12.9 C
Saturday, May 27, 2023
HomeUSMarch Madness: Eight things to watch for in the Sweet 16 of...

March Madness: Eight things to watch for in the Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament


The die is cast for the Sweet 16. A trip to the Final Four and one of the biggest spectacles in American sports is just two games away.

But for now, 16 teams remain, each with the chance to progress further, until April with a chance at glory.

We have Cinderella stories that need more writing in the Princeton and Florida Atlantic forms. We have bluebloods at UConn and Michigan State looking to add to their storied pasts.

Teams that have been powerhouses all year, like Alabama and Houston, are just one win away from the Elite Eight. There could be the game of the tournament in Gonzaga-UCLA form.

With all this on the line, DailyMail.com takes a look at eight stories, one from each game, to keep an eye out tonight as the March madness continues at the Sweet 16.

Can a blue blood like Connecticut add to its history with a Final Four appearance?

Can Princeton find more magic to keep his story alive when playing with Creighton?

Can Princeton find more magic to keep his story alive when playing with Creighton?

Battle of the old against the new

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has been one of the best college basketball coaches in the country since 1995. He won a national title with the Spartans and appeared in eight Final Fours.

Kansas State coach Jerome Tang is on his first head coaching job.

To say there’s a chasm in coaching experience would be an understatement, but it wouldn’t mean the Wildcats are expected to lose.

A three-seed that lost just nine games in the nation’s top conference (the Big 12), Kansas State has shown doubters that they are capable of competing with Michigan State.

A key matchup to watch is the battle between the teams from beyond the arc. Michigan State is the eighth best 3-point shooting team in the country, while K-State is in the top 15 in 3-point defense, according to Ken Pom. Additionally, Michigan State runs one of the slowest offenses in the country, while Kansas State is one of the fastest 50.

Jerome Tang, Kansas State basketball coach

Michigan State Basketball Coach Tom Izzo

Who will win in a battle of Old vs. New? The experienced Tom Izzo or the upstart Jerome Tang (L)?

Can this UConn team become one of the best in the school?

On the four teams that have won national championships for the Huskies, each has been led by individuals who rose to the occasion throughout their tournament careers.

In 1999, it was guard Khalid El-Amin who led UConn to ‘shock the world.’ In 2004 he was central and national player of the year Emeka Okafor. In 2011, guard Kemba Walker inspired the team, winning eleven straight games en route to national and conference titles. In 2014, Shabazz Napier stepped up as UConn became the first and only seed to win a championship.

If anyone is poised to lead Connecticut to its fifth title, it’s Adama Sanogo, a 6-foot-10 forward from Mali. In two tournament games thus far, Sanogo has posted an impressive 52 points and a combined 21 rebounds in wins over 13-seeded Iona and fifth-seeded St. Mary’s.

He’ll need the other UConn starters to stay consistent or step up. Jordan Hawkins has struggled the past few games and Andre Jackson Jr. needs to keep up his hot streak.

That will be especially important when they play against this team from Arkansas that boasts two potential NBA Draft lottery picks: Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black.

Will Adama Sanogo etch his name in the UConn storybooks as one of the school's best?

Will Adama Sanogo etch his name in the UConn storybooks as one of the school’s best?

Florida Atlantic underdog story continues against Tennessee

FAU had only been to one NCAA Tournament prior to this year’s edition. They were immediately bounced and entered this year with no wins in March Madness.

This year, they were able to get past eight-seeded Memphis, and then took on Cinderella’s team, Fairleigh Dickinson.

Coach Dusty May has a well-organized team that does great on both sides of the ball.

But they will face their biggest and toughest test yet in Tennessee: one of the most experienced teams in the tournament and the most defensively efficient team in the nation.

The Vols are fantastic inside and perimeter and are seventh in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. FAU will need to play their best game in a season to emerge victorious.

Josiah Jordan-James of Tennessee

Nicholas Boyd (2) and Brandon Weatherspoon (23) of Florida Atlantic

The Volunteers’ defensive efficiency could prove a problem for Florida Atlantic

Gonzaga-UCLA could be Game of the Tournament

The last time these two teams met in the tournament, back in the 2021 Final Four, the contest was an instant classic. A back-and-forth contest ended with a Jalen Suggs buzzer overcoming a three-pointer to send Gonzaga to the national title game.

This Bulldogs team is just as good as the 2021 team, with the most efficient offensive unit in the country, according to Ken Pom. They are also in the top 10 in 3-point percentage, 2-point percentage, and block percentage.

UCLA has the second most efficient defense in the country. The Bruins can boast that both their offense and defense are top-25 in efficiency, something Gonzaga can’t claim.

