With the first two rounds of March Madness in the books, the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight are set to tip off for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this weekend. There were a handful of upsets over the first weekend, but only one low seed is still alive. All twelve No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds are still alive, and all of the teams joining them were favored in their second-round victories. We really are down to the best 16 teams in the nation. Here’s what to watch for this weekend:
Most Anticipated Games
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Florida State
Both teams are coming off of convincing wins in the round of 32. Gonzaga beat No. 9 Baylor by 12 points behind 36 points from Brandon Clarke. Florida State blew out No. 12 Murray State and superstar Ja Morant 90-62 with a strong defensive performance. With both of these long teams looking very strong right now, this will be one of the more fascinating Sweet Sixteen matchups (expect a LOT of tipped balls and blocked shots). Reigning WCC Player of the Year Rui Hachimura scored a season-low six points against Baylor, so look for a bounce-back performance from him against the deep roster of the Seminoles. Note: this is a rematch of last year’s Sweet Sixteen where the Seminoles shocked the Zags, so Mark Few’s squad will be out for revenge.
UPDATE: Gonzaga avenged last year’s Sweet Sixteen loss by taking down Florida State 72-58 in an ugly, turnover-filled contest. Even if it wasn’t pretty, Gonzaga moves on to face Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 12 Oregon
After stunning No. 5 Marquette in the first round, Oregon has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and is the only potential Cinderella remaining in the tournament. They’ll face their toughest tournament competition yet in the Sweet Sixteen, facing off against top-ranked Virginia. If they’re able to knock off the Cavaliers, they’ll face either No. 2 Tennessee or No. 3 Purdue in the Elite Eight. Neither of those opponents will be easy outs, but they aren’t tougher than Virginia, so if the Ducks can get past this round, they’ll have a real chance to advance to the Final Four.
UPDATE: Oregon’s cinderella run ended in heartbreaking fashion, as Virginia seized control of the game over the final three minutes of a very low-scoring affair. Final score: 53-49. Virginia will take on the red-hot Carson Edwards and Purdue next for a trip to the Final Four.
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech
The Blue Devils survived a nail-biter against UCF in the round of 32 to stay alive and move on to the Sweet Sixteen for the 25th time under Coach K. They’ll face a familiar opponent this time around in Virginia Tech, who took down a Zion Williamson-less Duke team at the end of February. Williamson and fellow Duke star freshman R.J. Barrett were both impressive in the round of 32, but Duke will need even stronger performances from both of them to advance to the Elite Eight, where they would face the winner of Friday’s Michigan State-LSU matchup with win. On the Hokies’ side, if Justin Robinson continues trending in the right direction since returning from injury, there might be some partying in Blacksburg this weekend.
UPDATE: Duke once again escaped with a win on a missed tip-in as time expired, 75-53, in one of the best games of the year. Zion Williamson put on quite a show and his Duke squad will move on to face Michigan State in a matchup of two of basketball’s greatest coaches.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Auburn
Auburn hasn’t been to the Elite Eight in over 30 years, last making it in 1986. After escaping a very close call against New Mexico in the first round, they convincingly beat Kansas by 14 points in the round of 32, which was reassuring to their odds of breaking their Elite Eight drought. Bruce Pearl’s team will face a very tall challenge when they lineup against a Tar Heels squad that is clicking on all cylinders right now. You can look forward to a fast-paced, back-and-forth contest, driven by UNC’s Coby White and Cameron Johnson against Auburn’s two-headed dragon of Bryce Brown and Jared Harper.
UPDATE: We came into this game expecting a run and gun, high-scoring affair. What we didn’t expect was that Auburn would completely take command of the second half and cruise to a 17 point victory, 97-80. Auburn’s Elite Eight opponent will be Kentucky, the last team to beat the Tigers before they embarked on their current 11-game winning streak.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Texas Tech
If you like really really good defense, then this is defensive efficiency national championship. According to the 2019 KenPom ratings, these are the top two teams in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency this year. Jarrett Culver has had a stellar tournament thus far for the Red Raiders, attempting to lead his team to a second-straight Elite Eight and its first ever Final Four. They’ll face a an experienced Sweet Sixteen opponent in the Wolverines, who hang their hat on their elite defense and a deep, balanced scoring attack that features Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole. To the traditionalist, this game will a picture of college basketball perfection.
UPDATE: Proving why they’re the top defensive team in the country, Texas Tech held the Wolverines to only 16 points in the first half and cruised to a dominating win, 63-44. The Red Raiders will play Gonzaga next in a matchup of the nation’s top defense against the nation’s top offense.
Where and How to Watch the Sweet Sixteen
Thursday, March 26
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Florida State (Anaheim, CA) | Final: 72-58
No. 2 Texas Tech vs. No. 3 Michigan (Anaheim, CA) | Final: 63-44
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Purdue (Louisville, KY) | Final: 94-99
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 13 Oregon (Louisville, KY) | Final: 53-49
Friday, March 27
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 3 LSU (Washington, DC) | Final: 80-63
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech (Washington, DC) | Final: 75-73
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Auburn (Kansas City, MO) | Final: 80-97
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Houston (Kansas City, MO) | Final: 62-58
Where and How to Watch the Elite Eight
Saturday, March 30
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Anaheim, CA) | Final: 75-69
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 1 Virginia (Louisville, KY) | Final: 75-80
Sunday, March 31
No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Kansas City, MO) | Final: 77-71
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Duke (Washington, DC) | Final: 68-67
Keep up with all the NCAA Tournament action on DIRECTV.
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