely with Baylor's frightening length. More importantly, they are a very good shooting team which should help against the Bears' zone defense. This is a really hard one to pick but I have a hard time picking against Baylor in this one. More than that, I just really want to see the Baylor vs. Arizona matchup for a Final Four berth.
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA - South Region - 6:45 PM - CBS
This is a game that all advanced statistics nerds (like myself) should absolutely love because pace should dictate the outcome. If you have watched - and stayed awake through - each of Florida's first two wins of the tournament, you should be well aware that they like to win with defense and slow things down to a darn near glacial pace. On the flip side, UCLA needs to get out and run to get the win. The Bruins score over 80 points per game which is near the top in the nation. UCLA's guard trio may be my favorite in the tournament with Jordan Adams, Normal Powell, and Kyle Anderson. The great news for the Bruins is that they are all playing at a ridiculously high level right now. The one frightening thing for me with UCLA is their depth, especially in the post. They only go three-deep in the post so if fouls become an issue against a physical Florida team, the Gators will be able to slow the pace down and pound the paint. I have a much stronger urge to pick the Bruins than I thought I would but I have to go with the Gators in this one.
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego St. - West Region - 7:17 PM - TBS
Can I really pick against Arizona after what happened to our beloved Zags on Sunday night? No, no I can't. While I am extremely impressed by the Aztecs and think Steve Fisher has done an incredible job, I just can't see Arizona not being in Dallas for the Final Four. Also, I'm still pissed that Josh Davis spurned the Zags for the Aztecs this past offseason. Davis is currently averaging 8 points and 10 boards for SDSU. Barring an Xavier Thames scoring barrage, I have a hard time envisioning this one being a classic contest. It should be a great atmosphere in Anaheim as I'm sure Aztec fans will pack the gym but I really like Sean Miller's Arizona team in this one.
So, because I picked Arizona, Florida, Baylor, and Dayton, I'm sure the exact opposite will happen. What say you?