Both teams have their star players. UCLA is led by guard Jaime Jaquez Jr., who is averaging 17.5 points and eight rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Drew Timme is expected to make a big impact for Gonzaga with his average of 21.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

This will be the biggest and most competitive game ever for the Sweet 16 and both teams are hoping to take advantage with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line.

Drew Timme de Gonzaga

Jaime Jaquez Jr. from UCLA.

Gonzaga and Drew Timme (L) will be in one of the best games of March against UCLA

Alabama and SDSU prepared for a defensive battle

Both Alabama and San Diego State are listed by Ken Pom in the top five in defensive efficiency, with each team also falling in the top five in 3-point defense.

But what separates the two teams is the sheer star power that Alabama possesses. Brandon Miller is a surefire lottery pick thanks to his shooting ability and size, as the 6-foot-9 freshman leads the team in both points and rebounds.

Meanwhile, San Diego State’s scoring is more spread out: Only one player is averaging double-digit points per game, but six players are averaging at least 7.5 points per game.

Another important key to the game is the adjusted timing of each attack. Alabama is one of the top five fastest offenses in the nation. San Diego State is ranked 263rd.

If the Aztecs can keep the ball and calm things down against Alabama, they could pose problems for the Crimson Tide.

Brandon Miller from Alabama

Keshad Johnson from San Diego State

In a battle of defensive prowess and varied tempo, will SDSU be able to slow down Alabama?

The relentless offense of Miami vs. Houston’s unstoppable defense

Houston has the second-best 3-point defense and third-best 2-point defense in the country. Not only that, but his offense is ninth in efficiency.

But they don’t excel in one particular area of ​​scoring — they’ve struggled from beyond the arc at times this season.

Meanwhile, the Miami Hurricanes are in the top 40 in 3-point percentage and 2-point percentage while ranking in the top 20 in free throws.

The top scorers of both teams struggled in their opening games before getting their act together in the second round against tougher opposition. Miami’s Isaiah Wong scored 27 points against Indiana while Houston’s Marcus Sasser dropped 22 points against Auburn.

As a unit, Miami hasn’t been below 70 points since the Jan. 21 game against Duke. Houston’s defense hasn’t allowed more than 70 points since the Jan. 25 game against Central Florida. Logic dictates that for a team to be successful, one of those streaks will have to end.

Houston's Marcus Sasser

Isaiah Wong of Miami

Marcus Sasser and Isaiah Wong are on a collision course after two great performances

Princeton’s Cinderella story could end in a mammoth fight against Creighton

The Princeton Tigers pulled off one of the most amazing upsets of the tournament when they stunned Arizona in the first round. His run continued with a loss to Missouri to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967.

However, that streak could end here when they face Creighton on Friday for one main reason: size. By average height, Princeton is out of the top 100 while Creighton is number 61 in the country.

Notably, the Bluejays have Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-foot-1, 260-pound center. Not only that, but Creighton has three players, including Kalkbrenner, who are as tall as or taller than Princeton’s biggest player, Keeshawn Kellman.

While Princeton was outsized by Arizona and still managed to win, the Wildcats weren’t as efficient on both ends of the court as Creighton.

The Bluejays use that size along with fantastic play by guards Trey Alexander and Ryan Nembhard to rank in the top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency, making them arguably the best team Princeton has faced yet.

Ryan Kalkbrenner of Creighton

Keeshawn Kellman of Princeton

Princeton likely doesn’t have an answer for Ryan Kalkbrenner (L), so can they hold him back?

Xavier v. Texas is a fight of experiences

On average, Texas has the sixth most Division I experience of any team in the country. Xavier is not far behind, with the sixteenth experience plus DI.

A pair of older guards, each in their third school, lead the way for both teams to score.

The Oakland-born Souley Boum, who made stops at San Francisco and UTEP before Xavier, averages 16.5 points per game and shoots about 44 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Toronto-born Marcus Carr, who made stops at Pittsburgh and Minnesota before Texas, is averaging 15.8 points per game and shooting just under 43 percent from the field.

But the depth of these teams is also compelling. Xavier may be without senior forward Zach Freemantle, one of his best players, but Jack Nunge, Colby Jones and Adam Kunkel have all stepped up as the season came to a close.

Those bottom three outscore the 2-4 scorers on the Longhorns, but Sir’Jabari Rice, Timmy Allen and Tyrese Hunter shouldn’t be counted out as Texas ranks in the top 15 in efficiency both offensively and defensively.

Xavier's Souley Boum

Marcus Carr from Texas

Veteran leadership provided by Souley Boum (L) and Marcus Carr will help Xavier & Texas

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories