Reaching the Sweet Sixteen stage of the NCAA tournament also means a few days without basketball. This rest is also time to further analyze and try and decipher who the favorites and underdogs are from those that are left, which pretty much means separating between teams like Florida, Louisville and Arizona from the likes of Dayton and Stanford.
Not all the splits are that easy and obvious. Who seems like a favorite – Michigan or Tennessee? The Virginia and Michigan State game offers the same problem and Kentucky, although not posting the best of regular season numbers to all those who measure efficiency, never seem to be an underdog no matter what game they play.
#11 Dayton vs #10 Stanford, South Region (7:15 ET): The two lowest ranked teams along with Tennessee (the only three teams with double digit seeding left), and by far worse than the rest of the field according to Kenpom. But in every matchup there has to be one favorite and one underdog. Stanford did a lot better during the season against much harder competition. While Dayton are the Cinderella story more or less, Stanford are just as surprising, only better.
#6 Baylor vs #2 Wisconsin, West Region (7:47): No question here. Baylor did destroy Creighton, but the new Big East isn’t all that impressive. The Big Ten however is a different story, with a defense that the Bears haven’t seen the likes of this season. Winning this one and reaching the Elite Eight will be a very big surprise.
#4 UCLA vs #1 Florida, South Region (9:45): Again, a no brainer. UCLA weren’t that impressive during the regular season, but seem to be getting hot at the right time. However, Florida haven’t lost a game in 2014 and aren’t ranked as the number one team in the nation just because of their loss column. They’re simply that good.
#4 San Diego State vs #1 Arizona, West Region (10:17): The best defense in the nation against a Aztecs team that finds it difficult to score at times. Doesn’t sound like the most fair of combinations.
#11 Tennessee vs #2 Michigan, Midwest Region (7:15): Despite the huge difference in the seeding and the Vols coming from the First Four, it’s not that much of a disparity. In fact, according to Kenpom, Tennessee are the better team. Their defense hasn’t been tested by the best during the regular season, but they’ve more than impressed in their three tournament wins over Iowa, a team that might as good as Michigan, UMass and Mercer.
#7 UConn vs #3 Iowa State, East Region (7:27): UConn have the better ratings and defense in a game that might turn out to be a very entertaining duel between Napier and Kane, but Iowa State have an offense that simply can’t be ignored and against a team without the kind of defense that puts fear into others, the Cyclones should be considered slight favorites.
#8 Kentucky vs #4 Louisville, Midwest Region (9:45): Kentucky have already beaten the Cardinals once this season, but things that happen in non-conference time don’t usually tell the real story. Louisville shouldn’t have been ranked as a #4 team, but that’s the way it goes, and despite not having the Wildcats’ talent, it’s hard to ignore that they’re simply the better team.
#4 Michigan State vs #1 Virginia, East Region (9:57): Too close to call, but we will give the Cavs the edge because of how they handled their previous foes, compared to the Spartans not having the easiest of times against Harvard.