Ranking the Watchability of the Sweet Sixteen matchups

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Click here to browse through all of our Sweet 16 previews:

I’m going to do this countdown style, starting with the eighth-most-watchable game and finishing up with el numero uno.

8.  (3) Marquette vs. (2) Miami (CBS): Someone had to be the eight seed here. This game will be tough to watch because Marquette went through a couple of point-guard deficient mid-majors to get to the Sweet 16, and they’re about to get exposed. Shane Larkin has proved himself equal to the pressure of the national tournament, and the Hurricanes may well turn this into a laugher. Also, the eyeball impact of Marquette’s road unis and Miami’s highlighter-pen-inspired shoes will be devastating. One thing that might push this one higher in the end: the possibility of another brilliant Julian Gamble photobomb.

7. (13) La Salle vs. (9) Wichita State (TBS): Two very inspiring teams, but probably not the most telegenic basketball. Points had to be deducted when Carl Hall shaved off his visually dynamic dreadlocks, though some more were added back on for the braids of Tyrone Garland, which sway in most pleasing fashion when he lofts up the “Southwest Philly Floater”.

6. (6) Arizona vs. (2) Ohio State (TBS): It may be painful to watch Arizona’s guard-based attack attempt to battle past Aaron Craft only to run into the Buckeyes’ star big man DeShaun Thomas. Neither team has been associated with the term “win pretty” this season, so whichever way it goes, it could be a slog. If there’s another dramatic game-winner, this one will be much more interesting.

5. (4) Michigan vs. (1) Kansas (TBS): We’re sort of at the tipping point here. If the Kansas backcourt shows up in this one, it could be far better than I’m predicting. A Trey Burke/Tim Hardaway, Jr. vs. Elijah Johnson/Ben McLemore backcourt battle could be spectacular if the latter pair break out of the slump they inhabited in the first two games of the tourney. The emergence of Mitch McGary as a possible foil to the excellent Jeff Withey is a subplot to watch, as well.

4. (12) Oregon vs. (1) Louisville (CBS): I honestly could have flip-flopped this one with the No. 5 matchup without losing any sleep. Oregon has been dynamic and fun to watch thus far, but Louisville is such a meat grinder on defense, with a strong guard corps, that they might slow the Ducks down to an unwatchable pace. Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng setting up to reject anyone who gets inside could be fun, but not if we end up with a blowout.

3. (3) Michigan State vs. (2) Duke (CBS): It bothered me that I was more excited about the coaching matchup here than the actual styles of play, but there’s no doubt that this will be an epic showdown between two programs who have become synonymous with big tournament moments. There’s a lot of size and experience inside, so this could be one of the better big man games we’ll see in the Sweet Sixteen.

2. (4) Syracuse vs. (1) Indiana (CBS): Based on the sheer blue-chip athleticism that will be on display, I had to bump this one over the MSU-Duke game. You’ve got Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair on one side, and Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller on the other. If you’ve watched any college hoops this season, you probably got a buzz just remembering some of the highlight-reel plays those four players have put up this year. Plus, the seeding works to our advantage, because the Hoosiers will be wearing their classic home jerseys and the Orange will be in… well, orange.

1. (15) Florida Gulf Coast vs. (3) Florida (TBS): If the Eagles played any other style, this would be a terrible game to watch, but the running, gunning, high-flying Dunk City underdog is great television, win or lose. I love the FGCU uniforms, and nobody can deny that coach Andy Enfield and his family burnish the school’s visual image as well. I’m including the Gators in this, of course, it’s not all about the Eagles. Florida gets a rather sizable 40 percent of their points from three-pointers, and they are the most perfectly balanced tourney team in terms of offensive and defensive prowess. Florida has serious hair game as well, from Billy Donovan’s distinctive widow’s peak to Will Yeguete’s puffy Fro-hawk.

