The NCAA tournament resumes today with four games on the schedule in the Sweet 16 round: Dayton vs. Stanford, Baylor vs. Wisconsin, UCLA vs. Florida and San Diego State vs. Arizona.
Who do you think will win each game?
Here’s a quick look at each game, with comments from Times college basketball writer Chris Dufrense and UCLA writer Chris Foster, with accompanying poll.
Thursday, 7:17 p.m. TV: TBS.
Update: This has been some rebuilding season for San Diego State, which was supposed to fall back after losing stars James Franklin and Chase Tapley. The Aztecs won the Mountain West Conference regular-season title after being picked to finish fourth. Senior guard Xavier Thames has been the catalyst in the team’s second Sweet 16 appearance in school history. Thames is surrounded by players who struggle to score but play outstanding defense. Dwayne Polee II, the Mountain West’s sixth man of the year, did not play (coach’s decision) in San Diego State’s nine-point loss to Arizona this season. Polee had 15 points and six rebounds in each of San Diego State’s wins at the Spokane subregional. Top-seeded Arizona advanced out of the San Diego subregional with easy wins against Weber State and Gonzaga. The Wildcats have adjusted to the season-ending injury to forward Brandon Ashley by going to a smaller lineup. The Wildcats play ferocious defense and have five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by guard Nick Johnson (17.5) and freshman forward Aaron Gordon (17.0).
Thursday, 4:47 p.m. TV: TBS.
Update: It’s hard to believe the Bears advanced to the round of 16 after a 2-8 start in Big 12 Conference action, which just goes to show how much the regular season means. Baylor opened NCAA play by easily dispatching Nebraska and Creighton. Baylor’s length and athleticism helped hold Creighton’s Doug McDermott to 12 points below his 27-points-per-game season average. Creighton shot only 40% in a 30-point loss. Baylor is huge on the front line with 7-1 center Isaiah Austin and 6-10 forward Cory Jefferson and will be tough to beat if guards Brady Heslip and Kenny Chery repeat their Creighton production, when they combined to make nine of 12 three-pointers. Wisconsin has reached the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years under Coach Bo Ryan. This is not Ryan’s best defensive team by a stretch, but it is much better offensively. The Badgers have won this season scoring 48 points (Virginia) and 103 (North Dakota). Wisconsin advanced to Anaheim by trouncing American but needed a huge comeback to outlast Oregon in one of the more exciting first-weekend games. Ben Brust made the big three-pointer with 1:07 left. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s 7-foot center, is as much a shooter as he is an inside force. Kaminsky has already attempted eight three-pointers in the tournament. Wisconsin will be looking to poke holes in Baylor’s 1-3-1 zone defense.
Thursday, 6:45 p.m. TV: Channel 2; Radio: 1150.
Update: This is a step up in NCAA tournament class for UCLA, which had few stressful moments in pummeling Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin last weekend. The Gators are the No. 1-seeded team in the tournament. Florida has held opponents to fewer than 60 points in 20 of 36 games this season. “This is the best defensive team we’ve faced,” UCLA forward David Wear said. “They are Arizona with a press.” The Gators use a full-court press to goose the tempo, but they probably won’t have to prompt UCLA to run. Kyle Anderson directs things for UCLA as a 6-foot-9 point guard. “He’s definitely unique to cover,” Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “We just have to build walls, help each other and keep him out of the lane.” The Gators have Patric Young, who is 6-9, and Will Yeguete, who is 6-8, to help with that, and the Bruins have had trouble against teams with size. UCLA may have to play more zone in this game to offset the physical inside game of the Gators. Florida will need strong games from its perimeter players. Guard Michael Frazier II shoots 44% from three-point range.
No. 10 Stanford (23-12) vs. No. 11 Dayton (25-10)
Thursday, 4:15 p.m. TV: Channel 2.
Update: Dayton’s swarming man-to-man defense held Ohio State and Syracuse to fewer than 60 points in the Flyers’ two tournament victories. Stanford kept New Mexico and Kansas below 60 points as well. Watch Stanford’s Dwight Powell, a versatile player who can score from inside and out — when he’s not in foul trouble. Dayton forward Dyshawn Pierre scored 14 points in the victory over Syracuse.