On the first night of the Sweet Sixteen Wichita State face Notre Dame, North Carolina play Wisconsin, West Virginia challenge Kentucky and Xavier face Arizona.
In Cleveland, the Shocker and Fighting Irish open the night of basketball as Notre Dame try and keep the ACC perfect in this tournament. They squeaked by both Butler and Northeastern, and seem to rely on Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Zach Auguste individual heroics than anything else, but how far can their talent take them?
Wichita State looked excellent in the win over Kansas, but despite the defensive perception, they might be able to match Notre Dame’s firepower head on. This game will be a battle of a team trying to slow down play against a very free flowing, almost improvisational group, and the one that forces its style upon the other will get to reach the Elite Eight.
Half an hour later in Los Angeles North Carolina and Wisconsin will face off. The first job for the Tar Heels who haven’t been enjoying a lot of success in the tournament in recent years will be stopping Frank Kaminsky. Their forwards in the lineup – Kennedy Meeks, J.P. Tokoto and Justin Jackson are all 6’9 or shorter while Kaminsky is almost a 7 footer, but Meeks has 30 pounds on possibly the best player in the nation, and will also throw Brice Johnson at him.
Stopping Kaminsky might not be the most important thing. Wisconsin have Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker who make good use of every opportunity that doubling up on Kaminsky gives them. Marcus Paige is the focal point of the North Carolina offense, but if this becomes a game in which he tries to outshoot the opponents all on his own, the Tar Heels don’t stand much of a chance.
Two hours later and back in Cleveland, West Virginia will try to become the first team that beats Kentucky this season. There sure is a lot of confidence coming from the Mountaineers, as you would expect from a Bob Huggins team. Do they have a shot?
There isn’t a single aspect West Virginia excel at more than Kentucky, so it might come down to the coaching and the simple fact of execution. Bob Huggins has an 8-2 record against John Calipari and his teams, so maybe the answer remains with the coach that loves to push his team through complaining and stating that the whole world is against them, something Calipari does very well too.
The final game of the night will be back in Los Angeles, as Xavier try to do something against Arizona. Kentucky have a 13.5 edge according to the bookies, but Arizona losing is going to be the biggest upset of the night, if it actually happens.
Two coaches who know each other really well face off, and it’s going to take probably that and more for the Musketeers to overcome in a game they seem to be completely outmatched in physically and also in terms of talent.