It should be an incredibly watchable game on all fronts, but most especially because of the possibilities it represents. Florida would be in the Elite Eight for the third time in as many years if they prevail, and Florida Gulf Coast would be building on their incredibly improbable tournament resume. If the Eagles make an Elite Eight, can you really afford to be the person who was watching Letterman instead?

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

John Calipari moves into 2nd on Kentucky all-time wins list after beating Auburn

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Coach John Calipari surpassed Joe B. Hall on the Kentucky Wildcats’ all-time wins list and is second behind Adolph Rupp after an 80-53 victory over Auburn on Saturday.

Calipari is 298-68 in 10 seasons with the Wildcats. Hall compiled a 297-100 record in 13 seasons and led the Wildcats to a national championship in 1978.

PJ Washington scored 24 points to lead No. 4 Kentucky. Washington led three players in double figures and helped lead the Wildcats to a regular-season sweep of the Tigers. The Wildcats (23-4, 12-2 Southeastern Conference) defeated Auburn 82-80 last month and made things easier the second time around. Tyler Herro followed Washington with 17 points and Ashton Hagans added 14.

Kentucky played without senior forward Reid Travis, who sprained his right ankle in a 66-58 win at Missouri last Tuesday. Travis is expected to miss the next two weeks. Freshman EJ Montgomery started in Travis’ absence and scored six points. Nick Richards split time with Montgomery in the post and added four points.

Washington scored 11 of Kentucky’s first 16 points and set the tone for the victory. Four of Kentucky’s first seven field goals were 3-pointers, including three by Washington. Washington and Herro combined for 27 points in the first half. Washington and Herro combined for eight of Kentucky’s 11 3-pointers in the contest.

The Wildcats built a 19-point lead on a 3-pointer by Herro before Auburn used a 14-2 run and closed to 38-31. Kentucky responded by scoring the final seven points of the half. Herro splashed a 3-pointer at the end of the half.

Kentucky put the game away by scoring 11 straight points to open the second half and led by as many as 33.

Chuma Okeke led Auburn (18-9, 7-7) with 14 points, followed by Jared Harper with 12 and Anfernee McLemore with 10.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats moved into a tie with Tennessee and LSU atop the conference standings. The Tigers defeated the fifth-ranked Volunteers 82-80 Saturday in Baton Rouge. There are two weeks remaining in the regular season. Kentucky plays at Tennessee next Saturday.

Auburn: The Tigers are in the middle of the conference standings and will play Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama and Tennessee during the final two weeks of the regular season. Auburn has a chance to finish as high as fourth depending on the team’s success down the stretch. The Tigers fell to 49-2 against Kentucky in games played in Lexington.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky figures to remain in its current spot in the Top 25 after winning a pair of games this week. The Wildcats responded to a 74-71 loss to LSU on Feb. 12 with three consecutive victories.

TEAM HONORED

Members of Kentucky’s 1958 NCAA national championship team, known as the “Fiddlin Five,” were honored prior to tipoff. The squad was the last of four national title teams Rupp coached during his 41-year tenure. The Wildcats defeated Seattle 84-72 to win the crown in Louisville that season.

S. Hauser, Anim lead No. 11 Marquette past Providence 76-58

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sam Hauser had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Sacar Anim scored 18 and No. 11 Marquette raced past Providence 76-58 on Saturday.

The Golden Eagles (23-4, 12-2 in the Big East) led by 11 points at halftime and showed no signs of letting up, shooting 53.6 percent in the second half to finish at 54.9 percent for the game. Anim went 8 for 12 and Hauser 7 for 10 for Marquette, which got 14 points on 2-of-12 shooting from leading scorer Markus Howard.

Alpha Diallo had 19 points and six rebounds for the Friars (15-13, 5-10 Big East). Providence went from shooting 27.6 percent in the first half to 50 percent in the second half, yet Marquette proved too tough a cover on a day that the Golden Eagles had five players in double figures.

Joey Hauser had 15 points and Markus Howard added 14 for Marquette.

