The "Sweet 16" portion of the 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament gets underway Thursday night with action in both the South and West regions.
The first game Thursday features Dayton and Stanford. The South region semifinal in Memphis tips off at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time on CBS. Following two huge upsets, the 11th-seeded Flyers (25-10) are the 'fairy tale five' in this tournament, says Monitor contributor Christopher Hartman. The Cardinal (23-12), a 10 seed, played efficient and effective team basketball in knocking out No. 2 Kansas last Sunday.
Switching to the West region, the first semifinal in Anaheim, Calif., has Wisconsin taking on Baylor in a No. 2 versus No. 6 seed contest. This game will start at 7:47 p.m. Eastern and be televised on TBS. The Badgers (28-7) managed to slow down the high-octane Oregon offense and overcame the Ducks in the second half. The Bears (26-11) have reached the 'Sweet 16' for the third time in the past four seasons, after blowing out third seed Creighton last weekend.
Later Thursday night, back in the South region, top seed Florida will play fourth seed UCLA. These two schools have met three times in the past eight NCAA tournaments, with Florida winning all three times, including the 2006 national championship game. The Gators (34-2) beat Pittsburgh to reach the 'Sweet 16' for the fourth straight season. The Bruins (28-8) took care of upset-minded Stephen F. Austin last Sunday to advance. Florida and UCLA are scheduled to start at 9:45 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
Thursday night's finale will be a West region matchup between top seed Arizona and fourth seed San Diego State. These two teams met back in November, with the Wildcats pulling out a close victory over the Aztecs. Arizona (32-4) and San Diego State (31-4) will tip off at approximately 10:17 p.m. Eastern time on TBS.
In terms of teams remaining that could reach the Final Four, your intrepid college basketball observer is keeping his head above water. Ten days ago, I pointed to Florida, Arizona, Louisville, and Michigan State as having the best opportunity to reach North Texas early next month. As mentioned before, this quartet is in the Sweet 16 and all four appear strong enough to win two more games by the conclusion of this weekend.