Sweet 16 Day 1 Preview & Predictions

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With the NCAA Tournament moving to its final regional locations for the second weekend, the Sweet 16 kicks off Thursday in the final stretch of the tournament.

Thursday, March 23

Mar 19, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Tyson Walker (2) reacts to defeating the Marquette Golden Eagles at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Kansas St. vs No. 7 Michigan St.

Spartans head coach Tom Izzo is again in the Sweet 16 after upsetting No. 2 Marquette Sunday. The Spartans shot 12.5% from beyond the arc and still managed to close out the win with Izzo’s specialty defense. If Michigan State hopes to play in the Elite Eight, they’ll need to knock down more threes than Sunday and rely on their defense to shut down Kansas State’s high-powered offense. The Wildcats also had a poor showing from three on Sunday but got hot to close out the win, with Markquis Nowell leading the way with 27 points. Kansas State is the highest seed remaining in the East Regional, and the first-year head coach Jerome Tang keeps proving doubters wrong.

Prediction: Michigan St.

Michael Reaves | Getty Images

No. 4 UConn vs No. 8 Arkansas

Both teams come into Thursday with dominating physical victories in the most physical matchup of the Sweet 16. Arkansas came into this matchup after upsetting No. 1 Kansas and showed more effort in chasing loose balls, but most importantly, they wanted to win even more than the Jayhawks. Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman has created a tight-knit locker room, with his team becoming a brotherhood for one another.

“I feel like he’s my son. I love these kids so much,” Musselman said on Davonte Davis.

Conversely, the Huskies are in Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. UConn prides itself on its defense and three-point shooting, outmuscling one of the top defenses in the country in Saint Mary’s Sunday 70-55. The offensive firepower and physicality of the Huskies may be too much for the Razorbacks to handle after an emotional win on Sunday.

Prediction: UConn

Via Twitter @Vol_Hoops

No. 4 Tennessee vs No. 9 FAU

The Volunteers proved all their doubters wrong in Saturday’s victory over No. 5 Duke. Tennessee not only made the Blue Devils play their way in a low-scoring defensive game, but the Volunteers knocked down numerous three-point shots in an eye-raising win. If all goes to plan for the Volunteers, Tennessee will have its best chance yet at its first-ever Final Four appearance. Flordia-Atlantic’s luck may have run out with a game-winning shot in the first round against No. 8 Memphis to win 66-65 and played No. 16 FDU in the second round and cruised to a 78-70 victory. The Owls now face a formidable opponent in Tennessee and will force FAU to play their style, which will likely be the demise of a potential Elite Eight appearance.

Prediction: Tennessee

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

No. 2 UCLA vs No. 3 Gonzaga

The anticipated rematch of the 2021 Final Four in what was a game to remember as the Bulldogs won a half-court buzzer-beater in overtime. This time, the same should be expected in a game that could go either way, as it’ll likely be a high-scoring game. The Bulldogs have scored 80+ in both of their NCAA Tournament games, as Gonzaga ranks highly in offensive efficiency. A familiar face from the 2021 matchup Drew Timme now leads the Bulldogs as he looks to make one final run at a National Championship. The Bruins have retained Tyger Campbell and Jamie Jaquez Jr. from the 2021 team but are potentially short-handed as David Singleton rolled his ankle in the final minutes of the second round. Once again, this will be the matchup with the most attention in the Sweet 16, as fans are in store for another classic.

Prediction: Gonzaga

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