Marquette put the game away after Providence moved to within 40-33 early in the second half. On three straight trips to the basket, the Golden Eagles connected from deep, with a 3-pointer from Howard allowing the visitors to take a 58-37 lead with 10:54 remaining.

The Golden Eagles shot 10 of 21 from 3-point range while the Friars went 6 of 20.

TOUGH OUT NO MATTER WHERE

Marquette is 16-1 at Fiserv Forum, matching the most home wins in a single season since the 2012-13 team finished 16-0. Saturday saw the Golden Eagles pick up their sixth road win in league play versus one defeat. The six road wins against conference foes represents the most in a single season since Marquette joined the Big East in 2005.

TAKE A BOW

During halftime, Providence honored a dozen former student-athletes who were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. Included in the Class of 2019 was Jamel Thomas, who played a key role on the team that came close to reaching the Final Four in 1997. Thomas ranks sixth on Providence’s all-time scoring list (1,971 points).

STIFF COMPETITION

The Big East entered Saturday’s action as the only Division I conference in the nation with every team owning an overall winning record.

UP NEXT

Marquette travels to defending national champion Villanova on Wednesday. It will be a rematch of a game the Golden Eagles won 66-65 on Feb. 9 in Milwaukee.

Providence is at Butler on Tuesday. The Friars and Bulldogs have yet to play each other.

Without Tremont Waters, No. 13 LSU beats No. 5 Tennessee for first place in SEC

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Playing without their star sophomore point guard Tremont Waters, No. 13 LSU got 29 points, five boards, five assists and three steals from freshman Javonte Smart and 23 points from Skylar Mays as they outlasted No. 5 Tennessee, 82-80, in overtime.

The win did not come without some controversy, which only makes sense given that it is LSU that is involved. In the final seconds of overtime, after LSU tied the game at 80, Lamonte Turner missed a shot and in the ensuing battle for a rebound, Smart came up with the ball and was fouled by Tennessee’s all-american, Grant Williams with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. It was a tough call for Tennessee to take, but it was the right call. Smart made both free throws and the Tigers got the win.

And that is a win of significance, too.

LSU entered the day a game out of first place in the SEC standings behind Tennessee, and with No. 4 Kentucky’s blowout win over Auburn in Lexington on Saturday, there is now a three-way tie for first place in the conference title race. Next Saturday, the Wildcats make a return trip to Knoxville for a rematch with Tennessee.

The most impressive part of this win for LSU is that it not only came without Waters available, but with Naz Reid playing one of the worst games of his basketball career. He spent much of the first half in foul trouble and finished the afternoon 0-for-9 from the floor with just a single point.

Who saw that coming?

And it reinforces something I think that we all have figured out about this LSU team: There is not a team in college basketball that can combine a ceiling as high as their ceiling and a floor as low as their floor. The talent is, unquestionably, there. If you can win in Rupp Arena against this Kentucky team, if you can pick off a top five team and SEC title contender while getting essentially nothing out of your two most talented players, you are dangerous.

But we cannot overlook the fact that, in between those two wins, LSU very nearly lost at Georgia and then did take a loss at home to Florida.

That’s just who they are.

When they get up for a game, they are dangerous, and it’s hard to imagine a situation where they are not up for games in March.

Hunter Rallies No. 3 Virginia Past No. 18 Louisville 64-52

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — De’Andre Hunter scored 19 of his career-high 26 points after halftime, and No. 3 Virginia rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat No. 18 Louisville 64-52 on Saturday.

The Cavaliers (24-2, 12-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed early in the second half before regrouping to hold the Cardinals (18-10, 9-6) to 6 of 30 from the field (20 percent) and 31 percent shooting overall. Virginia also found its offense, shooting 59 percent and using a 12-1 run over 4:36 for a 55-48 lead it stretched to 12 for its fourth consecutive victory.

Hunter was perfect after the break, making all six shots to finish 9 of 11 from the field. Mamadi Diakite added 14 points, while Jay Huff came off the bench to score 12. The Cavaliers maintained at least a share of the conference lead in the process.

