Eight more games are coming at us Thursday and Friday. Only two are mismatches, with the other six being close to toss-ups, so there are bound to be a couple of classics that fall out of these.
Here’s the list of games, in order of appeal, with rankings of tempo/offensive efficiency/defensive efficiency among the 16 remaining teams.
1. Louisville (8/6/6) vs. Washington (2/3/15), Thursday 7:10 pm: This is the first sweet 16 game to tip and I’ll have more on this one Thursday morning. Appallingly, this game will be seen a minority of the country, giving way to game #8 below.
2. Arizona (5/7/10) vs. Oklahoma State (11/2/12), Thursday 10:00 pm: A very close second. It’s the last college game for either the nation’s best floor general (John Lucas) or best shooter (Salim Stoudamire). Nobody runs the fast break better than Lucas. Ivan McFarlin’s composite line for the first two rounds: 49 points, 18-23 FGs, 13-14 FTs, 3 turnovers. He’s going to need some help from the foul-prone Joey Graham (40 total minutes in two games) in this one.
3. Michigan State (10/5/11) vs. Duke (6/9/1), Friday 7:10 pm: I am not a Duke-hater, but if a Blue Devil loss means the end of seeing Coach K’s American Express commercials, then I’m all for the Spartans here. If MSU wins, their advantage in depth is going to be the reason why.
4. West Virginia (13/11/16) vs. Texas Tech (4/15/9), Thursday 9:40 pm: Nice tactical battle between Knight and Beilein. My worst nightmare is having Knight in the Final Four with a whole week to manipulate the media. That’s another reason to pull for WVU in this one. However, it’s hard to root against Ronald Ross and Jarrius Jackson.
5. NC State (14/8/14) vs. Wisconsin (15/14/7), Friday 7:30 pm: The second- and third-slowest teams left. This one figures to be competitive, but the winner is the first team to 60, so the entertainment value is minimal. Interesting subplot: Duke and NC State competing for local TV time with their games being played simultaneuosly.
6. Utah (16/12/8) vs. Kentucky (9/13/3), Friday 9:40 pm: See above, a low-scoring slugfest played in the 50s or if you’re lucky, the 60s. Anyone think Bogut hasn’t attended his last class at Utah?
7. Villanova (7/10/5) vs. North Carolina (1/1/2), Friday 10:00 pm: This one lost some luster when it was confirmed that Curtis Sumpter wouldn’t play. It still could be interesting if Jason Fraser can get Sean May into foul trouble early.
8. Wisconsin Milwaukee (3/16/13) vs. Illinois (12/4/4), Thursday 7:30 pm: If the sweet 16 were re-seeded, this would be the 1/16 game. Illinois continues on its quest to reverse the curse of Norm Sloan, who was the coach of NC State, the last one-loss team to win it all (in 1974). Apparently, there is some animosity between Illinois fans and UWM’s coach. If I hear more on this, I’ll let you know.