On Friday, we get to what portends to be perhaps the best day of actual basketball during the NCAA Tournament this year - the Sweet 16 normally delivers when it comes to a combination of quantity and quality of match-ups. The viewing schedule follows immediately below, and some thoughts on the games follow that.
Friday's game/TV schedule
|Midwest||(2) Michigan Wolverines vs. (11) Tennessee Volunteers||Lucas Oil Stadium
|715p||CBS||Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Tracy Wolfson|
|East||(3) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (7) Connecticut Huskies||Madison Square Garden
New York City, NY
|727p||TBS||Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Allie LaForce|
|Midwest||(4) Louisville Cardinals vs. (8) Kentucky Wildcats||Lucas Oil Stadium
|945p||CBS||Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Tracy Wolfson|
|East||(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (4) Michigan St. Spartans||Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
|957p||TBS||Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Allie LaForce|
- Tennessee versus Michigan is the game I'm most excited for this entire tournament. The Volunteers - though we should all rightly loathe them for football season - play some of the most entertaining basketball in the country this year. And they have a huge match-up advantage over the Wolverines, as Tennessee shoots almost 50% from 2 this year while Michigan concedes almost that exact same percentage. Combine a 50% hit rate with a 40% offensive rebounding rate, and the Volunteers could play volleyball against the Michigan front line, as Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes simply keep putting shots up. Speaking of those two, Michigan normally runs out 6'6" Glenn Robinson III at the 4 spot, but he clearly can't guard Stokes or Maymon in the paint. On the other hand, neither of those two guys can run with Robinson on the perimeter. While either team may play zone to try to mitigate the damage from the match-up quandry, that would go especially poorly for Michigan, given that zone just allows for an even higher percentage of offensive rebounds. Expect a game in the 60s (both teams play at very slow paces) but with a high points-per-possession ratio. I like the Volunteers, but only just.
- Connecticut and Iowa State is the Dayton/Stanford of this evening - it's a nice game, sure, but they're here because of fortunate match-ups in the first two rounds, and they're probably the two worst teams playing tonight. Given the injury to Georges Niang for the Cyclones, I like the Huskies to move on.
- Former Gamecock Anthony Gill and the Virginia Cavaliers take on a very difficult task when they meet four seed Michigan State in Madison Square Garden. The Spartans are a very trendy choice to make the Final Four out of the region, given that they finally have a healthy line-up this season. But don't undersell the Cavaliers, who have only lost twice since the calendar turned to 2014 (21-2 against an ACC schedule and their first two tournament games). The Spartans are the small favorite, mostly due to match-ups, but either team can walk away a winner from this one and it shouldn't surprise you.
- Kentucky and Louisville renew their rivalry in Indianapolis in the final game of the evening. The Wildcats won in Rupp earlier this season and have been playing some of their best basketball of the year in the build-up to the tournament, and of course they played in one of the best games of the season last round when they knocked off Wichita State. That said, we're only four weeks removed from a stretch where Kentucky lost back-to-back games against Arkansas and South Carolina, and I'm not sure they've killed all of those demons just yet. The big question in this game is whether Andrew Harrison and the Wildcats can keep Louisville from running them over with turnovers. If the Wildcats can protect the ball, expect them to prevail.