Reporting Matt Ryan
The road to the Final Four at the Georgia Dome continues tonight with four matchups on schedule in the Sweet Sixteen. Here’s a look at what to watch for tonight.
7:15pm – CBS – #3 Marquette vs. #2 Miami
No team’s season came down to the wire as much as Marquette during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles almost saw their run end last Thursday against fourteenth seeded Davidson, but they made up a seven point deficit in the final minutes of play and Vander Blue secured the comeback with a game winning layup with one second left on the clock. Blue came through again in their next game against Butler, with Marquette trailing by eight points at the half, coming back to win 74-72.
Miami faced a tough test of their in the round of 32 contest against an Illinois that was until the final minute of play. Shane Larkin put the Hurricanes ahead for good with a clutch three pointer with 60 seconds left in regulation. He and Blue will be an intriguing matchup to watch in the backcourt, with both players integral for their team’s success.
Also, the Hurricanes will be without senior center Reggie Johnson tonight, who had knee surgery on Tuesday. Johnson was a key reserve for Miami this season averaging 6.7 and 4.8 rebounds per game.
7:47pm – TBS – #6 Arizona vs. #3 Ohio State
The Wildcats are once again back in the Sweet Sixteen. While they still might have been in this position had they faced New Mexico last weekend, facing Harvard in the round of 32 was certainly an easier matchup than the Lobos. However, Ohio State may not have been in this position either had Aaron Craft not hit a buzzer beating three against Iowa State with the scored at 75. Out of the remaining Big Ten teams, the Buckeyes have the easiest path to Atlanta with the winner of this game scheduled to face a 9 or 13 seed in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats are never an easy opponent in March and have pulled off upsets of this magnitude before. Duke fans still haven’t forgotten about Derrick Williams from a few years ago.
9:45pm – CBS – #4 Syracuse vs. #1 Indiana
These storied programs are facing off in March for only the second time. Their first meeting was one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history, when Keith Smart hit a game winning shot to secure another national title for Indiana in 1987. 26 years later, these teams meet again in what might be the most intriguing matchup of the evening. Just like their fellow Big Ten member Ohio State, Indiana needed a game winning shot (from Victor Oladipo) in the Sweet Sixteen to survive Dayton and advance to the next round.
Syracuse was a popular pick by many to be upset early in the tournament, but the Orange find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth time in five years. However, if Jim Boeheim’s squad hopes to advance further in the Big Dance they will have to keep up the pace against one of the nation’s top scoring teams. Syracuse went 12 minutes without a field goal at one point during their 66-60 win over California.
10:17pm – TBS – #13 La Salle vs. #9 Wichita State
One of these underdogs will get to see their legacy continue this weekend in the Elite Eight with a trip to Atlanta on the line, while the other will see their unexpected run end this evening.
La Salle is another example of the opportunities created from the addition of three more play-in games. VCU went from the First Four to the Final Four during the first year that the field expanded to 68 teams. Two years later, the Explorers are now in the Sweet Sixteen and are the only team that won three tournament games last week. They now face a Wichita State squad that beat Pittsburgh by 18 points in their tourney opener and busted brackets everywhere in their 76-70 triumph over Gonzaga.