March Madness Viewing Guide: Sweet 16 (Day 1)

By Kevin Raju

In the first two rounds of this year’s NCAA tournament, history was made with many upsets. The biggest upset finally occurred as 16-seed UMBC (University of Maryland – Baltimore County) upset Virginia, which was the overall No. 1 team in the country. After that result, no more brackets were perfect.

Along came other upsets as well, including the likes of 13-seed Buffalo (over Arizona), 11-seed Loyola-Chicago (over Miami and Tennessee), 13-seed Marshall (over Wichita State), 11 Syracuse (over TCU and Michigan State), 7-seed Texas A&M (over North Carolina) and 9-seed Florida State (over 1 Xavier). For another year, no one will beat the odds and achieve a perfect bracket. There were other upsets as well, but they were not on the same scale as the upsets above which contained top national title picks by those making brackets.

Now, here are some quick summaries of the teams that will be playing during Day 1 of the Sweet 16 as they face off against each other for a spot in the Elite Eight. These games will be exciting and worth watching regardless of your bracket’s status.

11 Loyola-Chicago (30-5) vs. 7 Nevada (29-7) @ 7:07 p.m. EST on CBS

Both of these teams have massive wins under their belts as they get ready to keep their championship dreams alive. For Loyola, the first round upset against Miami was one trendy pick. After that, not many would have picked them to upset Tennessee, but Clayton Custer’s last shot bounced on the rim and went in. This gave Loyola the one-point lead and the victory.

Meanwhile, Nevada prevailed over 10-seed Texas and 2-seed Cincinnati with a roster consisting of players no taller than 6-foot-7. Twins Caleb and Cody Martin lead the team with 18.8 and 14 points a game, respectively. Combine that with the Wolfpack’s fast and fluid offense, along with 39.4 percent of shots at the three, and this Nevada team can be a challenger.

Loyola also has their chaplain, 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, who has captured audiences everywhere with her prayers alongside the team. What really makes this game fun to watch is the wager between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve. Whichever city’s team wins, the losing mayor shall buy donuts to give to the city hall of the winning team. This should be a fun game to watch.

7 Texas A&M (22-12) vs 3 Michigan (30-7) @ 7:37 p.m. EST on TBS

The Michigan Wolverines began their run by beating 14-seed Montana and 6-seed Houston. Texas A&M opened its run with victories over 10-seed Providence and a huge upset over 2-seed and national title favorite North Carolina. Now, these two teams clash for a spot in the Elite Eight.

First off, Michigan won against Houston with a last-second buzzer-beating three from Jordan Poole. That shot sealed the Wolverines’ Sweet 16 spot and kept their championship dreams alive. Now, Michigan has to take their talents and be ready to take on a strong Aggies team. Expect Michigan to utilize its three-point accuracy to get extra points over the Aggies.

However, this game will be decided over whoever gets possession of the ball the most. The Aggies boast a roster of size and strength that could win them the ball. Overall, they possess 418 offensive rebounds, which leads to more than 12 rebounds a game. Big Aggies like Tyler Davis (14.6 ppg, 9 rpg) and Robert Williams (10.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg) stand out as big guys that could jump in and take control at the center. For Michigan, Wagner must avoid foul trouble and Jon Teske must be prepared to go for offensive and defensive rebounds if the Wolverines want to move on to the Elite Eight. For the Aggies, solid rebounding and defending on the perimeter will lead to a victory and one step closer to the title. This game will come down to the wire.

9 Kansas State (24-11) vs 5 Kentucky (26-10) @ 9:37 p.m. EST on CBS

This game is better referred to as “The Battle of the Wildcats” as Kansas State takes on Kentucky for the Sweet 16 and more importantly, the right to bear the name of the Wildcats for the rest of the tournament. Kansas State beat 8-seed Creighton and 16-seed UMBC to move forward. Meanwhile, John Calipari’s Wildcats beat 12-seed Davidson and 13-seed Buffalo to go up against Kansas State for the Elite Eight.

Kansas State forward Dean Wade hopes to return from injury to help his team beat Kentucky. His height at 6-foot-10 would be very useful if he plays, as this Kentucky teams boasts six players taller than 6-foot-7. Kevin Knox of Kentucky (small forward) has been hoping that Wade would be able to play in this game so that they have no excuse for a loss.

Kentucky has gone through an up-and-down season as their star-studded roster has experienced wins and losses when predicted to have more wins under their belt. Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Knox and Wenyan Gabriel now contribute to this newly-sparked Kentucky team that has won the SEC tournament and survived the first and second rounds.

9 Florida State (22-11) vs 4 Gonzaga (32-4) @ 9:59 p.m. on TBS

Florida State survived the first two rounds by upsetting 8-seed Missouri and 1-seed Xavier. Gonzaga started their run by beating both UNCG (North Carolina-Greensboro) and then Ohio State. This team went all the way to the championship game last year but lost to North Carolina.

Florida State favors a fast-paced offensive game that led to their upset over Xavier. Gonzaga will need to control the ball and keep the pace of the game as quick as possible without giving the Seminoles easy control over the ball. For the Zags, key players include guard Josh Perkins and forward Rui Hachimura, as they have experience from last year’s run and look forward to continue their quest for a championship. For the Seminoles, tall forwards Ike Obiagu, Mfiondu Kabangele and Christ Koumadje will be key on the defensive end. They make up a combined 125 out of the team’s 170 blocked shots, and they blocked 10 shots against Missouri and Xavier during the first two rounds. This game looks to be a battle between speed and time.