Sweet 16 Preview: After thrilling first weekend, what’s next?

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The first weekend could not have been more thrilling, beginning with Vee Sanford’s runner that sent No. 11 Dayton past No. 6 Ohio State and ending with the dunk show that Aaron Gordon put on for No. 1 Arizona.

In between, we unbelievably only had one true buzzer-beater — Cameron Ridley dispatching No. 10 Arizona State — but we did manage to put together the best day of Round of 64 games ever and the single best college basketball game since Louisville beat Michigan for the 2013 title.

What’s in store for us in the Sweet 16?:

MORE: Catch up on all our coverage from the first weekend of the tournament


1. Is this the real Kentucky, or was Sunday just a tease?: The Wildcats looked awesome in their win over Wichita State, a performance that’s almost impressive enough to make us forget that they lost to South Carolina this month. If No. 8 Kentucky continues to play the way they did on Sunday, they can win a national title. No question. But I also would not be surprised if No. 4 Louisville beat them by 15.

2. Will Florida be challenged?: The Gators can be just stifling defensively. No. 4 UCLA can score in droves, but the tournament’s top overall seed has the kind of versatility that can give them fits. No. 10 Stanford has the size and No. 11 Dayton is a scrappy, well-coached, plucky bunch that won’t go down without a fight. That said, a ten point lead against Florida can be insurmountable, particularly with Scottie Wilbekin in the closer role. Will they be tested?

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings

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3. Does Tom Izzo get back to the Final Four?: Every four-year senior that Tom Izzo has ever coached has made a Final Four. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are still without a trip to college basketball’s biggest stage.

4. Is this the year Sean Miller becomes ‘elite’?: The Wildcats have shown the ability to absolutely beat the brakes off of opponents in the last month. When they’re getting out in transition, they’re a highlight reel waiting to happen. Make them play in the half court, and they’re very beatable. Head coach Sean Miller is one of the best young coaches in the game, as a tactician and a recruiter, but until he’s got a Final Four on his resume, he doesn’t belong in the conversation among the game’s elite.

5. Will Shabazz Napier have his Kemba Walker moment?: Kemba was a really good player having a great year when he shredded Gary McGhee’s ankles while hitting a buzzer-beater in the Big East quarterfinals. His legend lives on because he went on to win the title, but that’s the moment that everyone remembers. In UConn’s return to tournament play at Madison Square Garden, will their new star point guard create his own legacy? The No. 7 Huskies will get No. 3 Iowa State on Friday.

UK-WSUHype was justified | How good can Kentucky be? | One loss ruins Wichita State’s season?


1. Julius Randle, Kentucky: The improvement of the Harrison twins is what gets talked about with the Wildcats, but it was Randle’s 13 points, 10 boards and, most important of all, six assists that has the Wildcats in the Sweet 16.

2. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State: He may not even be the best point guard in his Sweet 16 matchup — Shabazz Napier is — but his size at his position makes him a nightmare to try to guard and the fact that the Cyclones will be playing without Georges Niang makes him just that much more vital to Fred Hoiberg’s club.

3. Adreian Payne, Michigan State: He may not be the most important player on Michigan State, but when he gets it going, he may be the most unstoppable player left in the tournament. That 41-point performance against Delaware in the Round of 64 resonates.

4. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida: The nation’s most underrated player. He’s gone from being nearly booted from the program to becoming the team’s best perimeter defender and arguably the best clutch-scorer left in the tournament.

5. Aaron Gordon, Arizona: He’s the guy that makes everything happen for Arizona and their key cog on the defensive end. He’s also playing his best basketball of the season on the offensive end of the floor.

KANSAS: Joel Embiid’s back injury cost all of us | Bill Self’s fifth tourney loss to No. 9 seed or lower


  • 1. No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky (Fri. 9:45 p.m., Midwest): Do I need to explain this?
  • 2. No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State (Fri. 9:57 p.m., East): The Spartans have been the favorite to win the East since the bracket was released. I think the dual-ACC champ has something to say about that.
  • 3. No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State (Thu. 10:17 p.m., West): I’m not sure if SDSU can score against the Arizona team that showed up Sunday, but this game is in Anaheim. The atmosphere will be outrageous.
  • 4. No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee (Fri. 7:15 p.m., Midwest): I’m really intrigued by this matchup, as the Vols are streaking and have the physicality up front to give Michigan issues.
  • 5. No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 UConn (Fri. 7:27 p.m., East): Tough draw for the Cyclones, as UConn packs MSG. Losing Georges Niang will hurts as well. DeAndre Kane vs. Shabazz Napier will be awesome.
  • 6. No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA (Thu. 9:45 p.m., South): Maybe I’m overlooking UCLA, but I think Florida will handle them. Key will be whether or not the Gators are hitting jumpers. If they are, look out.
  • 7. No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor (Thu. 7:47 p.m., West): All of a sudden, the Bears look really, really dangerous. Can the Badgers figure out Baylor’s zone?
  • 8. No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton (Thu. 7:15 p.m., South): Stanford’s size vs. Dayton’s versatility.

AND THE FINAL FOUR WILL BE … : Why back off my picks now? I’m still rolling with No. 1 Florida, No. 1 Arizona, No. 4 Louisville and No. 4 Michigan State.

VIDEO: UMass Lowell game delayed by shattered backboard

Pat Duquette
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UMass Lowell’s game with Wheelock College was delayed for a little over an hour on Tuesday afternoon after a dunk attempt from Dontavius Smith broke the backboard.

The game resumed and is currently in the second half. Here’s the video of Smith shattering the glass after he took flight.

No. 13 Indiana bounces back with 83-73 win over St. John’s

Troy Williams
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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) Yogi Ferrell had 22 points and seven assists to lead No. 13 Indiana to an 83-73 victory over St. John’s on Tuesday in the consolation round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

Freshman center Thomas Bryant had a career-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting for the Hoosiers (4-1), who lost to Wake Forest 82-78 in the closing seconds of their opening-round game.

Indiana will play the winner of the Chaminade-UNLV game for fifth place on Wednesday.

Federico Mussini and Ron Mvouika had 17 points each for the Red Storm (3-2), who played much better than they did in their 92-55 pasting from No. 19 Vanderbilt in the first round.

Ferrell had an answer every time St. John’s tried to close in in the second half. Four times the Red Storm got within seven points and three of those times Ferrell replied. He hit a short jumper, two free throws and a step-back jumper to keep St. John’s at bay.

The Red Storm got as close as 76-70 with 1:53 to play on two free throws by Yankuba Sima. James Blackmon Jr., who finished with 12 points, hit a 3 and after a St. John’s turnover he scored on a drive to put the game away.

Troy Williams had seven points and nine rebounds for Indiana.

The Hoosiers led by as many as 17 points in the first half and took a 42-31 lead at halftime.


St. John’s: This game started a little bit better than the opening round. In that game Vanderbilt opened by scoring the first nine points of the game. Against Indiana St. John’s trailed 9-2 at the start. … St. John’s had eight turnovers against Vanderbilt. The Red Storm had that many at halftime against the Hoosiers, They finished with 11.

Indiana: Bryant had 15 points at halftime, two off his career high for a game. … Ferrell was 9 of 10 from the free throw line. The rest of the Hoosiers were 6 of 14.

TALE OF THE TAPE: St. John’s trainer Ron Linfonte and Tim Garl, his counterpart at Indiana, are both in their 35th season at their respective schools. They are the two longest-tenured trainers in men’s Division I basketball.


St. John’s: plays loser of Chaminade-UNLV for seventh place on Wednesday.

Indiana: plays winner of Chaminade-UNLV for fifth place on Wednesday.