Sweet 16 showdowns herald more Madness
March Madness is back Thursday following three days off to move to the four regional final locations. Before the action tips off in Newark and San Antonio on Friday, there are four matchups to be decided in the West and Southeast. Here’s a look at what to expect as the drive to the Elite Eight begins.
(3) Connecticut (28-9) vs. (2) San Diego St. (34-2)
Thursday, 7 p.m. CBS
Shutting down Huskies junior guard Kemba Walker is what it’s all about for the Aztecs, who went to double-overtime against Temple just to get this far. Walker, the Big East tournament’s most outstanding player, is having a legendary postseason, highlighted by a 33-point, five-rebound, four-assist effort against Cincinnati. It will be up to energetic guard D.J. Gay to wrangle him, and then to find backcourt-mate Chase Tapley on the other end. Stopping Walker is key because he makes up for the team‘s many shortcomings. If the Huskies have all their parts working, including the scoring and rebounding of Alex Oriakhi, this may not be much of a game.
(1) Duke (32-4) vs. (5) Arizona (29-7)
Thursday, 7 p.m. CBS
By the end of the weekend, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski could tie Bobby Knight’s 902 victories as Division I’s all-time winningest coach. But first he’ll have to get by an Arizona squad that will likely charge forward Derrick Williams with slowing down senior forward Kyle Singler, an inside-outside threat looking to break out from tournament struggles that have seen him go just 11 of 29 from the field while scoring 24 points in two games. Even if that happens, though, the Wildcats will have to contend with a loaded backcourt of distributor Nolan Smith and 3-point specialist Seth Curry, plus a freshman NBA prospect, Kyrie Irving, who is regaining his form after a season-long toe ailment (11 points vs. Michigan). It will be a tall order for Arizona to upset the defending champs.
(3) BYU (32-4) vs. (2) Florida (28-7)
Thursday, 7:15 p.m. TBS
When BYU lost its top rebounder, Brandon Davies, to an honor-code violation this month, some tournament watchers expected the Cougars and their Naismith Player of the Year front-runner, Jimmer Fredette, to make a cameo, not a run, in the NCAAs. with top-seeded Pitt out, the Cougars look unstoppable after Fredette exploded for 66 points in two straightforward wins. Still, the Gators have the size and pressure-packed game plan to trouble BYU and The Jimmer.
(8) Butler (25-9) vs. (4) Wisconsin (25-8)
Thursday, 9:55 p.m. TBS
Wisconsin, which leads the country in free-throw shooting (82.3 percent) and minimizing turnovers (7.5 per game), is built for protecting a late lead with foul shots and ball control. Expect a low-scoring, defensive affair between two tough teams; the Bulldogs, last year’s national runner-up, got to the Sweet 16 by knocking off top-seeded Pitt 71-70.