NCAA Sweet 16: South, Midwest regions feature top-flight teams
There's NCAA royalty: Duke and Kansas. There are NCAA perennials: Florida, Michigan State, and Louisville. Michigan and Oregon have worked hard to get here. And then there's Cinderella, otherwise known as Florida Gulf Coast University, taking part in Friday night's Sweet 16 action.
In the Midwest, top seed Louisville will face Oregon, seeded a debatable 12th this year. After reaching the 2012 Final Four, the Cardinals are looking to go back-to-back for the first time since they did it in 1982 and 1983. They easily dispatched North Carolina A&T in their first tournament game, then ran past Colorado State to reach the Sweet 16.
The Cardinals are paced by guard Russ Smith, whose continual drives to the basket put tremendous pressure on the other team's defense.
The Ducks, coming off an impressive win in the Pac-12 conference championship game, downed both Oklahoma State and Saint Louis to punch their ticket to Indy. Third year head coach Dana Altman, who previously had taken Creighton to the NCAA tournament, has his team playing at a high level.
Also in the Midwest Friday night, second seed Duke takes on third seed Michigan State. This game could be considered an old-school match-up, as both teams have veteran lineups and coaches with extensive NCAA tourney experience.
Kansas is still alive as the top seed in the South region. The Jayhawks will meet fourth seed Michigan in Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas. KU had to scrap its way to a win over Western Kentucky in the second round. Then, they had to overcome a poor first-half shooting performance against North Carolina before finally pulling away from the Tar Heels.
Wolverines head coach John Beilein complimented his Kansas counterpart when scouting the Jayhawks.
"Bill Self's teams are so fundamentally sound offensively ... and defensively. They're as good as we've played against all year long and we've played against some good defensive teams," Beilein told reporters in Texas on Thursday.
Michigan has a budding star on its roster in point guard Trey Burke. He, along with NBA progeny Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Glenn Robinson III, has the Wolverines poised to reach their first Final Four since the 'Fab Five' did it in 1993. However, that appearance was later vacated by the NCAA for rules infractions.
The other game in the South region should be a barn burner. No. 3 seed Florida will play tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast University, the lowest remaining seed in the entire tournament. This is the first time a 15 seed has reached the round of 16.
Florida has methodically won its first two games, taking care of Northwestern State and Minnesota. Gators head coach Billy Donovan, who led Florida to back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, said earlier this week both teams won't make too many adjustments.
“I think this time of year you’re going to always play to your style of play and to your system. We’re a team that likes to fast break, they like to fast break," Donovan told FloridaToday.com.
The four games Friday will be broadcast by CBS and TBS, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time.