NCAA Tournament Reaches Sweet 16

NCAA basketball | Image by Al Sermeno Photography

The men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is down to 16 teams as play resumes on Thursday night.

Known as the Sweet 16, the remaining teams are two wins away from reaching this year’s Final Four in Houston.

Here are the Sweet 16 matchups for Thursday and Friday.

No.3 Kansas State (25-9) vs. No.7 Michigan State (21-12), East (New York) region, 5:30 p.m. CT
Kansas State will go as far as Keyontae Johnson and Marquis Nowell can take it. The two perimeter players finished third and fourth in the Big 12 in scoring, and Johnson led the conference in field goal percentage.

The one thing that would help the Wildcats is an offensively dominant big man. Nae’Qwan Tomlin plays well, but he rarely takes over the game.

That is good news for Michigan State, which has given up some massive games to opposing big men. Unlike most seasons, the Spartans are less physical and more reliant on outside shots.

Michigan State is the eighth-best three-point-shooting team in the country behind Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser, and Jaden Akins — who each shoot 40% or better from the perimeter.

Tomlin and Michigan State’s Malik Hall could be determining factors, and head coach Tom Izzo’s experience in March could go a long way.


No.4 UConn (27-8) vs. No.8 Arkansas (22-13), West (Las Vegas) region, 6:15 p.m. CT
UConn is one of the most athletic teams in the country. The Huskies feature a dominant big man in Adama Sanogo, who averages 17.3 points, and elite guards in Jordan Hawkins and Tristen Newton.

Freshman Donovan Clingan’s defensive prowess in the post and Alex Karaban’s contributions in the backcourt make this a difficult team to beat.

Arkansas is in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season after a regular season that did not meet expectations. The Razorbacks began the season ranked No.10 nationally and fell out of the polls.

Ricky Council IV, Nick Smith Jr., and Trevon Brazile will have to have big games for Arkansas to move on.


No.4 Tennessee (25-10) vs. No.9 Florida Atlantic (33-3), East (New York) region, 8 p.m. CT
Tennessee is a physical team that prides itself on defense. The Volunteers allow just 57.8 points per game, the third-lowest in the country behind North Texas and Houston. Offensively, no player averages more than 12.7 points, but the Vols do have four players averaging double figures on the season.

Florida Atlantic is a team many did not see coming, but the Owls had a spectacular regular season, winning 33 games on the way to a Conference USA title. This is just the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance and the first time it has won a game.

Leading scorer Johnell Davis has continued to roll in the tournament and will seek help from Vladislav Goldin, Alijah Martin, and others to get FAU to the Elite Eight.


No.2 UCLA (31-5) vs. No.3 Gonzaga (30-5), West (Las Vegas) region, 8:45 p.m. CT
UCLA is a deep team with plenty of veteran leadership from guys like Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell, and Jaylen Clark. Jaquez and Campbell were on the Bruins team that made a run from First Four to Final Four in 2021 and helped the program reclaim its legendary foundation.

UCLA lost to North Carolina in the Sweet 16 last year and will look to get closer to another Final Four.

Gonzaga has been the top mid-major program in the country for more than 20 years. Head coach Mark Few has helped his team to at least 20 wins in each season since 1999 (he was named head coach in 2001), with 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and 12 Sweet 16s.

Richardson native Drew Timme leads the team with 21.1 points per game, but Julian Strawther, Anton Watson, and Rasir Bolton add more firepower to the nation’s best offense (87.3 points per game).


No.1 Alabama (31-5) vs. No.5 San Diego State (29-6), South (Louisville) region, 5:30 p.m. CT
Alabama was the top overall seed in this year’s tournament and has looked the part. The Crimson Tide has talent all over the roster, and freshman Brandon Miller has made a big difference.

This is Alabama’s second Sweet 16 appearance in three years, and it will face a team with a contrasting playing style in San Diego State.

While Alabama loves to get up and down the floor, the Aztecs play a more physical, methodical game at a slower pace. San Diego State has just one player who averages double figures in scoring and allows only 63.1 points per game.

Opponents have also struggled against the Aztecs from three-point range, shooting just 28.8%.


No.1 Houston (33-3) vs. No.5 Miami (27-7), Midwest (Kansas City) region, 6:15 p.m. CT
Houston struggled early in its two NCAA Tournament games but found ways to win late. The Cougars have a deep lineup, with five players averaging double figures in scoring. Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark have had the big games in March, but anyone can step up anytime.

Miami can challenge Houston because of its playing style and efficiency. The Hurricanes are a fast-paced team that averages 79.1 points per game on 48.1% shooting. The ACC champions are undersized but have the players to go toe-to-toe with Houston from a scoring standpoint.


No.6 Creighton (23-12) vs. No.15 Princeton (23-8), South (Louisville) region, 8 p.m. CT
Creighton has made it this far twice in the past three years. The Blue Jays made their eighth tournament appearance under head coach Greg McDermott.

Center Ryan Kalkbrenner sets the tone as an elite defender and the team’s leading scorer, but Creighton has at least four other guys in Trey Alexander, Baylor Scheierman, Ryan Nembhard, and Arthur Kaluma, who can get things done.

Princeton is this tournament’s Cinderella team. The Tigers earned their first Sweet 16 berth since the 1960s after holding their opponents well under their scoring averages through the first two rounds.

While Princeton may be overlooked, its defense and rebounding have caused trouble for teams, and it has the size to play with anyone, as only two players on the roster are shorter than 6-foot-4.


No.2 Texas (28-8) vs. No.3 Xavier (27-9), Midwest (Kansas City) region, 8:45 p.m. CT
Texas finished second in the Big 12 and won the conference tournament despite losing its head coach early in the season. The Longhorns are a veteran group with six seniors leading the charge. The guards have all shown consistent play, but the bigs must also be consistent if they hope to keep going.

Xavier can score with the best. The Musketeers average 81.2 points and have the fifth-best three-point-shooting team, percentage-wise (38.9%).

Souley Boum has been the go-to guy lately, but Jack Nunge, Colby Jones, and Adam Kunkel add more scoring to the equation. While the loss of Zach Freemantle for the season hurts the frontcourt, the team has experienced players and coaching that keep it in the hunt.

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