Second week of March Madness offers “Sweet” matchups

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No. 7 seed Florida will face No. 3 Marquette in one of eight Sweet 16 matchups this week.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Cinderella teams have come and gone, a couple of big name programs are now looking forward to next season after being eliminated, and the second week of the NCAA tournament is yet to get underway.

Down to a field of 16 teams, the second phase of March Madness offers several intriguing matchups.

No.1 Seeds face challenging paths to the Final Four

Player of the year Anthony Davis and top-seeded Kentucky find themselves in a rematch against the only team that defeated them in the regular season. Indiana shot 60 percent from 3-point land en route to a buzzer-beating win over the Wildcats in December. The Hoosiers might need to shoot lights-out again to keep up with Kentucky’s superior talent.

If the Wildcats survive past Indiana they would likely play the Baylor Bears in the Elite Eight. Led by forwards Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy, the Bears have the length and athleticism to compete with the Wildcats.

North Carolina started the tournament as a popular pick to win it all, but it might have to complete that task without starting point-guard Kendall Marshall. Even without Marshall, the Tar Heels depth and talent should help them advance past the No.13 Ohio Bobcats.

At the other end of the weekend the Tar Heels might be matched-up against the Big 12 Champions Kansas Jayhawks. They would have their hands full trying to stop National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson.

North Carolina’s guard depth would also be tested in this game by Jayhawks’ point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who does a solid job of attacking the basket and finding open teammates.

Big Ten Champions Michigan State faces Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals in what should be a defensive struggle to decide who moves on. Draymond Green could prove to be too much for the Cardinals and the Spartans could be on their way to yet another Elite Eight. Two legendary coaches facing off this time of year is nothing new, but it almost always makes for an exciting game.

Without Defensive Player of the Year Fab Melo, the Syracuse relied on its depth to make it through the first week of the tournament. To win the East region, the Orange might have to defeat a couple of tough-minded Big Ten teams in Wisconsin and Ohio State. Wisconsin plays a contrasting style to Syracuse and will try to slow the pace down and force the Orange into a half-court battle.

Lower-seeded teams look to continue unexpected runs

The 13th-seeded Ohio Bobcats had an impressive opening week, knocking out Michigan and the Big East’s South Florida Bulls. It would take a historic upset over the No. 1 Tar Heels for the Bobcats to continue their run. The MAC Champions are out-matched in just about every position by the wounded Tar Heels. If the Bobcats are to make history they need a heroic performance from guard D.J. Cooper.

North Carolina State just made the field thanks to their performance in the ACC Conference tournament. Their late season resurgence continued into the NCAA Tournament and they are coming off a victory over Big East powerhouse Georgetown. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell provide the No. 11 Wolfpack the athleticism to hang with Kansas. Xavier underachieved in the regular season and failed to win their conference tournament, but they still earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. All-American caliber player Tu Holloway heads the Musketeer attack into a matchup against Baylor. Chris Mack’s team will have to find answers to overcome Baylor’s size in hopes of reaching the Elite Eight.

 Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: Sweet 16 offers tough pairings