After making 10 of 16 from long range in the first 20 minutes, Louisville managed just 2 of 17 afterward and lost for the fifth time in seven games.

Jordan Nwora had 17 points and reserve Ryan McMahon scored 12 for the Cardinals.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Virginia continued its push toward the top of the AP Top 25 with the victory. Louisville figures to fall out of the poll with its second double-digit loss this week.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers improved to 8-2 against ranked foes and won their eighth in a row over Louisville. While they shut off the inside throughout the game, their patience in letting the Cardinals shoot themselves out paid off as they won on the boards 39-28 while dominating the paint 38-4.

Louisville: The Cardinals needed this victory for reasons beyond conquering their nemesis. They instead continued their freefall in the standings, and their failure to generate anything inside was a key factor.

UP NEXT

Virginia: hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday in its lone regular-season meeting with the Yellow Jackets.

Louisville: visits Boston College on Wednesday night, seeking a season sweep of the Eagles after winning the earlier matchup 80-70 last month.

Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one place

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Now that conference play is just about done and the NCAA tournament is right around the corner, it is time for us to get fully invested in the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Ole Miss, Ohio State, Auburn, Wofford, Baylor, Minnesota, St. John’s, Syracuse.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

CLEMSON (NET: 44, SOS: 31): Beating Boston College (123) at home isn’t going to change all that much for the Tigers, but for a team that is currently sitting at one of the First Four Out in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection, that’s a loss that would have been TOUGH to survive.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 38, SOS: 13): Have the Sooners figured things out? After snapping a five-game losing streak last Saturday at TCU (41), they turned that into a winning streak by beating Texas (41) at home this Saturday. The Sooners are 17-10 on the season and 5-9 in the Big 12, but with a couple of good wins — Wofford (24) at home, Florida (31) on a neutral, at TCU (41) — they are in a good spot considering the state of the bubble this year.

TEMPLE (NET: 54, SOS: 63): Temple picked off a Tulsa team that has been playing better of late, but the issue the Owls are currently facing is that there isn’t really a way to drastically improve their profile until the American tournament starts. As it stands, we have them in a play-in game. Essentially every game they play is a must-win at this point.

LOSERS

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 9): Playing without Kerwin Roach, Texas went into Norman and lost to Oklahoma (38), 69-67. That’s the seventh Q1 loss for the Longhorns this season. On the season, they’re 15-12 overall with four Q1 wins and an 8-11 mark against the top two quadrants. Throw in a home loss to Radford (130) and Texas is nowhere near safe despite the fact that they have a neutral court win over North Carolina (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (15) and a win at Kansas State (28). This team is the perfect example of why the bubble is so soft this season.

LEFT TO PLAY

No. 19 Iowa State at TCU (NET: 41, SOS: 33), Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
George Washington at VCU (NET: 37, SOS: 32), Sat. 2:00 p.m.
GEORGETOWN (NET: 69, SOS: 75) at Creighton, Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)
No. 15 Purdue at NEBRASKA (NET: 46, SOS: 92), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (BTN)
Missouri at FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 29), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
WOFFORD (NET: 24, SOS: 152) at FURMAN (NET: 45, SOS: 232), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
UTAH STATE (NET: 36, SOS: 123) at Boise State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
Vanderbilt at ALABAMA (NET: 51, SOS: 27), Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
SIU-Edwardsville at BELMONT (NET: 53, SOS: 217), 6:00 p.m. (ESPN+)
SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51) at St. John’s, 8:00 p.m. (FS1)
SMU at UCF (NET: 39, SOS: 72), Sun. 12:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
East Tennessee State at UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 60, SOS: 148), Sun. 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
Wake Forest at N.C. STATE (NET: 32, SOS: 208), Sun. 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Cal at ARIZONA STATE (NET: 66, SOS: 69), Sun. 6:00 p.m. (Pac-12)