(3) Marquette vs. (2) Miami
7:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Breakdown: The guard matchup will highlight this Sweet 16 battle of the Big East and ACC. Miami's Shane Larkin has come on strong this season, putting Hurricane basketball on the map, while Marquette guard Vander Blue has been quietly carrying the Golden Eagles all season. Both have game-winners in the tournament - Larkin, with his 3-point step-back against Illinois, and Blue, with his last-second layup to bring Marquette back from the dead against upset-minded Davidson. This game will start and finish with these two talented guards. Whichever one has the better game may end up leading their team to the Elite Eight.
Miami will be without leading rebounder Reggie Johnson, who average 7.5 boards per game. The `Canes will need big men Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble to play even bigger with the near 300-pounder sidelined. But more importantly, Miami will need more from senior guard Durand Scott, who only scored six points against the Illini. Scott can put up big points and the `Canes will need him to if they hope to advance to the round of eight.
While Blue will have to play big if Marquette hopes to knock off Miami, Buzz Williams will need a solid effort from more than just him. Seniors Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett and juniors Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner will have to bring it. It's too bad we won't see that matchup between Gardner (290 pounds) and Johnson (292 pounds). I heard NFL scouts were planning on being in attendance for that battle before the news of Johnson came out.
Prediction: This game will be tight, and should go down to the wire. It will come down to execution. Which team can execute down the stretch. I love the heart and play-making ability of Larkin and I have to give him the edge. Miami 78 Marquette 76
(6) Arizona vs. (2) Ohio St.
7:47 p.m. ET, TBS
Breakdown: Coming off a game-saving three from the do-it-all guard Aaron Craft, Ohio State comes into this Sweet 16 matchup with Arizona riding momentum, while the Wildcats have had no trouble dispatching of its first two opponents in Belmont, 17-point win, and Harvard, 23-point win.
We know what Ohio State brings to the table. A tough, grind-it-out, defensive-minded team. Craft is the best on-ball defender in the nation and forward Deshaun Thomas is a top-10 NBA talent. Arizona is a bit less predictable. When Sean Miller's team is playing well, they can ball with anyone; when they're not, the `Cats are a tough watch. Guards Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson can match up with the Buckeyes back court, and Solomon Hill will have to contain Thomas down low. Arizona senior Kevin Parrom, who does the little things it takes to win games, can be a difference-maker in this game. Though I expect Thad Matta to have an answer for him.
Prediction: This will be another close game to start off the Sweet 16 slate of action. Arizona can easily pull this off and I wouldn't be surprised if they do, though the Buckeyes are just too tough. Ohio State 73 Arizona 68
(4) Syracuse vs. (1) Indiana
9:45 p.m. ET, CBS
Breakdown: This game will boast the most talent on the court at one time. Syracuse as NBA talent throughout its roster, and Indiana has prime-time players as well. `Cuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams must be able to control the ball and handle the pressure if Syracuse hopes to stay in this game. The 6-foot-6 guard should be able to win the battle with 6-footers Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell.
This game will be won on the wing. I'll be watching the Christian Watford/Will Sheehey vs. C.J. Fair/James Southerland battle. Whoever plays better out of these duos will have a big hand in determining the outcome.
Though when the game gets down to do-or-die possessions Victor Oladipo will be the man for Indiana, and Brandon Triche will be the guy for `Cuse. Which one will come up with the big shot?
Prediction: I love the Carter-Williams matchup on either of the Hoosiers point guards. Tom Crean may need to put a bigger body on MCW if they want to stop him. Too much length, too much size, too much quickness. Syracuse 83 Indiana 81
(13) La Salle vs. (9) Wichita St.
10:17 p.m. ET, TBS
Breakdown: Thursday's action will close out with a battle of the bracket busters. No one, sans La Salle and Wichita State fans probably have the teams in this game, hence there's not much rooting interest for bracket pool hopefuls. Not a lot to breakdown here. They are playing for the honor to lose to Ohio State (or Arizona) in the next round. Watch the little guys and enjoy. This will be as far as they get.
Prediction: Wichita State 77 La Salle 66 - Forward Cleanthony Early will have a big night for the Shockers.